Emma’s Top Five Christmas Reads 2013

December is a pretty good month isn’t it? You might still be working like me, but at least you know there’s a magical light at the end of that dark, frosty tunnel. There’s Christmas lights, turkey and plenty of holiday cheer to enjoy on the other side and quite possibly the most enjoyable thing to do is snuggle up in your favourite jimmers and read. Here’s my top five recommendations for this Christmas; I’ve read some of them, but some are on my waiting list- so we’ll pretty much be enjoying them together.

1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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It’s a gripping psychological thriller about a marriage that’s falling apart when wife, Amy goes missing on her and Nick’s five year wedding anniversary. Nick is a suspect, because the husband is always a suspect, and as he searches for his wife’s whereabouts, you are constantly trying to decide if he actually did kill her. This may not seem like your typical Christmas read, because it’s a thriller but I just thought I should get out of my chick lit habit, and what better time to do it when I’m all cosy and safe at Christmas time?

2. Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

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This is more like it, this one’s got “snow” in the title. What a perfect holiday read. I actually read this in early November, and kind of regret reading this Christmas tale so early. There’s an ill-timed storm on Christmas Eve (naturally) that interferes with the lives of various characters throughout all three stories. I was very worried that the three separate stories would remain very separate, I praised the lord when I began reading the second story and realised that they did after all link up, and that’s such a great feeling. One brave soul ventures out into the storm from her stranded train and sets off a chain of events that will change quite a few lives. Over the next three days one girl takes a risky short cut with an adorable stranger, three friends set out to win a race to the Waffle House, and the fate of a teacup pig falls into the hands of a lovesick Starbucks barista.

3. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

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We’ve gotta have more than one piece of chick lit to balance out the psychological thriller that we might cry about, and I thought we’d go for Daniel Handler’s talk of the town Why We Broke Up. I wouldn’t usually go for something about a break up, because that’s not usually my scene- I like happy endings. However, I’ve heard so much about this book and even from the cover art alone I’m intrigued. I’m a sucker for fancy cover art, I’m afraid I do always judge a book by its cover, kill me. This novel tells the story of Min Green and how she and Ed Slaterton met at a party, saw a movie, followed an old woman, shared a hotel room, and broke each other’s hearts. I look forward to cracking this open on my Kindle.

4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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Yes, another book from John Green. Simply because you can’t beat this man’s writing at any time of the year. I’m such a ridiculous person that I haven’t even read this yet, I’ve read the majority of his other works, loved them, but I haven’t managed to get round to the book that everyone’s been talking about for pretty much the entirety of 2013. So, I’d better get this book into my brain before 2014 taps me on the shoulder. I may not have approached it yet, because of it’s subject matter. Most of John Green’s books are about teenagers and romance, there’s some serious elements to them but none of them are quite like this. The book deals with the harsh reality of cancer and how people with cancer are different to others, so it will be a very sensitive novel to read, and perhaps it would be wise to read Let It Snow soon afterwards.

5. Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

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This came out back in October and I remember it being very expensive upon its release date, even on the kindle. Thankfully, it’s fallen down to a reasonable price and I’ll be purchasing it without hearing my purse cry from within my handbag. It wasn’t just the price that put me off buying this as soon as it came out, I heard rumours. Rumours that our beloved Mark Darcy had been killed off, yes our lovely Colin Firth (that’s always going to be who he is in my head, even though usually with books I create my own vision of characters). It really got me, and annoyed me for quite some time that I’ve refused to read about it. That way I can deny all of its truth. This new installment sees Bridget Jones widowed at the age of 51. This also made me feel like I couldn’t read it, because Bridget is no longer anywhere near my age, and I might not find it as amusing as I once did when Bridget was in her 30’s. I’m going to give it a chance this Christmas, despite my negative views, because I do love Helen Fielding’s writing and I’m sure she’ll most certainly prove me wrong. Additionally, it doesn’t look likely to be made into a film despite it’s strong book sales. I guess that’s because we’ve got no Colin Firth to drool over.

Happy Holiday Reading 😉

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New Girl: Thanksgiving III: Episode 10 Season 3: Review

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It’s Turkey Day in New Girl this week, and being from London I haven’t really got a clue what Thanksgiving is all about, only what I’ve learned from American TV shows. What I’ve found is that it’s pretty much about giving thanks, and spending time with your famille. It seems to me that the Americans just couldn’t hang on any longer for Christmas and wanted that turkey super early.

