It's been a quiet week or two on the blog again. I've started mentally writing several review posts, but they haven't made it out of note form or onto the computer yet. Look out for reviews of The Lies of Locke Lamora, The Shining and the first season of Fringe in the near future. (I still haven't written about Mr Penumbra or Star Trek: First Contact and those have been a long time coming!)
But this week has been less quiet than my internet activity. Last weekend I went camping with my best friend, still on the Isle of Wight, just to get into practice for our trip to the Lake District (recreating Swallows and Amazons, though without the boats, and without our own private island.) As it wasn't the height of the holiday seasons, we were allocated a pitch among the camper vans and family-sized tents. Our two-person tent looked pretty titchy by comparison!
The camping site was part of a bigger holiday resort, and the price included access to the two swimming pools, and also was very close to the beach, which makes a refreshing change from having to travel for an hour by bus to get anywhere. (I really need to learn to drive. The few miles to the beach do not have to be so time consuming.) I found that camping is a good way to get your body-clock sorted out. We'd be in bed not long after ten, as it's not much fun sitting in the dark or attempting to read by torchlight, and wake up to birdsong. Admittedly the birds were something of the crow family, and right by our tent, but still...
I also caught up with an old school friend this week, James, who now lives in Bath where he works as a chef. I haven't seen him for at least a year, but it was as if we hadn't been apart, and were very quickly geeking out about as many books and TV shows as we could manage to squeeze into the conversation. We went to see the new X-Men film, which I really enjoyed, and which had me at the very edge of my seat at some points. I did, however, have real trouble suspending disbelief in one matter: how are we expected to believe that Patrick Stewart ever looked any different from how he looks now?
We also had a surprise visit from a long-lost cousin of my mum's. Cedric is the son of my Grandma's twin brother, and had come over from Canada to visit various relations, so we invited him over for Sunday lunch, before he went to visit his Aunt Grace, my Grandma.
This coming Tuesday I'll be meeting one of my best friends from university in Southampton. No doubt we'll spend a good long time in at least one of the Waterstones branches there, and I also intend to pay a visit to Sprinkles, the amazing ice cream bar near the station. It has every flavour of gelato you can imagine, in enormous scoopfuls, as well as coffee, waffles and cakes. I can highly recommend the Nutella ice cream. Come to Southampton! Eat the ice cream!
After being distracted by a Moomins reread and Deborah Roderiguez's memoir The Kabul Beauty School, I decided to take Locke Lamora and only Locke Lamora with me to the campsite, determined to get stuck into it at last. Sure enough, it was around the halfway or two-thirds mark where I found myself drawn into the book, gasping and shouting aloud. I don't think Locke Lamora will ever make any of my favourites lists, but it was an enjoyable, twisty read, a good old-fashioned fantasy adventure set among the criminals and lowlifes of a grand culture with a curious resemblance to medieval Venice.
Since then I've been re-reading The Shining. With the release of Doctor Sleep in paperback, I felt compelled to buy a replacement copy of the iconic original lost in the Great Post-Uni Purge of 2007. If possible, I'm enjoying it even more this time around, probably because I can take my time and don't have to read it by a certain deadline. I'd forgotten a lot of the details and am really growing to care for the characters and breaking my heart at the knowledge of what is to come. I'm still looking at it with my "Gothic Fiction" lenses on (it was one of my set texts for that course) mentally annotating how this fits into the Gothic canon, and what tools King uses to build up the suspense and horror. It feels like I'm reading it for the first time, and despite being a reread, it may well make my Top 10 books of 2014 list.
I paid a visit to the library this week, where I snatched up volume 7 of Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Brief Lives. I've been gradually rereading this series, when I've been able to find the books in the library, because they seem to be very popular - if I see the next one, I have to take it, then and there. I also borrowed The Great Gatsby. I'll be honest, this is one of the Great American Classics that I have never particularly felt the need to read, but was persuaded because I didn't like not understanding a joke someone told at the Neil Gaiman signing last year. (What is Gatsby's favourite superhero?/The Green Lantern. And his least favourite?/Deadpool.) I read the joke again recently on the internet, and once more it bugged me. I don't like feeling ignorant when it comes to literature. I freely admit it's a silly reason to want to read a book, but never mind.
I also went back to the Ryde bookshop. This is an amazing shop: first there are two or three books of new books, then behind The Door are three floors of second-hand, rooms and rooms of books, shelves and stacks, nooks and crannies, boxes of old magazines - it is a book-lover's paradise. Last time I was there I found two of three Robin Hobb books that I had wanted for ages but with a particular cover. (The next day I found the other in a charity bookshop. All three books in two days, without looking, when I'd been searching since they changed the cover design years ago.) This week I decided to buy The Passage, by Justin Cronin. It's a bit of a brick, and I've been intrigued intimidated by that book since its first publication - my colleague Joan had recommended it - and this week I finally listened to its appeals to come home with me.