Monday, 31 August 2015

Stories & Songs #7

I'm back today with another instalment of Stories & Songs - enjoy!



American Vampire, Vol.1
by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque and Stephen King

"Born in the USA"
Bruce Springsteen

Born down in a dead man's town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up
Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.
Got in a little hometown jam so they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man
Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.




Ms. Marvel, Vol.1: No Normal
by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

"Cartoon Heroes"
Aqua

We are what we're supposed to be
Illusions of your fantasy
All dots and lines that speak and say
What we do is what you wish to do

We are the color symphony
We do the things you wanna see
Frame by frame, to the extreme

Our friends are so unreasonable
They do the unpredictable
All dots and lines that speak and say
What we do is what you wish to do

It's all an orchestra of strings
Doin' unbelievable things
Frame by frame, to the extreme
One by one, we're makin' it fun

We are the Cartoon Heroes - oh-oh-oh
We are the ones who're gonna last forever
We came out of a crazy mind - oh-oh-oh
And walked out on a piece of paper




Rat Queens, Vol.1: Sass and Sorcery
by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

"Bad Girls"
M.I.A.

Live fast, die young
Bad girls do it well
Live fast, die young
Bad girls do it well

My chain hits my chest
When I’m banging on the dashboard
My chain hits my chest
When I’m banging on the radio

Get back, get down
Pull me closer if you think you can hang
Hands up, hands tied
Don’t go screaming if I blow you with a bang




Saga, Vol.1
by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

"Out of the Woods"
Taylor Swift

Looking at it now
It all seems so simple
We were lying on your couch
I remember
You took a Polaroid of us
Then discovered (then discovered)
The rest of the world was black and white
But we were in screaming color
And I remember thinking…

Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we out of the woods?
Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet?
Are we in the clear yet?
In the clear yet?
Good

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Review | The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters


by Sarah Waters

My Rating:


One post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline. Its owners-mother, son, and daughter-are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his.

After I read Fingersmith (reviewed here!) I had a craving for two things: 1) more historical fiction, a genre I feel as though I haven't read much of this year, and 2) more Sarah Waters. I own four of Waters' novels - Affinity, Fingersmith, The Night Watch and The Little Stranger - and, having already read Affinity and Fingersmith, the book that most called to me was The Little Stranger. I couldn't remember the last time I read a ghost story, possibly last year when I read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and as autumn draws closer I was in the mood to get started on my Halloween reading.

The Little Stranger is a ghost story, but it isn't the kind of story that goes 'boo!' or frightens you with jump scares, it's psychological. So psychological, in fact, that it isn't always clear if there really is a haunting or if the family who live at Hundreds Hall, the Ayreses, are just the unfortunate victims of coincidence and mental illness.

Our protagonist is the middle-aged bachelor Dr. Faraday who finds himself slowly being pulled into the lives of the Ayres family at Hundreds Hall. Once a beautiful stately home, the Hall is falling into disrepair, as is the Ayres' way of life; the Second World War is over, and coming from a high class family no longer means what it used to. All that's left of the Ayres family are Mrs. Ayres and her two grown children, Caroline and Roderick. Roderick has been left scarred by the war and is struggling to keep the estate running, while the outgoing Caroline has returned from a life in the Wrens, which she loved, to help her mother and brother cope.

I feel as though I can't say too much about The Little Stranger without spoiling it. Not because it's particularly shocking - compared to the previous two Waters' books I've read, the storyline of The Little Stranger is fairly straightforward - but there's something about the atmosphere of this book that means it has to be felt. This is a superb ghost story, and I'm not at all ashamed to say that it gave me the heebie jeebies. One night I genuinely considered keeping my light on when I went to bed. Though I am a massive wuss.

I felt just as invested in the Ayres family as Dr. Faraday. It would have been so easy for the Ayreses to be a stereotypical ghost story family, but Waters once again succeeded in writing people rather than characters, and I fell in love with all three of them. I loved Caroline in particular, so much so that there were times when I wished she was the protagonist, but I could understand why she wasn't; with a story like this, you need a protagonist who is an outsider, and Faraday is certainly that.