This was an episode that removed all the frills and most modern conveniences to leave us with an episode about principals, which is what it’s usually trying to be about. Jess wants a thanksgiving where everyone is together eating a lovely dinner, just being together. However, Nick being Nick has listened to Coach, who commented on his increased girly nature since being with Jess, and now wants to prove his manly worth. Of course, this means they’re all going camping for the holiday and they’re going to hunt for their own food. Fantastic.

The gang go along with the idea, there’s a tiny sub-plot which surrounds Schmidt, Coach, Cece and surprisingly Winston. This just continues to explore the possibilities of who Cece will be with, Schmidts keen to know how Coach and Cece’s date went. But actually, just from screen time together it seems that Cece and Winston might be hitting it off. That’s just a guess though, there’s nothing solid to ground that judgement just yet, I’ll be keeping an eye on that turkey. 

Nick tells Jess what they’re doing for Thanksgiving this year, to assert his manliness and Jess replies with this great line : “you said you were afraid a fly was gonna fly in your head and learn all your thoughts?” I love Nick’s brain, and I love that the line was delivered by Jess. It just shows how their relationship is developing, without actually being a relationship centred episode.

I was a little worried about fish-drunk Jess towards the end of the episode, I thought it was that usual gag where they cross the boundary just a little bit too far, when they really didn’t need to. But when Jess’s hallucinations are filled with such mundanity like “I’m out of the office ’til Friday, for immediate assistance, please call Deb at extension A.C. Slater” did give the joke a bit of a lift. This episode opens it arms to some of New Girl’s slapstick impulses such as Nick diving head-first into the bear trap and Schmidt “accidentally” getting caught in his own squirrel trap. Which makes a great change to the characters shouting their emotions, instead it just gives the viewers a little giggle while we see a bit more of their character.

Here’s a few funny lines I also picked up:

goodness gracious, what are you? a sorcercer? – Schmidt

I should’ve known those beets weren’t from nature. Nothing purple grows in nature. -Nick

Jess running away to be sick after eating that old, smelly fish

Winston I hate your leggings- Coach, just as I had noticed them too!

New Girl: Werewolf: Episode 9 Season 3: Review

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When I reached the end of Werewolf I honestly couldn’t help but stare at my computer screen with my jaw dropped. This episode was weird, but don’t get me wrong it wasn’t a bad thing, it was of course classic New Girl weirdness. But my god that ending. That smooching was something else, it was…dare I say it…beastly!

This episode turned the attention to Cece, Coach and a sad Schmidt. Coach trying to hide his nervousness produced a few funny lines, in particular where he said about putting some Drake on and climbing all over Cece. However, the moments between the pair didn’t actually offer all that much in terms of their characters, instead it did shed light on the sadness that Schmidt is going through. 

Schmidt’s sadness turned into real weirdness, that bit with the brown leather sofa…creating boobs out of the cushions too, pretending it was Cece was very odd, but I loved Jess’s comment about him being disgusting. His brief scene with the pretty girl at the bar was great. As was his comment to Jess prior to when he sees her with a flip phone: “She’s either poor, or a time traveler.” This was a great little reference as I’d just watched the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary episode.

Then this episode gets a little weird. Jess hits Schmidt with her car, then later they are sitting in said car just watching a couple make out in an alley way. Gross but did give me a chuckle. Then, we’ve got Winston and of course our beloved Furguson, but it doesn’t matter how cute we think the cat is or how funny Winston can be- their relationship has got increasingly more worrying- Winston needs to get out and meet some “human women” to which Nick replies “is there any other kind?” Now, with Nick in mind some people have said that Nick didn’t really contribute to this episode, and wasn’t really missed. Well, I have other ideas, and not just because I love Nick’s character, but he actually had some funny lines. Such as his childlike comment about the bolognie sandwich at the bus driver’s apartment, “i don’t like it” as he nimbles like a little mouse at it. 

So, Nick leaves the apartment with Furguson and basically Winston and this bus driver woman get it on. There’s some funny moments here, but mostly it’s pretty cringe. I look forward to seeing where this is going, and I’m hoping for more classic New Girl weirdness.

Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

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Billy and Me tells the story of Sophie May; a sweet young woman who is living in a small village somewhere in the Kent countryside. Her quiet life is turned upside down when an ambitious young actor, Billy Buskin, walks into her tea shop, and she doesn’t even know who he is. Giovanna Fletcher’s debut novel follows Sophie as she falls in love, and struggles to cope with the transition from her peaceful life in the countryside into the spotlight after years of shying away from attention.

This novel is probably going to be my favourite read of 2013. It was gorgeously romantic, and there wasn’t a single moment where I felt fed up or like I was reading the same old thing again. It’s deliciously old-school romantic, with layers which leave you feeling intrigued and guarantee you to keep reading. I’ve read a few books this year, mostly from American authors such as Rainbow Rowell and their endings have all been pointless. I’m just a girl, and just a girl that wants a happy ending. Thrill me until we get there, but definitely give me a happy ending. Giovanna Fletcher does that in such an extraordinary way, that she got my heart racing and my eyes welling up with tears before we reached that lovely happy ending.

Fletcher has made sure that this isn’t a simple linear narrative which we’d expect from this kind of set up. There’s such a variety of different characters, and these are what make the novel so versatile for many readers. Not only is it about the girl meeting the guy, falling in love, getting heartbroken and then reuniting for the happy ending. It’s also about how Sophie must battle her past and learn to forgive herself for things that were completely out of her hands, and let’s just say that it gets pretty emotional and I think I probably did shed more than one tear.

If you’re looking for something to read over the Christmas holidays, I suggest you pick it up now and perhaps get one for your girlfriends too. While you’re at it, support our Mcfly boys too, get “Love is on the Radio” and stay tuned to news of McBusted.

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New Girl: Menus: Episode 8 Season 3: Review

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This week there’s menus everywhere, and Jess is determined to combat those who are ruining the environment. Menus had some comic moments, and those that made me laugh the most were Winston’s falling over antics. You’d think it’d become overplayed and boring, but each fall gets funnier than the last. Once again, we’ve got some authentic weirdness that doesn’t strain to be funny- Schmidt mishearing “Nick’s in jeans” as “Nixon jeans,” Jess describing the “no” symbol in Ghostbusters terms.

I usually talk about the lack of Winston moments, but actually this episode reminds us of Cece, and where on earth she’s going to fit in, now that the drama with her and Schmidt is over. That might be a case of matching Cece and Coach up, but I’m not so sure about that. Damon Wayans Jr slots back into the cast with such ease that it’s as though he never left.  The crispness of his delivery (“PEANUTS stands for ‘Physical Education Activity Nuts!”) did make me laugh out loud, because you could see the actors themselves laughing.

Britney bitch. I absolutely loved watching Coach and Nick work out to Britney’s new song “Work”. I love it when New Girl goes mainstream rather than driving down its alternative indie cool routes, because it demonstrates the authenticity of the show. People that listen to alternative music that nobody else has heard of have to work hard to find that music and get into it, and then they pretend that they’ve missed the new Britney track. Plus, I find that song hilarious anyway- she’s rhyming “bikini” with “Maserati”

Unfortunately, LOLferguson didn’t appear in this episode, but I think we can safely say that the drawings of Jess’s students replaced the gap left by our favourite cat. The kids didn’t even know how to draw the ocean, and come up with crazy things like a bagel with wings.

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Here’s a few other observations:

  • Nick is comfortable with the strength afforded by his body type: “I’m old-fashioned, Coney Island fat strong.”
  • Jess, who’s also a bit of a motivational speaker: “As long as hot dogs are hats, anything is possible.”
  • Nick’s greeting for an ailing Winston suggests he’s been keeping up on Netflix: “What’s up, Jason Street!” Winston’s pride in the chair, however, suggests he’s not keeping up with the news: “IRONSIDE!”
  • Life’s just unfair, isn’t it, Jess? “There are menus everywhere, and there are kids who wants to see the ocean…”

Zen

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I don’t know what to write about today, but I know that I want to write something. I’ve been trying to take part in the November writing challenge, where you write a 50,000 word novel in a whole month. It’s quite a challenge when you’re doing other things, and if you don’t lock yourself down in that writing bubble, you’re not going to get anywhere. I’ve found over the past few weeks that we all need to calm the fuck down and take a big step into that bubble, and this isn’t just a bubble for writing. This could be a bubble in which you can do anything. That could be dancing, singing, painting or even playing football. The bubble is your own personal space, it’s not something that is to be used as a tool to be anti-social- it’s a tool to enhance your own happiness.

