BLOGMAS| Favourite Christmas Specials

One of my favourite things about Christmas is those one off TV specials that are always a little bit naff, a little bit of cheese and a little bit of cheer. So, for today's post, I thought I would share three that I always watch - no matter where I am.

1. Episode: Jolly Boy's Outing 
TV Show: Only Fools and Horses
First Aired: 25th December, 1989

I can practically hear my flatmate's eyes rolling - and rightfully so. Only Fools and Horses might just be my favourite sitcom of all time. I've watched every episode more times than I can remember to the point where within 10 seconds of the episode I can relay the punch line to whoever I'm watching it with (usually my Nan or my Mum). Jolly Boys' Outing sees Del Boy, Rodney and Uncle Albert on a day out to Margate, until their coach blows up and they're forced to spend the night in a questionable hotel. 
Not a very Christmassy episode, but it's a great laugh that brings my family together. Which with the dysfunctional family I have - we bloody need it.

2. TV Show: Doctor Who
Episode: The Christmas Invasion
First Aired: 25th December, 2005

Another one that has everyone rolling their eyes at me. You knew Doctor Who was bound to end up on this list, so leave me alone. 
This one is definitely not the best Christmas episode of Doctor Who, but it is the one that I have the most memories associated with it. And for me, nostalgia triumphs for me. I remember isolating myself from my family at the tender age of seven to sit in my Nan's back room (served as a second living room) because no one else in my family liked it, in fact, they still don't. It gave me all the elements of RTD's era of Who that I have come to deeply love and appreciate, like the tension of Rose's choice between the Doctor and her family and how family, as a unit, became integral to all the companions of this era. 
Plus, David Tennant's speech when he first comes out of the TARDIS is still one of my favourite throughout the history of the show. And I still think the 13th Doctor's speech in The Woman Who Fell to Earth was too similar. 

3. TV Show: The Snowman
First Aired: 26th December, 1982

This might not be a usual Christmas episode, because it's not part of an episodic Television show, however, this list is about what I watch on the telly during the Christmas season so its here. Deal with it. 
There have been multiple versions of the opening made during its 36-year history. The one I'm more familiar with is the 20th-anniversary edition with Father Christmas recounting the story. The one I love more is the version with David Bowie's narration at the beginning that has now made its appearance back on our screens. 
It's 30 minutes of music based animation that breaks my heart everytime I watch it. In our house, it isn't Christmas without seeing The Snowman at least three times. 

BLOGMAS| Christmas Gifts for Ravenclaws

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly blog group that comes together to discuss that week's topic. The idea was first curated by the wonderful Lainey at GingerReadLainey and is now run by Samantha over on ThoughtsonTomes. 

If you wish to participate, either on your Blog or Booktube channel then, please, join the group on Goodreads for all the relevant topics.

This week is pick book "Christmas Gifts for...", so we get to pick what type of person we're giving gifts too. If you get what I mean?

1. Notebooks

[LINK]

Every ravenclaw I know, including myself, loves stationary and notebooks to write things down. From emotional things to our crazy ideas and theories. With the rise and demand of Harry Potter merch, you could even get a Ravenclaw a Ravenclaw notebook!

2. Wax Seal Kits

[LINK]

This one is one of the more expensive gifts that I will be putting on this list. I'm obsessed with watching people pour wax and stamping down on them. 

3. Throws and Blankets

[Link]

What Ravenclaw doesn't like snuggling up in a blanket whilst they browse through the internet absorbing strange knowledge or writing a story or getting lost in a good book. We can never have enough snuggly blankets.

4. Bookmarks

[LINK]

Bookmarks can be both really cheap to make yourself, or if you're willing to support a crafter can cost you a pretty penny depending on prices. A Ravenclaw will appreciate a bookmark for their many books, and the ability to express themselves subtly. 

The shop I've linked is it Literary Galaxy, who you might also know at Jenniely.com.

5. Books!

[LINK]

Of course, I couldn't leave books off this list. I could list many books that Ravenclaws will enjoy, but I really don't have the time. Use the link, or visit a local bookshop. Support your high street this Christmas season, and have fun giving gifts.

BLOGMAS| Reading Habits and Readabits Book Tag




Hello! This wasn't what I had planned at all for today's blog post. It was meant to be another review, however, time this month just isn't on my side. Time never is, but that is beside my point here. 

