Review | The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

montecristoTitle: The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)
Author: Alexandre Dumas
Translator: Robin Buss
Publisher/Edition: Penguin Clothbound Classics
Read: 3rd July – 18th August 2018
Genre: classics
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“A beautiful new clothbound edition of Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel of wrongful imprisonment, adventure and revenge. Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantes is confined to the grim fortress of the Château d’If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and becomes determined not only to escape but to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. A huge popular success when it was first serialized in the 1840s, Dumas was inspired by a real-life case of wrongful imprisonment when writing his epic tale of suffering and retribution.”
(Synopsis from the publisher)

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Review | Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Title: Scrappy Little Nobody (2016)
Author: Anna Kendrick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Read: 24th – 29th August 2018
Genre: memoir; humour
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.” At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In her autobiographical collection of essays Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations. Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).”
(Synopsis from the publisher)

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30 Before 30

I have a love/hate relationship with anything that resembles a ‘bucket list’ or ‘X before X’ list. I love the idea of optimistic goal setting but the realist (read: pessimist) in me knows that I likely won’t get to accomplish every goal I set myself due to lack of confidence, lack of money, or lack of opportunity – or all of the above. It’s because of this mindset that I have quite a fraught relationship with anything in this vein of list-making, particularly because it also strikes a strangely sensitive chord in me when it comes to travel-related goals which so often take up lists such as this.

You see, I have been to very few places in my life – growing up we just didn’t have the kind of disposable income that allowed for holidays to far-flung destinations; what we did have was the money to have a bloody good time going on a family holiday to a caravan site somewhere on the Spanish coast. Again largely because of money, I didn’t go on any school trips to places outside the UK either (no Easter skiing holiday or history trip to Auschwitz for me). I’ve never really felt particularly deprived because of this, I’ve just been very aware that I haven’t been to a lot of places that other people might have. But it’s because of this that I don’t even know where to start with places I want to see in my life.

So, you see, bucket lists and 30 before 30 lists spin me to all different kinds of personal places – and not necessarily in the way they intend. Even so, I’ve decided (probably quite foolishly considering I’m 25 at the time of writing this list, and 26 is fast approaching) to construct a list because God loves a trier, right? There’s a mix of low key goals or challenges here and there are some that are more dependent on me having the financial means and (to be honest) the annual leave left to complete them. However, I hope it’s a nice mix of doable and then the more challenging things to accomplish.

As I composed this list at the start of 2018 (yes it has taken me this long to decide what I really think of 30 Before 30 type lists, it’s a wonder I ever achieve anything at that rate), I’ll be already marking off anything I’ve achieved so far this year in 2018. I hope to document each challenge in some way on this blog, whether that’s through a blog post series explaining why I want to do each item on my list and/or through a blog post of me recounting my trip to the given destination or the skill I wanted to acquire etc. Either way, I hope you will stick with me on my journey to complete this 30 Before 30 list which might just help to change my initial perception/hesitation on the entire idea of them too!

  1. Visit 10 National Trust/English Heritage sites/national parks
  2. Visit Chatsworth House
  3. Visit Greenwich
  4. Visit Versailles
  5. Visit Paris catacombs
  6. Visit Notre-Dame Cathedral
  7. Visit Sagrada Familia
  8. Visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour
  9. Visit Wales
  10. Walk on Main Street USA
  11. See a Shakespeare play at the Globe
  12. Attend the Championships at Wimbledon
  13. Eat a croissant in France
  14. Eat a paella in Spain
  15. Eat pasta/pizza in Italy
  16. Read War and Peace
  17. Read Les Misérables
  18. Read all of Jane Austen’s novels
  19. Read a novel in Spanish
  20. Read all of Shakespeare’s plays
  21. Complete a ‘Classics Club’ list (reading 50 classics)
  22. Host a readathon/readalong
  23. ‘Win’ NaNoWriMo (write 50,000 words in a month)
  24. Do a ‘blog every day’ challenge
  25. Knit a full garment (e.g. scarf/hat)
  26. Learn how to drive
  27. Own a MacBook
  28. Learn how to bake bread
  29. Learn a ballroom dance
  30. Attend a spinning class

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Charms Extra Credit | Wrap Up

This past week I’ve been loosely participating in the Charms Extra Credit readathon, as orgnanised by the lovely Gi of the Book Roast. This is supplementary to the OWLs and NEWTs readathons that she runs and is a fun and creative way to get a little head-start on your exams before the next round of the readathons. If you have no idea what I’m talking out, it might help to check out Gi’s Extra Credit announcement video!

