To read-a-thon or not

Like the last Dewey’s readathon I’ve ended up double booking myself but this time I’m not beating myself up about not making ALL the hours. I’ve had a great day out with various friends and lots of belly laughs, so it’s now midnight and I’m finally joining in the readathon challenges before heading to bed :

Mid-Event Survey!

1. What are you reading right now? The city of lost souls

2. How many books have you read so far? this is my first, but I normally only get through 1 or 2 standard length novels

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? See question 1, I stayed up reading the prior book in the series until nearly 2am so, pretty excited 

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? I spent most of the day being way sociable with friends and decided to be chilled out about it

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? always how many books other people can read, so fast.

Record Store Day in Oxford (and music shopping in Oxford)

Tomorrow (April 22nd) is the tenth anniversary of Record Store Day, I think I first heard about in 2012 or 2013 and if you’ve never heard of it, quite simply put it’s a day designed to encourage people to shop at independent music shops. They do this by getting hundreds of artists on board to release special and limited edition records (but also sometimes CDs and tapes make it) that can only be bought in Independent record shops or in their own words

A Record Store Day participating store is defined as a physical retailer whose product line consists of at least 50% music whose company is not publicly owned. In other words, we’re dealing with real, live, physical, indie record stores – not online retailers or large corporations.

So if you live in Oxford there’s a couple of choices in the form of Truck store and Blackwell’s Music. There is also Rapture (sister store to Truck) but that’s out in Witney, so if you’re visiting Oxford city centre for the day, these are your options and I’ll give you the run down having visited both in 2015 specifically for RSD (In 2016 I was in Newcastle for the weekend, and yes I checked out a few stores there and came back with a few extra records for my collection), although I’ve shopped in both quite a few times over the past couple of years (when i’m not buying directly from artists or bandcamp).

Truck Store, 101 Cowley Rd, Oxford OX4 1HU

Probably the more well known for RSD, and yes the same Truck who run Truck Festival – the queues here start early, we arrived around half 7 one morning, the shop opening at 8am – we were kept warm with their in house coffee shop taking orders down the line (it was a really cold April morning) and got in the store around 10am. I’m not really familiar with the many possible formats for running a record store day event, but Truck allow a handful of people in the store at a time to browse. This means if a group of people decide to browse for half an hour, tough you’re stuck outside, as far as I remember there wasn’t a particularly logical order to the RSD stock, so it meant literally looking through everything they had for RSD to see if they had what we wanted (yes for 1, no for 2 others). My previous experiences back in Manchester with Piccadilly Records were vastly different (people start queuing the evening before for a start, in fact as I write this people have already been queuing for several hours), they provide people in the queue with a photocopied list of what they have in stock, when items sell out it’s shouted down the queue, so if you’re queuing for that one illusive item and it’s gone, you don’t have to waste another few hours in line only to be disappointed. Another thing I like is that they also hold all the RSD stock behind the counter, so you have to go in and ask to buy/look at it – this leaves the rest of the store free for customers browsing for non-RSD items (and yes there were plenty) and also helps the queue go faster.

Queues outside Truck store 2015

Blackwell’s Music Shop: 51 Broad St, Oxford OX1 3BQ

Your second option in Oxford, Blackwell’s music :  I’ve not been here first thing on RSD, but it doesn’t strike me as somewhere that would generate large queues, and it doesn’t seem to get any press. So last year my husband sauntered down to Blackwell’s at lunchtime and picked up what he wanted, no queuing or fuss. The year before after queuing at Truck, then going to warm up and have breakfast at Tick Tock, we decided to swing by Broad street and found that the sold out items from Truck were here in stock. Obviously they don’t stock a huge range, but they do a fairly wide range of genres and we’ve picked up AIR and Jesus and Mary Chain here along with some RSD slip-mats. The staff are really friendly and it’s a proper music shop in that it sells sheet music, instruments and some pretty cheeky music inspired gifts (a Chopin board anyone?), they can also order stuff in for you.