It was due to Faraday that I wasn't sure how to rate this book at first. As the book went on I began to dislike him more and more, and I wasn't sure I could give a book five stars when I didn't like the main character, but the more I thought about it the more I realised how important that was. By the end of the story I'm not sure that Faraday is supposed to be likeable, or that whether or not the protagonist is likeable is important to a story like this one. As a ghost story, this book is one of the best I've ever read, so how could I not give it five stars?

Waters seamlessly includes detail in her narrative without ever bogging the story down, and I loved the way she tipped her hat to some of her influences, from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca to Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher.

Stunning novel. I highly recommend it!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Liebster Award


My lovely friend Natalie @ A Sea Change nominated me for the Liebster Award - thanks Natalie!

Rules:

  • Each nominee must have under 200 followers
  • Thank and link to the nominated blog
  • Answer their 10 questions and propose 10 new ones for your nominees
  • Nominate 10 blogs and tell them that they have been nominated
  • Write a post containing the questions
  • Include these rules in the post
1. You can invite 3 people living or dead to dinner - who would you invite and why?

Hm... I'd invite Seanan McGuire, Nell Gwyn and Mary Anning.

Seanan McGuire, also known as Mira Grant, wrote Feed, which is one of my favourite books of all time; I know opinion of it is very divided, people either seem to love it or they really don't like it, but I first read Feed about a year and a half ago and I'm still thinking about it now. Plus Seanan seems like a really cool person and I'd love to be able to meet her and talk to her.

Nell Gwyn is my hero. She's one of those historical figures who just fascinates me. She started out life selling oranges, then she became an actress, and then she became one of Charles II's favourite mistresses, and I love her because she never seemed to be anyone but herself. She'd already been a mistress to several wealthy men before she became the King's mistress, which resulted in her calling him 'her Charles the Third'. She was also good friends with Aphra Behn, a 17th century playwright, novelist and poet, who also just so happened to be employed as a spy for Charles II in Antwerp. Nell seems to have had an amazing sense of humour and an even bigger sense of fun. Her son by the King - another Charles - became a Baron when he was six years old all thanks to her. I think she was fantastic.

Mary Anning was a Victorian lady who became both a fossil collector and palaeontologist despite living in an era in which the majority of scientists were men. She discovered the first correctly identified ichthyosaur skeleton, the first two plesiosaur skeletons and the first pterosaur skeleton outside of Germany, amongst other things. Many of her discoveries contributed to the change in the way people studied prehistoric life and the history of the world. She became well known in geological circles across Britain, Europe and America, but was rarely given full credit for her work and struggled financially throughout her life. If anyone deserves a nice dinner and pleasant company, it's her.

2. What is your favourite poem and why?

I guess it's more of a song than a poem, though there are many links between music and poetry when it comes to old legend, but I've always loved 'The Lambton Worm', which is a legend from the North East of England. I have very fond and vivid memories of my dad reading it to me, and reading it in a very strong geordie accent (he and my mum are both from Gateshead) because it made me laugh.

I also love 'The Flea' by John Donne, 'Lamia' by John Keats, 'Sonnet 130' by William Shakespeare, 'On My First Son' by Ben Jonson, 'Phenomenal Woman' by Maya Angelou and 'Bog Queen' by Seamus Heaney.

3. What did you want to be when you were a kid? For that matter what do you want to do now?

For a long time I wanted to be a vet, but then I watched an episode of Animal Hospital where a vet stuck his arm up a cow's backside and it put me right off. I loved Animal Hospital, but now a lot of my memories of it are tainted thanks to the recent revelations about Rolf Harris.

Now? I just want to be happy.

4. Tell me a joke - any joke - as cheesy as you like!

What do you call a fat dog?

A flabrador.

5. You can have any animal in the world for a pet - what do you have and what do you call it?

I'd have a quokka, and I'd call him John.

They're so smiley!