I decided to take part even though I’m focusing most of my energy this month on the month-long Victober readathon. Because Victober can be quite demanding in terms of the types of books you’re reading, I decided to take it easy with Charms Extra Credit and help myself out a bit by being kind to myself and choosing mostly graphic novels and comic books for my TBR. Let’s wrap this readathon up and see how I did, shall we?

The Challenges & How I Did

✓ Alohomora: read a book that’s first in a series 
Lumberjanes, Vol. 1 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooke Allen
This was really cute! I already knew I’d adore the art style and bright colours because I’ve had a peek at Noelle Stevenson’s character styles before thanks to Nimona . The story line was weird and wacky but it completely fit with the larger-than-life colour palette. I’m hoping to read more volumes in this series and see where it goes!

✓ Accio: book that’s top of your TBR
Saga, Vol. 9 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
I cannot with Saga anymore. I was not prepared for this and, friends, neither will you be for this volume. I hated that I loved it because, oh boy, that ending was something. I love this series with all my art, the story, the CHARACTERS, the art style, the HUMOUR, the HEARTBREAK, and, yep, I now officially feel personally victimised by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

✗ Incendio: words ‘fire’ or ‘flame’ in the title/series name, or flame picture on the cover
Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2) by Claudia Gray
This is the book I unfortunately didn’t get to during the readathon. In a previous month I’d listened to maybe 40% of the audiobook before setting it aside and I thought this readathon would be a good opportunity to maybe pick it up again. I think the problem I’m having with it is that it’s not immediately gripping me like the first book in the trilogy did (I loved the imperial Russian setting), so I’m less excited to make it a priority in my TBR. It’s a shame, but I didn’t even think about reading this book this past week.

✓ Rictusempra: book that ‘tickles you the right way’ (exciting trope/theme/genre)
Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince, Issue 1 by V.E. Schwab, Enrica Eren Angiolini and Andrea Olimpieri
The comic I have waited months for and it was awesome! I wasn’t sure what I’d think of the art style at first, and even as I turned the first few pages, I still wasn’t sold… but then I fell into the story of V.E. Schwab’s Red London all over again and I was hooked. Maxim is going to be a fantastic protagonist to this comic book series (well, he already is) and I’m super excited for the next issue. (Full disclosure: it felt a little bit lot like cheating including a 32-page comic for a readathon challenge whilst some participants are over here reading full-length books but, hey, I’ll readathon how I like.)

✓ Lumos: book with a light cover
Captain Marvel, Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez
I really enjoyed this one! I’m a sucker for the MCU so I’ve always meant to pick up some of the more recent comic book arcs and this has always been on that list. The art was bold and colourful but, to me, still felt recognisably ‘superhero comic book’ style. I’m not going to lie, though, some of the storylines in this confused me because I thought I was missing something. As it was the first volume in a new iteration of Captain Marvel, I thought I wasn’t expected to have knowledge of her previous escapades, but even so I felt like at times the story just expected me to go along with stuff that wasn’t explained all that well. Controversial opinion? I don’t know, maybe I’m just not used to reading this kind of comic book series where there’s so much history and lore behind the character. I’ll still try to pick up other volumes though because Captain Marvel is bad-ass and I dig it.

 

So, all in all, I think 4 out of 5 challenges is pretty damn good! (We’ll ignore the fact they were all really short books, ‘kay?) This means that, if/when I participate in the OWLs readathon next year and if/when I choose to study Charms, I’ll be able to start my book for that challenge 4 days earlier than the official start date of the readathon. Not bad, eh?

Did you take part in the Charms Extra Credit – what did you read? If you didn’t, let me know what you’ve been reading lately anyway as I always love to hear book recommendations. Let me know in the comments below!


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NaNoWriMo 2018 | This Year’s Approach

Folks, it’s that time of year again: when writers all across the world come together to attempt the challenge that is National Novel Writing Month, namely writing 50,000 words in the month of November. I’ve participated in previous years, to varying degrees of success, as this blog will attest if you care to delve into the NaNoWriMo archives.

All along I’ve thought that NaNoWriMo would definitely not be happening for me in 2018 because I only went and booked a holiday to Disney World slap bang over the start of it – whoops? However, the more and more I’ve thought about it (and talked about writing with housemate Liz), the more and more I’ve thought maybe this year I should participate as normal, even with the holiday shenanigans, because who knows maybe a change of scenery will do my shoddy writing attempts the world of good? It’s worth a shot.

So, this year I will be participating in NaNoWriMo but I may very well be taking an unconventional (and possibly slightly dubious) approach to the challenge to write 50,000 words. I am not intending to write 50,000 words of a novel – I am attempting to just get out 50,000 words of any story, to prove to myself that I can actually write consistently and to that volume. In previous years I’ve ended up abandoning the challenge well before the mid-point of the month, largely because my love for the idea I had had just ran out of steam or I’d reached a point of no return where I had to make a decision about where the plot was going to go and I panicked, couldn’t make the decision, and so bailed entirely on the project.