I saw this tag over on the wonderful Jenn's blog, Jenniely.com, and thought this would be super fun to do.

The original tag was created by TheBookJazz; since then she has removed the video so I am unable to link it for you to watch. 

Reading Habits: 

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading? 

If I'm at University, I do! That's usually my bed, or on one of the sofas in one of the Uni buildings. I like the noise, because its the sounds of people coming and going, weirdly helping me if I'm feeling a little homesick.

2. Bookmark or a random piece of paper?

Both. Can I pick both? Oh - who cares?
I somehow only have three bookmarks with me at Uni. I thought I packed more but apparently didn't. Because of the sheer number of books I can read at any one point (two for fun, three for academic reasons... at least) random receipts can be really handy. 

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/a certain amount of pages?

I stop at any point. I used to have to be at a specific point, but school and constantly having to be on hand for my mum growing up has left me capable of stopping mid-sentence. I kid you not.

4. Do you eat or drink while reading?

Yes. There is nothing I like more than having a bottle of Kopperberg cider or a bottle of Hooch whilst I'm reading in the evening. Not all the time, but when I really need a night off from writing or the internet... or social interaction in its entirety. Anyone relate?

5. Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?

I can do both. This year I have got into the habit of listening to ASMR videos (usually cats purring or hair brushing), I don't get the tingles, but those sounds calm me down more than anything. 

6. One book at a time, or several at once?

Might have answered this already, whoops? Several.

7. Reading at home, or everywhere?

Everywhere. One of the things I miss most about living in London is public transport and being able to read on the bus. I'm grateful for being in walking distance to everything I need, even if a little claustrophobic, but it really limits the amount of reading time I used to get.

8. Reading out loud, or silently in your head?

Again, both. if I'm alone in the flat reading a rather beautiful piece of prose, I'll read it out loud. Usually, I'm just reading in my head though.

9. Do you read ahead, or skip pages?

Nope. 

10. Breaking the spine, or keeping it like new?

I want to get back into that mind frame where it's okay to break the spine of a book. Book blogging and the aesthetics and shaming around book spine breakage is really frustrating. 

11. Do you write in your books?

Sometimes. My copy of Vicious and Good Omens is heavily annotated and highlighted. And I'm planning on rereading both in 2019, just to go back and add more to them.

Readabit Questions:

1. When do you find yourself reading? 

The evening mostly. When I need to just relax and escape. Or on a long journey.

2. What is your best setting to read in?

Pushed up into the corner of my bed, lots of pillows, wrapped in my quilt and blankets, headphones in and when nothing else needs doing. 

3. What do you do first - read or watch? 

Read and then watch, but I don't always have that luxury. 

4. What form do you prefer - audiobooks, ebooks or physical?

Physical. But, if my insomnia is screwing me over - audiobooks. 

5. Do you have a unique habit when reading?

Not really? 

6. Do your book series have to match?

I'm at a point where I really don't care anymore. Oops?


Like usual, I won't tag anyone, unless you've seen this and thought "hey, this looks fun, I'm going to do it". Then tag me and I'd love to read your answers. 

See you tomorrow. 

BLOGMAS| My People


I very rarely share any pieces of writing on this blog. Maybe, once before? And that was only this year. But, when I was putting together the list of things I wanted to put on here this blogmas, I couldn't help feel like I wanted to share something. I want to celebrate where I am in my writing, who I've become and overcome.

This piece was a response to a piece of writing we looked at during my Working Class Fictions module titled "My People" by Kim Moore. I submitted it in my portfolio and got some fantastic feedback, so here it is: 

My People 

          She told me to write about my people. About the working class hidden in the suburbia of 

London towns. You see, I come from a place where postcodes feed postcodes, until there is nothing 

left but a homeless lottery, hidden in plain sight, a box room for a family of four, a bathroom without 

a lock, the three-bus journey for family that comes first. We’re way out in Zones 4 to 6, with Oyster 

cards teetering on a balance, a possibility of a maybe we’ll manage just one more bus. We grasp our 

blue plastic cards between our palms, whispering “please, just one more trip” cause God-forbid a 

seven miles hike between Plumstead and Peckham High Street. My people know not to dare to plan 

anything between three and five, Mon to Fri. And we best try to avoid eye contact with anyone whilst

we have nowhere else to hide. Are we meant to be Millwall Lions, or are we supposed to brandish 

Charlton’s sword, when we’re planning our meals at a bob a head? And our school uniforms are just

some threads? But I guess this is all alright because Jamie Oliver gave us free school meals and 

Sainsbury vouchers for keeping fit. My people are stereotyped for our nation as we try to thrive, by 

clinging to the suburbia of our London towns. 