6. Favourite Film/Worst Film - why?

Well my favourite animated film is Beauty and the Beast, I adore it. The animation's stunning and the music's beautiful - seriously, Alan Menken's score for that film is just gorgeous - and I love the story, too. One of the things I love about Beauty and the Beast is that we actually get to know the prince, too; he's not a stock character, and because of that the two of them develop an actual relationship. Plus Belle's a bookworm, so I was always going to love it.

My favourite non-animated film is The Mummy. It's such a fun adventure film and I adore it, and it's another film with a bookish heroine at its centre. Accompanied by a very pretty Brendan Fraser.

As for worst film? Probably Immortals. I hated that film, and I didn't like 300 either.

7. Describe yourself in one word

Lost.

8. What would your superpower be?

The ability to always be able to put eyeliner on without looking like a member of KISS who's been left out in the rain.



9. What country do you most want to visit?

Well I've done Italy now, which would have been my answer before last month, so now... there are so many. I'd like to go to Thailand, I haven't been to Asia at all, and I'd like to go to America and Canada and Mexico. Northern Ireland, too; I've been to the Republic of Ireland, but not to Northern Ireland. Oo, also Jersey! And Spain. And Austria. And Hawaii. And Norway...

10. You can give 3 book recommendations - what are they?

To give as diverse recommendations as I can, I'm going to recommend a classic, a graphic novel, and an 'ordinary' novel.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu: This is a 19th novella about vampires that pre-dates Bram Stoker's Dracula, and I think it's better than Dracula, too. I really enjoyed this book, and you should definitely check it out. If you're a bit reluctant to read something from the 19th century, not to worry - Carmilla is very readable, and it's very short, too. You could easily read it in one sitting!

Rat Queens, Vol.1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch: Female-led, female-centric high fantasy complete with innuendo, humour, diversity and bad-assery. It's great, and you should totally check it out.

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: I will never not find a way to include this book, just FYI. This is such a fantastic debut novel, and it's a standalone, too. I love it so much and I feel like it's one of those debuts that hasn't received as much attention as some of the other new releases this year, which is ridiculous. Read it read it read it.


My Questions

1. Do you like book adaptations?

2. If you were a protagonist in a book, which genre would you like your book to be in? 

3. Do you consider yourself a diverse reader?

4. Would you rather be an Ancient Greek, an Ancient Roman, or an Ancient Egyptian?

5. How do you spend your New Year's Eve?

6. Have you ever cosplayed? If not, would you like to?

7. What's your favourite book of 2015 so far?

8. Which season is your favourite?

9. Have you ever broken any bones?

10. Go to your bookshelf. Pick the seventh book from the left from the shelf of your choice. Go to chapter seven. What's the seventh word?

I tag

Friday, 21 August 2015

Review | Fingersmith by Sarah Waters


by Sarah Waters

My Rating: 

No one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals. Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer." Mrs. Sucksby’s household also hosts a transient family of petty thieves--fingersmiths--for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives--Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a na├»ve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, they all will share in Maud’s vast inheritance. 

With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to regret her decision.

I'm not entirely sure how to begin this review. I've been wanting to read Fingersmith for the longest time and I just never got around to it. Then, last Christmas, I got the BBC adaptation on DVD and I'd heard great things about it as an adaptation, but there was no way I was going to watch it before I'd read the book. That might be one of the best literary decisions I've ever made, because if nothing else this book is an experience.

If I told you I started this book in March and finished it in August, you'd probably assume it was a bad book, but the truth is I just wanted to savour it. I easily could have read it in two or three days, but I wanted to drag it out and keep that suspense going, because this is the twistiest, turniest book I have ever read. I don't like to blow my own horn, but I'm pretty good at guessing what's going to happen in books and films, but this book blew me away. There's more than one big twist, and when the first one happened I was sat in bed sucking all the air from the room into my lungs I was that shocked. I wanted to talk to someone about it, but it was three in the morning.

If that's not the sign of a good book, then I don't know what is.