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Top Ten Tuesday | Longest Books I’ve Ever Read

Welcome one, welcome all, to Top Ten Tuesday! For those who are unaware (or who might need a reminder) Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by book bloggers and list lovers, The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted fantastically by Jana from That Artsy Girl! Each week a topic is chosen for bloggers to respond to.

This week’s topic is Longest Books I’ve Ever Read. I should point out that, for the purposes of this, I’m not counting any anthologies that I had to read in university, nor am I counting the likes of The Faerie Queene or Les Misérables which I say I’ve kind of read but haven’t really finished properly enough to say I’ve read it cover to cover. Mileage may vary, haha.

But, as far as topics go, this one is a very straightforward one that requires little to no explanation… so shall we just not waste any time and get to the books? These are not ranked per say but listed by how many pages they clock in at.

10) A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab (666 pages)

I’m surprised that this ended up on this list because whilst it was a chunker compared to the other books in the trilogy, I didn’t expect it to reach ‘longest books I’ve ever read’ levels. However, it seems I can’t go one tag or weekly meme without mentioning either Leigh Bardugo or V.E. Schwab so looks like this one will be the token Schwab book this time! I ended up trying to eek this book out because I didn’t want it to end, there was so many highs and so many lows and V, how dare you?

 

9) The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3) by Brandon Sanderson (748 pages)

Brandon Sanderson is clearly fond of writing a tome or two, and this one is no exception, but such is often the way with writers of epic fantasy series. In fact, you may very well notice that theme running through a lot of the books on this list. Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series books are like 1200 pages apiece (and often split into two parts when published in the UK!) so this one from the Mistborn trilogy is practically a baby in comparison. Still, it’s pretty damn hefty…

 

8) Breaking Dawn (Twilight #4) by Stephenie Meyer (756 pages)

I had no idea that Breaking Dawn ended up being so long! I think we can all agree, though, that it would have been immeasurably better had a good editor been allowed to have a crack at it and removed some of the… weirder bits, right? I remember precisely zero about the reading experience of this… I must have blocked it out of my memory, for better or for worse.

 

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Unboxing | Illumicrate Magic & Mayhem

Today I bring you a rare but anticipated unboxing that I am delighted to share. I love a good book box, but I’m often hesitant to subscribe to them – I tend to opt for the ones that offer single purchase options so that I can make sure I’m likely to enjoy the theme and featured book before I buy. So I like some surprises but I also like to be reasonably confident that I’m not going to hate said surprises!

When Illumicrate announced their upcoming special box was themed around none other than V.E. Schwab and her work, I knew I had to have it because there was, frankly, no way in hell that I wouldn’t enjoy the box. I have to say, even though I was confident in Illumicrate’s curation and pretty damn sure that nothing attached to celebrating the fictional worlds of V.E. Schwab could possibly be disappointing, I was astounded by the quality of this particular box. It was well worth the anticipation, the price tag, and the wait. But let’s not tease any more, shall we? Let’s get to the unboxing of the Illumicrate: Magic & Mayhem: The V.E. Edition.

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My 2018 Resolutions | Quarterly Check-in #3

As you may have seen if you’re been around the blog for a while, I do check-ins for my yearly resolutions as a way of keeping me accountable to more people than just myself. At the end of the first quarter of 2018, I posted my first check-in, and at the end of June I posted my second check-in.

For those who care to have an in-depth reminder of my 2018 Resolutions you can find that post here. Even though the fact we’re now in October scares me a little a lot, let’s not panic about the encroaching end-of-the-year feeling and instead let’s see how I did with my resolutions in the months of July, August, and September.

READING GOALS

1. Complete Goodreads 52 Books goal

Verdict: Completed
At my last check-in, I was on-track to complete this goal at 45 books and I am very happy to report that I have smashed this goal and I’m now sitting pretty on 63 books read in 2018. I’m really hoping I can get to at least 75 books by the end of the year but let’s see how it goes, shall we?

2. Complete Around the Year in 52 Books

Verdict: On Track
So, at my last check-in for the Around the Year in 52 Books challenge I had 18 challenges remaining and now I have 15 left to go so it’s safe to say I’ve completely neglected this reading challenge in the last quarter. As we head into the fourth and final quarter, I’ll need to re-focus on this goal if I hope to finish it this year. It would be a shame not to.