BLOGMAS| Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole Me Ma


Tony Hogan bought me an Ice Cream Float before he Stole my Ma
Kerry Hudson


Add to Goodreads

UK Publisher: Vintage Books
UK Release Date: July 5th, 2012

Synopsis:

When Janie Ryan is born, she's just the latest in a long line of Ryan women, Aberdeen fishwives to the marrow, always ready to fight. Her violet-eyed Grandma had predicted she'd be sly, while blowing Benson and Hedges smoke rings over her Ma's swollen belly. In the hospital, her family eyed her suspiciously, so close she could smell whether they'd had booze or food for breakfast. It was mostly booze.

Tony Hogan tells the story of a Scottish childhood of sordid council flats and B&Bs, screeching women, feckless men, fags and booze and drugs, the dole queue and bread and marge sandwiches. It is also the story of an irresistible, irrepressible heroine, a dysfunctional family you can't help but adore, the absurdities of the eighties and the fierce bonds that tie people together no matter what. Told in an arrestingly original -- and cry-out-loud funny -- voice, it launches itself headlong into the middle of one of life's great fights, between the pull of the past and the freedom of the future. And Janie Ryan, born and bred for combat, is ready to win.


Review

I don't know about stealing anyone's Ma, but this little book may have stolen my heart. A fictionalized and deeply personal account of growing up within a dysfunctional matriarchal family. And I have never seen myself reflected more in a book.
‘Still the same old Irene Ryan, yeh’ll never change. Runt of the litter, a black sheep. Runnin’ off tae London and getting intae God knows what. Runnin’ around wi’ a Yank that couldn’t get shot of yeh quick enough. You always were a nut job but I ignored the gossip, held my head high an’ I never loved yeh any less.’
When reading, you can't help but get entranced by Janie's narrative voice that provides the backbone to the Ryan women's filthy mouths, tempers, and their strength. But with that comes the internal and external struggle of women's identities. A rather common constructs within working class narrative and communities that are evident during the peak of class fiction on the 1960's. 
...that first promise of silence shattered inside of me like the twist of a kaleidoscope; to be joined by so many more jagged secrets, pushed into a little body for safe keeping until they threatened to cut their way out. 
This book certainly doesn't hold back on the violence, language, drugs and any other questionable content that drags down the working class portrayal in the media, but what Hudson does so wonderfully is show that experience with the capacity of the struggle of wanting more from that life and the taught elastic that so few people want nor get to snap away from.  

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BLOGMAS| Favourite Covers 2018

I don't know about you, but I am sucker for a beautiful book cover. However, when compiling my list for this year's favourite book cover list, I felt like we had hit that point again where all book covers were looking rather similar and same-y. 

I'm going to keep this post really simple and just share the design, if you want to know the name of the cover artist or want a link to a synopsis - you are welcome to give me a little comment.
Vicious by V.E.Schwab

The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton
The Bitter Twin by Jen Williams
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury
The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tarereh Mafi
Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
This year was really the year of blue books. I might be obsessed? 
Is your favourite book cover on this list? Did I miss one? Let me know!

BLOGMAS| Doctor Who Tales: The Tenth Doctor [Part Two]


I've been slowly been making my way through the Doctor Who Audioplays that was produced by BBC Audio during my favourite era of Doctor Who.
I have already reviewed the first three - you can find them here.




The Rising Night
Written by Scott Handcock
Read by Michelle Ryan
⭐⭐⭐

Publisher: BBC Audio
Release Date: July 2009

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis:

When Harry Winter goes out collecting rocks to repair the wall around his father's farm, he makes a fatal mistake. He disturbs Lucifer's Tombstone, and awakens something demonic and dreadful...The TARDIS arrives in the 18th Century village of Thornton Rising in the Yorkshire Moors - a village cut off from the world by an all-consuming darkness, where the sun has not risen for three weeks. Farm animals have been attacked, people have gone missing, and strange lights have been seen in the sky. The Doctor soon becomes involved in a nightmarish adventure, helped by a young local woman named Charity. But who is feeding on the blood of the locals, and where will the carnage stop...? 