I loved everything about this book. I loved the setting, I loved the way it was written, and I loved the characters. Sue has quickly become a favourite of mine - I thought she was lovely and honest, despite being a thief, and one of those characters I just wanted to hug. It took me a little longer to warm to Maud because I wasn't sure what to make of her, but that's one of the things I love about Sarah Waters; she doesn't write characters, she writes people. Maud is complex and honest in a different way - perhaps brutally so - and I think the relationship between her and Sue is one of the best romances I've read in a while.

If you're unfamiliar with Sarah Waters, she primarily writes historical fiction with LGBT* characters at the centre, which is fantastic. What I love about the way she writes, though, is that the books are never about sexuality, at least not in the obvious sense; she doesn't write books about people coming to terms with their sexuality, she writes about relationships in the same way that heterosexual relationships are written about. When a woman falls in love with a man, she doesn't have to come out as straight. She isn't met with questions like: 'are you sure you're straight? Maybe it's just a phase', and Waters doesn't do that to her characters either.

I can't recommend this book enough. Whether you like historical fiction or not, give it a try. Sarah Waters might specialise in historical queer fiction, but they're never history books or books about being queer, they're books about ordinary people, like you and me, with extraordinary stories.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Review | White Trash Zombie Apocalypse by Diana Rowland


by Diana Rowland

My Rating:


Our favorite white trash zombie, Angel Crawford, has enough problems of her own, what with dealing with her alcoholic, deadbeat dad, issues with her not-quite boyfriend, the zombie mafia, industrial espionage and evil corporations. Oh, and it’s raining, and won’t let up.

But things get even crazier when a zombie movie starts filming in town, and Angel begins to suspect that it’s not just the plot of the movie that's rotten. Soon she's fighting her way through mud, blood, bullets and intrigue, even as zombies, both real and fake, prowl the streets.

Angel’s been through more than her share of crap, but this time she’s in way over her head. She’ll need plenty of brainpower to fit all the pieces—and body parts—together in order to save herself, her town, and quite possibly the human race.

You can check out my reviews for the first two books in this series, My Life as a White Trash Zombie and Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues, here and here.

I love how shamelessly fun these books are. I loved this series since the moment I cracked open the first book, and that's all down to Angel; she jumps off the page and I love her. Seriously, if you're looking for a fresh urban fantasy series then I highly recommend this one!

I have to be honest, I didn't like this one quite as much as I liked the previous two books, but I still really enjoyed it. I fly through these books, and this one was no different; I'm pretty sure I managed to get through this one in just a couple of days, and if I hadn't been working I could have easily read it all in one sitting, that's how readable this series is.

Compared to the previous books, the plot of this one felt a little all over the place and ended up being very different to what I was expecting. A lot happens in this book, and yet I came out of it with more questions than answers. That's not an entirely bad thing, this, after all, is only the third book in what is an ongoing urban fantasy series, and urban fantasy series have the tendency to be quite long; I think of them as the literary equivalent of a TV show, and each book is a new season.

Still, this book felt like a bit of a filler compared to the others, but sometimes we need the fillers and we need to set the stage for the next big story arc. Angel's relationships seemed to take more of a centre stage in this book, particularly her relationship with her father; it was nice to see a little time dedicated to the two of them. I also appreciate that Angel still calls Marcus out on his bullshit when he's being a pain in the backside.

Having said that, I did feel like Angel was a little too forgiving in this book towards one particular character, one who I'm afraid is only going to continue to have a bigger part in the series. He treated her appallingly (not to worry, there's no love triangle in this book!) and, honestly, I really wanted her to drown him.

Something else I'd like is to see Angel have a few more relationships with women. Two new ladies were introduced in this book, one of whom seems to have the potential to become a good friend of hers. For the most part, however, all of Angel's relationships are with men and I'd like to see some more positive female relationships around as the series continues; particularly as two of the big antagonists of the series so far - Dr Charish and Angel's mother (granted, she's dead, but we know from what we've learned that she wasn't all that great) - are women.

So I didn't love this one quite as much as the others, but I still really like this series and I'm looking forward to picking up How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back soon!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Review | Lorelai, You'll Never Die by Laura Konrad


by Laura Konrad

My Rating: 


Lorelai is a woman with many stories to tell. 