3. Finish off the books in a series I have yet to read

Verdict: Failing
So, since my last check-in, I’m not sure I even thought about finishing any series. I really need to get back on this reading challenge too. I’d really like to think I could at least finish off the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater by the end of the year, but I’ve been putting off finally finishing the fourth book since it was published so I’m not holding out too much hope.

4. Finish War and Peace and read another Russian classic

Verdict: Failing
Sooo I still haven’t finished War and Peace or another Russian classic, but I have read The Count of Monte Cristo if that at all counts. I don’t think it does but, even so, let’s all take a moment to celebrate the fact I actually managed to finish a huge (French) classic instead!

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Charms Extra Credit | Sign Up & TBR

Have you heard, Hogwarts students? Professor Flitwick will be accepting extra course work for Charms between the 8th and the 14th October. This means getting a little extra credit and a helping hand towards the Charms examinations coming up later in the academic year. Doesn’t that sound sensible to put in a little work now?

For those who have zero idea what I’m going on about (and possibly think I’ve gone a little barmy), Gi of the Book Roast has decided to run a week-long readathon to accompany her (hopefully annual) OWLs readathon and NEWTs readathon, both of which I took part in (with varying degrees of success) earlier this year. You can watch her extra credit announcement video to find out more about the readathon and its challenges, or check out Professor Flitwick’s announcement, or just take a look at my TBR below to get a sneak peek of what I’m planning to read in order to hopefully score some (much needed) extra credit.

The Challenges & my TBR

Alohomora: read a book that’s first in a series
Lumberjanes, Vol. 1 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooke Allen

Accio: book that’s top of your TBR
Saga, Vol. 9 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Incendio: words ‘fire’ or ‘flame’ in the title/series name, or flame picture on the cover
Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird #2) by Claudia Gray

Rictusempra: book that ‘tickles you the right way’ (exciting trope/theme/genre)
Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince, Issue 1 by V.E. Schwab, Enrica Eren Angiolini and Andrea Olimpieri

Lumos: book with a light cover
Captain Marvel, Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez

 

I’ve kind of not really cheated a little bit by making sure that these books are principally graphic novels/comic bind-ups, to make things easier on myself, but hey I am doing Victober throughout the month of October so I have to make sure that this readathon doesn’t jeopardise that readathon either. It’s a hard life being a reader, isn’t it? Still, I have included one “proper book”, as you might say, on this TBR so I’m hoping that trying to read that next week won’t distract me too much from Victober reading. Let’s see…

Are you taking part in the Charms Extra Credit – what are you planning to read for it? Or have you taken part (or want to take part) in the OWLs or NEWTs readathons? Let me know in the comments below!


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Wrap Up | September 2018

Welcome one, welcome all, to my September Wrap Up. As a month, September was pretty great for one key reason – I started off the month with a quick jaunt to Barcelona, a city I’ve never been to before despite having frequented coastal Spanish towns for yearly family holidays since I was 18 months. How I managed to reach almost 26 years old having never visited Barcelona, I don’t know. But I’m SO glad I finally got to see it because it was beautiful and I loved the city and it’s a place that I know I will be visiting again in the (hopefully near) future.

September also brought my friends’ wedding which was a whole experience. The trip meant a long weekend spent in the ever picturesque Cambridge and having that city as a backdrop for your wedding makes for a rather lovely day indeed. I’m so incredibly happy for my friends and it made me realise suddenly that yep, we’re now officially all grown ups and I should expect many more of these sorts of events in the future. (Also, side note for Future Emma in case she somehow miraculously ends up getting married: have a ceilidh at your wedding reception, they’re so much fun.) Since I was spending time with school friends (some of whom I haven’t seen properly for a sustained period of time for years), reading wasn’t exactly a priority. So that was a good portion of September taken up by, you know, going outside and doing things and socialising.

Because of all this, you will see from the statistics below that my reading pace took a sharp nose-dive this past month. I don’t know what it was – being on holiday for the first week and spending too much time eating paella to think about reading whilst there, or having fun at a friends’ wedding, or just not really finishing as many books as I started this month. On which note, I am halfway through the audiobook for V.E. Schwab’s latest release City of Ghosts and I’m reading A Discovery of Witches which is taking… a while to get through. What’s more, I’m not sure when I’m going to finish either of these current reads because with the dawn of October comes Victober and thereby a restricted monthly TBR. Still, before I turn to October, let’s break down September, shall we?


In September, I read a total of 3 books 3 fiction and non-fiction – and was a re-read (marked by *). This amounted to 1195 pages in total.

In terms of format: 1 was hardback and were paperback.

As for genre, 1 was historical fictionwas YA dystopian; and was fantasy/sci-fi.

Onto the books themselves…

september2018

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