Review

I found this one to be a bit boring, okay, a lot boring. The plot ended up being rather lackluster and did exactly what I wanted it to: get me to sleep. I struggled to get through this one and fell into the trap of not wanting to put on this audiobook and choosing 10-hour cat purring videos. 

Michelle Ryan as a narrator just wasn't for me. Maybe it's because I grew up on Eastenders and I still can't help but tie her to the Slaters - she just didn't evoke that of a Doctor Who audio that I have come to love. 
The plot felt rather generic and reminded me a lot an earlier audio in the collection, The Nemonsite Invasion. Although I really enjoyed the setting of this one, but I think that is just about it. Overall, I'm just a little 'meh'.

The Day of the Troll
Written by Simon Messingham
Read by David Tennant


Publisher: BBC Audio
Release Date: October 8th, 2009

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis:

When the Doctor arrives on Earth in the far future, he is horrified to find the planet beset by famine and starvation. England is a barren wasteland, and scientists are desperately seeding the ground to make the crops grow again. But now it seems that something even worse is happening.

Karl Baring, the owner of research facility The Grange, has been snatched away in the middle of the night. His sister Katy was with him when he vanished, but is now in catatonic shock — so it is up to the Doctor, with the help of the scientists at The Grange, to investigate. What is lurking under the old bridge, and why is it preying on people?

The Doctor must find out, before it strikes again...


Review

Another brilliant audio play with David Tennant's narration. Petition to get David to do more audiobooks, please, anyone?
I think what these later audios lack is having that one companion or temporary companion that gets the listener attached to the story. That being said, David did a fantastic job at crafting the voices of the group of characters and kept me interested and kept them separate in my mind. 
The setting was another very generic end of the world setting and quickly fell into the wayside as the plot progressed. 

BLOGMAS| All I Want For Christmas is Books!

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly blog group that comes together to discuss that week's topic. The idea was first curated by the wonderful Lainey at GingerReadLainey and is now run by Samantha over on ThoughtsonTomes. 

If you wish to participate, either on your Blog or Booktube channel then, please, join the group on Goodreads for all the relevant topics.

1. American Gods
Neil Gaiman

Goodreads

This and Anasai Boys, might be the only Neil Gaiman book that I have left to read. It's just so daunting, but I really hope someone has picked up on my love for the Amazon Prime adaptation and buys me a copy. 


2. The Left Hand of Darkness
Ursula K. Le Guin

Goodreads

I have nothing by good things about Le Guin, but have never picked up her books (obviously). I think she would be a staple in my SFF knowledge that I am eager to fill in my studies. 



3. Nevermoor
Jessica Townsend

Goodreads

I do really enjoy a bit of middle-grade, however, I never know what to pick up or where to start. I have heard nothing but hype for this book series. NOTHING BUT. 
4. Windwitch
Susan Dennard

Goodreads

The reason this is at the top of my wishlist, is a bit of a selfish and indulgent one. I was and still am apart of the Street Clans for Susan Dennard's Witchlands books. My name is in the back of the UK paperback of Truthwitch and the hardback and paperback of Windwitch. The paperback in the only one I don't own. 

5. Ship of Magic
Robin Hobb

Goodreads

In 2018, I finally finished reading the Farseer Trilogy. In 2019, I would love to continue my journey with the Realm of the Elderlings series. 

BLOGMAS| The Abandoned Hospital






This year is my final year as a student at Bangor University. It's one tinged with sheer happiness, but also a lot of sadness. That being said, I am trying to make the most of being in Wales as much as I can, even though I would rather be back home with my home comforts (better transport, West-End theatre and things to do).


This weekend was a Secret Adventure Society meet-up to an abandoned hospital and a hike through a nature trail.  This was the first time I've done this since the writing retreat in Year 13, and am gutted that I only learned about this society in the second half of my second year of University through a mutual friend. 

There were a few buildings that seemed to keep looping to one central room, with some in a better condition than others. One thought that kept coming back was: Where was this hospital when I needed it during my exam portfolio during GCSE Photography? This was the exact thing I wanted to photograph for my final piece but was made to focus on eroding textures.



Funnily enough, I wasn't going to go. Usually, my flatmate and I have to rally each other to get up and do whatever it is we need to do. Yes, it's a very flawed system. 

But she didn't get up to go like she said she would. I'm both glad and sad she didn't come. It would have been even more fun, but it just means that we get to do it again in our own time. 