Other places for record shopping in Oxford

The Last Book Shop Jericho, 25 Walton St, Oxford OX1 2HQ

As well as being one of my favourite book shops in Oxford, the Last Book Shop also has a second hand record section (top of the stairs that go down to the second hand book section), it’s proper crate digging, whether you find a gem or not is anyone’s guess but prices are sensible. They also sell coffee, cake, the aforementioned books – new books are £3 each or 2 for £5, large second hand section in the basement.

Gloucester Green Market, 78 The Heyes, Oxford OX1 2BU (map address)

Open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays – I think Saturday is the best day for records and music although there are stalls on a Thursday selling old records, the guy who is there on a Saturday has a really good selection spanning plenty of genres – also the whole market is a good place to shop for vintage, handmade, quirky stuff.

Fopp, 96-97 Gloucester St, Oxford OX1 2DF

OK not independent (well not anymore), the recently opened Oxford branch is conveniently located on Gloucester Green Market so you can kill 2 birds with 1 stone if you visit on a Saturday. Good range of vinyl as well as CDs, DVDs, books and good prices, as they’re now owned by HMV they can afford to be more competitive. For me Fopp fills certain gaps that Truck leaves in terms of range but is by no means comprehensive for my tastes. Side note it has a very good foreign DVD range, particularly Nordic/Scandi noir Tv series.

Charity shops

Oxford has a plethora of charity shops, really I’ve never seen anything like it in a city so small. I pretty much only visit them for books, but plenty sell records, obviously this is another crate digging expedition to find anything worth while – and the Oxfam shops here are very switched on so you won’t necessarily snag a ‘bargain’. In fact some prices are just ridiculous, one ‘vintage’ shop that shall remain nameless had a box of ‘vinyls’ (yes really) priced from £5, for items that wouldn’t sell at a record fair for 50p!

Review: On A Small Island

On A Small Island
On A Small Island by Grant Nicol

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can’t remember when I last gave a book 5/5? However I felt that this feat of Nordic Noir deserved it simply for leaving me feeling utterly hopeless! I found myself staring at the page, thinking ‘he (Grant Nicol) wouldn’t really do that… would he? well if you want to know, you’ll have to read it and find out for yourself! If you’re partial to crimes and emotions being resolved, loose ends nicely tied in bows, then maybe this isn’t the book for you. Without giving too much away, this is a dark tale set in Reykjavik and the surrounding areas and centres on a young woman Ylfa, her two sisters and their elderly father. The story is told in the first person from Ylfa’s perspective which works really well, and for all intents and purposes you would assume that she is the main character of the book. However as I was browsing the follow up books in the series, I noted that they are subtitled ‘The Grímur Karlsson Mysteries’ Grimur being the detective in this series. I have to admit it struck me as a little strange that someone who in all honestly played such a minor part in this initial book would be the defining character of the series, but we’ll see – hopefully the character gets developed more in the follow up The Mistake I’m about to start…

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Review: Oblivion

Oblivion
Oblivion by Arnaldur Indriðason

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I only noticed that it’d not read this book when tidying up my wish list, hastily ordered because I couldn’t believe I’d missed another instalment of the ever pensive Erlendur. It didn’t take long to realise that this was a prequel, the book cover features an eerie looking blue lagoon, not the fun n frolic-y one we’re used to seeing in tourist photos, and as the first crime unfolds it becomes apparent it was set before the blue lagoon existed as a private entity.
The story (or stories as there is never just one thread in these books) are centred around activity related to the air force base at Keflavik, a murder and a missing persons cold case. This gives you some insight into Elendur’s fascination with missing persons whichs is a constant thread woven throughout the later series even if you’ve never read any of the other books that reveal the whole back story. So you can read this as a standalone book and not feel like you’re missing out. The other story is investigated mostly by Erlendur’s mentor, Marion Briem – which again fills out some back story missing from the later set books. I’m hoping that this continues – as I feel that this would be a really interesting addition to the series. I dont want to say much about the story as I feel that this would spoil the plot too much, but as usual the plot is a slow boiling stew with the tension mounting more than I expected towards the final few chapters and I really didn’t want to stop reading but had to go to work!

