Category Archives: general

University Books

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All the books I’d ordered for my uni reading were delivered the other day. It was like Christmas all over again! I’ve never seen so many parcels come through the door.

Comparing this haul of books to last semester’s, it looks a lot less academic, which makes me sad. Last semester I had text books and classics in the pile. It was very impressive, hehe. I’d put up a picture for comparison, but I never got around to taking one.

I’ve already almost finished The Orchid Thief for my Creative Non-fiction class. Unlike everyone else in the class, I’m really enjoying it. It’s the true story of a man named Laroche who was arrested for stealing rare orchids from the Fakahatchee swamp in Florida. It ties in nicely with my American Studies course, too, as it talks a lot about aspects of Florida culture. After reading it, I’d love to visit there.

Since I was ordering so many books, I added a couple of Patricia Highsmiths in for casual reading. She’s been one of my favourite authors for years, but I only recently read The Talented Mr Ripley. It was awesome, so I got the second Ripley book she wrote, along with a Highsmith I’ve been coveting for ages – The Cry of The Owl.


Inspiration at London National History Museum

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Drawn by the talented sister.
It made me laugh excessively.

Last week I went to the Natural History Museum in London and I was struck by what an inspirational experience it was. Not only in a ‘wow, look at all the amazing stuff there is in the world’ way , but also in a creative, arty way. Depending on where you live and how you have to travel to get there, the Museum is cheap for what you get out of it. Entry is free, and I could have happily camped out in it for a week and not run out of things to see and do. The place is huge.

As a writer, and someone who admires artists, this place was such a rich source of inspiration. My friend and I started off with the dinosaur section. It was brilliantly  under-lit to give it a creepy atmosphere. There was  a walkway which ran across the room, accessed by stairs and from it you could view the dinosaur skeletons hanging from the ceiling. It was like a scene out of a nightmarish laboratory, with various bits of skeleton and animatronics on display. So much fun!

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Awesome shadow 🙂

It also included a section dedicated to humanities interpretations of and fascination with dinosaurs across the ages. A screen cycled through various films and television programmes that have featured dinosaurs, from the stop-motion original Godzilla to the more sophisticated models in Jurassic Park to cartoon dinosaurs.

Not only the dinosaurs were amazing, but I loved looking at the more contemporary animals. I think most of them were taxidermy specimens, but old ones because the Museum doesn’t support that form of collection any more.  Some of them were like something out of the fantasy art books the Brother owns, which I like to look through on occasion. I mean, just look at this crazy guy…

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Lesser Egyptian jerboa

I don’t know if it comes across well in the picture, but its legs are freakishly long. I also like how the reflection on the glass kind of makes it look as though it has a unicorn horn. I can just imagine him as a piece of fantasy artwork, set on an otherworldly desert background.

The Earth section was also pretty cool, although some parts of it were shut down for maintenance so I didn’t get to look around all of it.  Eerie space-like music played and an escalator took people up into a hollowed out globe. The whole thing looked like something out of a H.G. Wells novel. It was very impressive.

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Just beyond the escalator was a group of statues of mythological figures. One of these was a cyclops. Beneath the cyclops was a skull of a mammoth which was found in Greece. The cavity in the skull from which a trunk would have protruded looked just like a single eye socket. It’s thought that the ancient Greeks found skulls like it and thought they belonged to an extinct race of one-eyed giants, thus giving birth to the myth of cyclops.

The section on the minerals was like something out of a science-fiction film. Some of them glow under ultra-violet light and although I wasn’t able to get a picture of it, it looked just like a Borg Cube from Star Trek. It’s amazing to think that such colours and constructs appear naturally. Some minerals looked like space-age weapons or glowing magical wands. There was even one that I was at first convinced had a city skyline painted on it, but it was in fact naturally formed.

I wish I could have stayed longer and taken more of it in! It was such a great day.


Beta-reading

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Over the last week I was lucky enough to beta-read self-published author K.S. Ferguson‘s upcoming book Hostile Takeover. It is the second book in her Rafe and Kama series, following on from the events in Calculated Risk.