The previous day, we had been to Horror Society and spent the evening watching The Others (which resulted in another awkward moment when Christopher Eccleston showed up) and The Ring.

I freaked out my friend with some of the photo's that I was taking of him. Often his face was blurred out, which if you haven't seen The Ring is something happens in the film.

We then took a detour down to the Afon Cegin (which is a river that runs into the Menai Strait).



We found a trolley. Yeah, that happened. 

I tried to capture the sun on the water, but it didn't turn out very good. 

I'm really surprised by how little I hurt the day after. Maybe it's the daily trips up the largest hill in Bangor. Like how did I do this three-hour trip and manage to go out to Spoons after? And then to Academi until 3AM? 

Will I be going t0 the next secret adventure? Heck yeah! This was awesome, and I don't think everyone will let me miss the next one either. Hopefully, we can get something planned for the new year, due to next weekend is the Christmas Potluck and the weekend after then we will be on our way back home for the holidays.

BLOGMAS| The End of the Year Book Tag


It's the last month if the year. It's December. Where did September, October, and November go? I swear I just blinked, and they were gone. 

Today I am going to be doing the The End of the Year Book Tag. Originally created by Ariel Bissett, I've seen this come back around this year and thought it would be a great way to begin mentally organizing the final month of the year.

1. Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?


Ravencry (Raven's Mark #2)
Ed McDonald

Goodreads

I briefly mentioned this in my TBR, but I didn't have time to finish reading this one before coming back to University, nor could I take it with me due to the amount I had to carry with me across the country.


Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive #2)
Brandon Sanderson







2. Do you have an autumnal/wintery book to transition to the end of the year?

I changed the question slightly to include "wintery" due to the nature of when this tag is going up.


A Natural History of Dragons (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #1)
Marie Brennan

Goodreads

For me, I always crave picking up either a larger epic fantasy novel or a book that features dragons, or both. 





3. Is there a new release you are still waiting for?


Queen of Air and Darkness (The Dark Artifices #3)
Cassandra Clare

Goodreads

I thought I had all of my most anticipated books of 2018, and then was abruptly made to remember that the final book in the The Dark Artifices trilogy will be out this month. I don't have time to read a Cassandra Clare book! 

4. What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?


Shadowplay (Micah Gray #2)
Laura Lam

Goodreads

I'm at the point that the only thing stopping me from picking this up is time. I'm taking a week out of Uni work for Christmas and reading an these books will be read during then.
Twelve Kings (The Song of the Shattered Sands #1)
Bradley Beaulieu


These books have been featured on TBRs all throughout the year. But, I am still determined to read them before the end of the year.


Neverwhere (London Below, The World of Neverwhere #1)
Neil Gaiman

Goodreads

Neil Gaiman just screams wintery read, and I'm dying to reread this in its illustrated form.



5. Is there still a book that could shock you and become your new favourite?

Never say never, but I think my favourite book of the year is set in stone at this point. 

6. Have you already made reading plans for 2019?

A few. But, nothing to reveal until the new year.


I won't tag anyone, but if you want to do this tag - please do!

BLOGMAS| In The Vanishers' Palace


In the Vanishers' Palace
Aliette de Bodard


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UK Release Date: October 16th, 2018

DISCLAIMER: I was sent an electronic review copy by the author in exchange for an honest and truthful review.

Synopsis:
In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land...

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village's debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn's amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets...


Review

A dark, rich f/f retelling of the age old fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, In the Vanishers' Palace packs a punch in her thoughtful story of post-colonialism, love, and parenthood in both biological and adoptive families. And I thoroughly enjoyed this novella. 

My biggest fear (which shouldn't have been a fear because I trust Aliette as an author) was that the romantic would find itself entering into Stockholm Syndrome and unequal footing. However, within t
he relationship between Yên and Vu Côn, Bodard addresses this and uses the art of flirting with fruit to make the butterflies flutter until they are on equal footing. Can I have more characters flirting with fruit, please?


The post-colonial setting was an interesting choice, but a good one. It lay down the foundation of building a narrative of healing and relearning thought patterns. Bodard throws you straight into the story and it's up to the reader to feel around the world building, so if you don't like stories like that, then this might not be for you. I freaking love it, however, I feel like I could've spent longer in this world. There's so much more that this world could give us - and I hope Bodard revisits this world.

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