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Weekend in Luxembourg

This week has been one of good omens, or coincidences, which ever you prefer. At the weekend me and the husband were discussing some of our favourite trips, and Luxembourg came back into the conversation – we travelled there for a gig just under 2 years ago to see DJ Shadow. We’ve made city breaks for gigs a bit of thing now, but especially since moving to Oxford where a lot of bigger bands don’t play, particularly non-UK based bands: they’ll often play London and Manchester and sometimes Glasgow. Travelling to London started becoming an unwelcome expense – not just the travel, which sometimes included a horribly basic hotel or having to get a late night coach home that takes 2hrs, but also drinks being incredibly overpriced (£5 for a very bland lager sir, single vodka and redbull that’ll be £9 madam etc..). So we made a concious decision to start travelling, to gigs especially to cities we’ve not visited before and bonus if the venue is just that side of smaller and more intimate.

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist at den Atelier

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist at den Atelier

So that is how Luxembourg came about initially, it also helped that at the time I had a fair amount of nectar points that can be exchanged for easyjet flights making the weekend even cheaper. We saw DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist in den Atelier, a really cool intimate venue where you could pretty much see the stage from anywhere, it felt like the crowd was probably only 500 people, but according to their website they can accommodate up to 1200, but it felt like seeing them in a small club.

So the day after we’d been talking about how nice Luxembourg was, another favourite band Interpol* announced a European tour, with UK dates in Manchester and London. So we checked out where else they were playing and narrowed it down to Copenhagen and Luxembourg (both weekend dates). After a quick search it was clear that Luxembourg was going to be the cheapest option by far, so to cut this rambling short: exactly 2 years to the day we saw Interpol play in Amsterdam, we booked tickets to see them in Luxembourg. Also the same day a blog post about Luxembourg came up on my feed, so it felt like all the signs were there.

So two years later, I’m going to tell you about my favourite things in Luxembourg, as it seems I never bothered to blog at the time!

The first thing we did was pick up at Luxembourg Card similar to city cards, its actually valid for the whole country, getting you into many attractions and exhibits for free and to be honest is actually a lot cheaper than most other city cards. We picked up a 2 day card and definitely got some good use out of it just with Luxembourg city. It also includes public transport in the price making it super easy to get around and we actually managed to make it to at least 5 attractions over the 48 hours as I recall (would’ve been 6 but the Bock du Casemates is closed in winter).

mirrors with the worrds Rectum Newt Racoon in a large gallery space with a woman in front taking a self portait with wooden crates in the background

Rectum Newt Racoon – Self portrait in front of sculptures by David Altmejd

These included the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (MUDAM) a contemporary art museum where the building itself is as impressive as the art it holds (€7) and the next door fortress Museum Dräi Eechelen (€5), Casino Luxembourg (which is now free, but was I think the standard €5) which was full of typography and graphic design. Not to mention the historical Musée d’Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg (€5), Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art (€7) and Villa Vauban – Luxembourg City Art Museum (€5) ~ it’s worth noting that some of these venues we probably wouldn’t have bothered going to without the card, and I’m glad we did because they were in stunning buildings with loads of history. It was good to see art and artefacts that were outside of our usual tastes, and of course all these venues meant seeing parts of the city that we might otherwise have ignored due to the comfort of staying within a certain walking radius. If you have the means and will to go further afield there are breweries and swimming pools and other stuff included in your Luxembourg card that is valid up to 3 days, worth noting the days don’t have to be consecutive either – so if you want to spend a day doing museums, a day travelling or doing nothing, then another day doing something then that’s ok – you just fill out the days you actually use the card.