She was just a promiscuous secretary at the county evidence locker. But all that changed with the apocalypse. 

She found herself alone and wandering the country in search of something, she just wasn’t sure what. She came across many different types of people along the way, some freaks and some who were just like her, trying to survive. Her adventures forced her to adapt in ways she never thought she could, made her feel in ways she never thought she would. 

In the apocalypse you either learn to adapt or you die…

I received a copy of Lorelai, You'll Never Die from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I was really pleased to receive a copy of this for review, because Laura is a writing friend of mine. Over the years I've seen her grow and flourish as a writer, and when it comes to writing science fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction, it wouldn't surprise me at all if Laura has her very own shelf in the science fiction section in years to come.

This isn't a book about saving the world, this is a book about surviving when the world would rather you didn't. We're not told all the details about why the world is the way it is, but we're given enough information to piece it together and, in all honesty, it doesn't matter. How society crumbled isn't important, but how Lorelai is going to get through it is.

I actually really loved that this isn't a story about inciting a rebellion and saving the world and starting again; this isn't the world's story, it's Lorelai's, and I think following one woman on a quest to the west feels more genuine than any story to revive society. It's such a simple idea, to follow one person from the east to the west, but it's pulled off wonderfully, and the adventures Lorelai has on the way mean her life's certainly never boring.

It was also fantastic to see a heroine who is completely unashamed of her sexual appetite. Lorelai likes sex, and the apocalypse hasn't changed that - why should it? 

I did find some sections at the beginning of the book a little jarring; there was a lot more jumping around between various people, so much so that I wondered if I'd misread the blurb and this was actually a collection of short stories, but soon it settled into something a lot more coherent, and that's when I really began to enjoy the book. Some of Laura's descriptions are just beautiful; she has a real talent for writing post-apocalyptic settings.

I would have liked to have seen a few more women as the majority of survivors Lorelai encountered were men, but I did love her relationship with fellow survivor Beattie, who is a little cutie.

Lorelai, You'll Never Die is both bleak and hopeful. Laura isn't afraid to write about some of the worst kinds of human beings, but it's impossible to feel completely hopeless with a heroine like Lorelai at the centre.

If you like post-apocalyptic fiction then I recommend checking this out, and I can't wait to see what Laura comes up with next!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Review | Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki


by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

My Rating:

"Skim" is Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a not-slim, would-be Wiccan goth who goes to a private girls' school in the early '90s. When her classmate Katie Matthews is dumped by her boyfriend, who then kills himself -- possibly because he's (maybe) gay -- the entire school goes into mourning overdrive. It's a weird time to fall in love, but that's what happens to Skim when she starts meeting secretly with her neo-hippie English teacher, Ms. Archer. But then Ms. Archer abruptly leaves the school, and Skim has to cope with her confusion and isolation while her best friend, Lisa, tries to pull her into "real" life by setting up a hilarious double-date for the school's semi formal. Suicide, depression, love, homosexuality, crushes, cliques of popular, manipulative peers -- the whole gamut of teen life is explored in this poignant glimpse into the heartache of being 16.

It's no secret that I've become a big fan of graphic novels this year, and while I love some of the series I've been reading - Rat Queens, American Vampire, Saga - every now and then I love to read a graphic novel that stands entirely on its own, like Jane, the Fox & Me, and now Skim.

I only became aware of Skim when I saw Mercedes @ MercysBookishMusings talking about it over on YouTube, and I was immediately intrigued. I trust her reviews - she's not afraid to call out bullshit! - so when I found a secondhand copy of Skim for a really cheap price I went ahead and bought it, and I'm glad I did.

At first glance Skim looks like a really angsty, depressing story about being a teenager. I mean, just look at that synopsis! But even though it dealt with a quite a few serious issues, it was still fun and relatable and, more than anything, incredibly honest. There's quite a bit of talk about suicide after a classmate's boyfriend kills himself, but, contrary to what all of the teachers believe, that doesn't make every student in the school want to commit suicide. They acknowledge it as a sad event, but also acknowledge that none of them really knew him, possibly not even his girlfriend, and get on with their lives.