What happens when somebody tries to push their way into that bubble, this could even be somebody literally leaning over your laptop screen and asking in that childlike voice “whatcha doing?” The best way to deal with this kind of behaviour is to be completely Zen. You’ve got to be the sturdy rock that lets the river flow past you, even in a storm. Even if the person or issue that is stopping you from being happy is strong and appears to be intruding your bubble, you’ve just got to remain Zen.

That’s my lesson of the week: remain calm at all times, stressing out over something isn’t going to help the matter and always be looking out for your bubble. It’s yours for a reason and you’ve got to look after it. However, I clearly haven’t been looking after myself over the past week because now I’m run down with a cold. If I remain Zen, what I’ll do with this situation is turn it into a good one- I’ll lock myself down in a nice, germ-free bubble and crack on with my novel.

National Novel Writing Month!

crest-bda7b7a6e1b57bb9fb8ce9772b8faafbI’m currently taking part in this year’s National Novel Writing Month and it’s all about reaching 50,000 words and completing that novel you’ve always wanted to write, in just a month! I’ve started 8 days late, but have managed to get to around 3,000 words in one sitting. It’s a lot of fun, and remember its only a first draft. My novel is called The Diamond Salesman. Michael Barnes is a wealthy diamond salesman who travels the world, embracing its varying cultures, crime scenes and women. Michael Barnes seems as though he is in control of his career and the dangers which lie beneath, but can he manage a deal outside of his comfort zone?

Here’s a short excerpt:

He flicked through the stack of crisp documents which had recently found their way onto the cluttered mahogany bureau. The window beside the tan, rugged-looking man framed the motion of noise and colour trapped outside the pristinely decorated apartment. The room echoed that of a blank canvas, not a single trace of personality had ever lived in this room. It was sterile, and not a place anybody would stay for long. The noise of traffic emerged violently through the thin walls and flimsy single-glazed window. The man reached for his white trilby hat, its edge yellowing with age and sweat, and forcefully smashed it in front of him on the desk. Both of his aged hands resumed new positions, one was faithfully stroking the documents which were neatly held together by a single silver paperclip. However, the other was rubbing his forehead in such a stressful manner that his skin was forming crumbs like the excess of a school child’s eraser.
The desk at which he sat uncomfortably close to was strewn with loose belongings; it was the bottom of a shipwrecked boat, full of unrelated belongings which had all been somehow united previously in their own way. An open wallet spewed a collection of different coins, notes and tickets. A single pen resided in a small metal pot, bearing the initials M.B. He reached for the lonely pen, holding his back in place whilst grimacing as he moved. The man wore brown tortoise shell glasses which scarcely hid his greying eyebrows and sun kissed skin. He had the appearance of an elderly man, yet his were in their thirties. Traffic continued to grow louder, police sirens filled any remaining silence and entangled with a familiar ringing.
“Yes?” he raised his mobile phone to his ear, with a concerned expression creeping across his face. “I do not understand your proposition. Either we have a sale or we do not.”
After a series of nods and various irritated expressions the man threw his phone across the pallid apartment into his brown, soft leather briefcase which lay in solitude on the bed. The phone vibrated once more and the man strolled slowly towards it, like he was sizing up his competition, and abruptly slammed the briefcase shut, flicking both locks secure simultaneously. He then walked towards the mirror clutching his briefcase, he looked at himself carefully brushing down his white suit and delicately touching his stubble in thought.
“Mr. Barnes?” a woman’s melodic French voice sounded from beyond the apartment’s front door. “Would you like me to tell the driver that you will be down soon?”
The man glanced around the room, checking that he had not left anything important behind. His eyes closed briefly and he sighed.
“yes thank you Isabelle I’ll walk down now.”

I hope that has at least whet your appetite for novelling just a little bit, good luck for those that are joining in!