Luxembourg is also home to a what I was going to simply say, a delightful park to walk along that follows the flow of the river, particularly from where we were based close to the Rue Dr Charles Marx, it was a nice walk into the centre via the infamous Adolphe bridge  but as the Luxembourg website says so much more eloquently “Laid out along more romantic lines, the Pétrusse Parks combine steep slopes, strange rock formations and the ruins of fortifications and bastions to form a harmonious unit”

the blue painted metal Adolphe Bridge, viewed from a distance surrounded by green vegetation and trees

Adolphe Bridge, Luxembourg City

Other things to do include the Notre Dame cathedral, maybe not as impressive as it’s Paris counterpart but still a beautiful church, very close to the gold lady war memorial. In the same area is the Place Guillaume II which has a few statues and the surrounding streets are very picturesque.

So after all this we’re very excited to return, particularly as it will be high summer, rather than winter, so we’d  love to hear any more tips of what to do in the comments!

*not just a favourite band, but a band touring their first album, of which several songs were ‘our songs’ early on in our relationship so actually hold a really special place in our hearts

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Review: The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well

The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well
The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a small, compact book and initially I thought I would finish it in a day, but as I found out from the first few chapters, this would be very un-hygge of me to do so. Although you might initially think the whole hygge thing a bit of a fad (there has been a slew of books come out all just before Christmas), this book has some really strong points aside from being written by someone who runs a Happiness Institute. Along with all the tips on how to make your home hygge, ideas for hygge get togethers there’s also some nice sounding recipes to try out, and getting together with friends to try them would be totally hygge. If you’re looking for something to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside whilst stuck indoors listening to the rain hit the window, this is it.

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Bout of Books round up

So I actually started this post back on day 3 (today is day 7!) on my lunch break, I got caught up in the fact that I couldn’t find the original wordpress post editor and ergo could not fathom a few features I wanted to use, so it fell by the way side.  Then if I’m honest I’ve prioritised the actual reading side of things with all my spare time, so I’m doing one update to cover the whole week.

I started reading Blackout by Ragnar Jonasson, it was on a Kindle deal over Christmas, and whilst I own his other two UK released books in paperback, I felt like this was too good to miss. The story is once again set in the Northern town of Siglufjörður, and has more twists and turns than an old fashioned rollercoaster. I rated the book 4/5 but the actual Kindle version 1/5, I realised once I was about a third of the way through that Jonasson usually includes a little map of the locations used in his books and sometimes more info: it turns out that this information is included in the e-book version, but upon starting it, it jumps from the title page to the first chapter, I also noted at least 4 grammatical / typesetting mistakes in the text – I’d have been really peeved had I paid full price. My other gripe with this book is that it’s listed as ‘book 3 of the Dark Iceland’ series, which for the UK order release it is, but not for the original and chronological order. This makes no sense to me, so I’ve read in the UK order book 1, 5, 2, leaping back and forwards in time is very confusing for the read how can a character have a child with his partner last book, but this book they’ve not had it yet and have split up… also kinda ruins the on going plot just a bit. (Page count 220)

Second book on my list was the Little Book of Icelandic – by Alda Sigmundsdottir a wonderful compendium of nuances of the Icelandic language, reminding me of all the things I loved about Lingo  and more. For example the reasoning behind some root words that haven’t evolved like English has, contained three examples that I could also recognise in my Swedish learning (the words for dog and meat). There’s also the explanations of pronunciation of those funny characters and my favourite – the compound words! I find it a lot easier to remember words when I know the history of how they could about, this is especially true when they are amusing or quaint (eg. laptop comes from the words meaning migrating computer). I think this is a must for anyone with an interest in the fun side of linguistics or anyone wanting to learn Icelandic. (Finished today, page count 162)

Third book, I’m currently reading and predict will be finished tomorrow, is The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, which is a beautifully designed, hardback, almost pocket sized book on the hygge lifestyle. So far I’m learning that candles, snugly scarves and coffee are all good elements of hygge, loving it. (page count on day 7, 75)

So total page count: 457

I hope next time for bout of books to get more involved with the twitter chats etc, but I’m fairly sure they’re all at 4pm UK time (the ones I’m actually awake for) which is commuting time and not great tbh..  til next time