It’s the first time I’ve ever ‘officially’ beta-read something for anyone, and I was a bit nervous about it, but luckily she gave me a list of things she particularly wanted me to focus on. First, I read through it, noting down anything that jumped out at me, then I read it through again, this time taking notes on more general things about the overall structure. After that I organised my notes into something resembling coherence and sent it off to her. She replied saying I had been helpful and it was just what she needed, which was reassuring. I felt that my critiquing skills were under as much examination as her writing, so it was nice to get such positive feedback.

Hostile Takeover is a sci-fi thriller, along the same kind of lines of Michael Crichton’s  better books. It has murder, blackmail, corporate intrigue, social upheaval and explosions. All the good stuff! It was such a visual read, I could see this as a movie or something. It also has a romance subplot running through it between the two main characters, which was something that needed some work, but this book has amazing potential. I can’t wait for her to release the final version so I can read it.

K.S. Ferguson has also written an urban fantasy series, the first book of which, Touching Madness, is available through her website. As is Calculated Risk and a science-fiction novella called Puncher’s ChancePuncher’s Chance was published in Analogue magazine. It was featured as the title story and won an award.

I really enjoyed beta-reading and it’s something I would like to do again, especially now I feel a bit more confident in it. I also really enjoyed the book, it was fun and well-written, so a big thanks to K.S. Ferguson for giving me the opportunity.


Night Vale necklace

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Welcome To Night Vale is a podcast by Commonplace Books and available for free through iTunes. The sister got me hooked on this amazing Lovecraftian comedy. The picture up above is my Night Vale-inspired necklace.

It started out as a pair of earrings I saw whilst out shopping, which I was drawn to  because they reminded me of the Night Vale logo:

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But the earrings were so big and heavy, I couldn’t imagine them being comfortable to wear. So I bought them and some necklace making stuff from Ebay and two lovely Night Vale necklaces were made! I’m quite proud of them, as I’ve never made jewelry before, although I think if I did it again, I’d make it with purple cord instead of black. And maybe with thicker cord.

Goodnight listeners, goodnight.


GISHWHES: Day 7

GISHWHES is over and done for the year. I’m already counting down the days until next year’s!

This morning The Sister and I took a trip to Stonehenge so we could claim it for our GISHWHES team. We got stuck in traffic for a long time, but that was okay because I had my knitting with me.

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This is going to be the Emerald Turban from Knitting Vintage by Claire Montgomerie.

One reason why I’ve enjoyed GISHWHES so much is that I’ve gotten to do things and go places I wouldn’t normally go. Stonehenge being one of them. It really is awesome and there were so many people there, despite it being a threatening-to-rain kind of day. After wandering around, claiming it with the flag and such, we sat outside and shared a pasty with some cute little starlings.

So even though GISHWHES is over, I hope to do as the final official e-mail notification said and try to sneak a little bit of GISHWHES into every day.


GISHWHES: Day 6

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We found actual alpacas!

GISHWHES has been a tempest that stormed through the lives of my family and friends this week as my sister and I took part in the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has ever seen along with thirteen other team members, most of them residing in the US. It’s been like a gust of fresh air, albeit it a very tiring one!

So, only one more day left.  In a way I’m pleased; I won’t have to run around herding ducks, or commando roll with cupcakes or any of the other crazy things I’ve been doing this week. I’ll have time to spend on those comics and that knitting that’s been lounging neglected on my bedside table. But I’m also quite sad that GISHWHES week will soon be over. It’s been hectic, but enormously fun.

I’m definitely going to join GISHWHES again next year. It’s shown me the enormous kindness and helpfulness that people are capable of. A big thank you to one person in particular, who helped us out despite having had heart surgery earlier this week! And until next year, I’ve been inspired to keep an eye out for other charitable things I can get involved in.

So let’s conquer the world, one act of kindness at a time. 🙂 


GISHWHES: Day 4

GISHWHES: Day 4


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