What makes this graphic novel so honest is that it's told entirely through Skim's diary entries. Her thoughts are personal and teenage and real; I believed everything Skim wrote because she never sounded like an adult trying to sound like a teenager. She's never belittled or presented as melodramatic, and I really appreciated that.

When I first opened it I was a little disappointed to discover that the art is black and white, but it didn't bother me like I thought I would; after a while I forgot that had ever even been the minor issue that it was, and I ended up really enjoying the art style. No two people looked the same, there was a whole variation of body types, and I think the style and mood of the art fit the story perfectly.

So I really enjoyed this one, and I'd recommend it! I'd like to check out more of the Tamakis' work in future.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Monthly Wrap-Up | July 2015 | When in Rome...


I got up to quite a bit last month, so let's get on with it!



by Katherine Addison

by Nicola Yoon

by Jane Austen

by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

by Diana Rowland

July was a bit of a slower reading month for me as there was almost an entire week where I didn't read at all, but I still think it was a pretty decent month. I know there are so many other bloggers who usually read five books in a week, not a month, but I stopped making myself feel bad for 'not reading enough' a long time ago. All I care about is that I enjoy what I read, and that reading doesn't become a chore.

I enjoyed pretty much everything I read this month - especially The Goblin Emperor, which has quickly become one of my favourite books of all time - and I'm looking forward to reading more fantasy in August!


by A.F.E. Smith

by Harper Lee

by Katherine Addison

by Nicola Yoon



Season 2 of Penny Dreadful came to an end in July, and what an ending it was! I'm so glad it's been renewed for a third season, because if that had been the end I would have been pretty devastated. Sadly I did find some aspects of this season a little problematic, primarily with the characters they chose to kill off, but I did enjoy the show as a whole and it's certainly not as terrible as some shows out there (*cough*Game of Thrones*cough*). I'm looking forward to seeing all these characters again, especially my beloved Ethan.

Look at this nerd
Hannibal is now back in full swing and it's so good! I'll be honest Season 3 did start out quite slow, but it was all building up to probably my favourite episode to date, S03E07. It's just fantastic and I really hope someone picks it up because I can't bear the thought of it being cancelled. How can Hannibal, an amazing show, be cancelled while every other mediocre show out there gets to keep returning with the same crappy storylines? It's not right, I tells ya!

And after I read Northanger Abbey I decided to watch the 2007 adaptation, too. I think it was a pretty decent adaptation, although I think they could have made General Tilney far more intimidating than they did. Felicity Jones was a lovely Catherine, though.

Strong hat game this month






I went to Rome!

My friend Elena and I decided to go to Rome for a long weekend, and it was fantastic! I've been wanting to go to Italy for years, and now that I'm back in the UK I've really missed being there. The people were so helpful and friendly, and the architecture was stunning and the food. The food might be what I miss most. Especially the ice cream.

Vanilla, lemon and apple ice cream
We flew to Rome on a Thursday afternoon which meant we got Thursday evening in Rome to have some dinner - I had a really, really yummy carbonara - and get acquainted with the city. We stayed at the beautiful Hotel Medici (called that because the building used to be owned by the Medici family!) which had the friendliest, most helpful staff and both of us fell in love with the place pretty quickly. Everywhere we went there was the most beautiful architecture, it really is an absolutely stunning city.

Me! This gorgeous fountain was just around the corner from our hotel.
We had three full days in Rome - Friday, Saturday and Sunday - and we were out and about on all three days. On Friday we went to the Vatican, which was amazing. We joined this tour group led by a lady who flitted from English to Italian to French to German like it was nothing, and the woman was an encyclopaedia of Vatican knowledge.

The Vatican and a pretty fountain. The sky was so blue.
We saw the Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica while we were there too, and I still can't quite believe that I've seen them. The Sistine Chapel is just... unreal. You're not allowed to take pictures in there (a lot of people still did, which was annoying) and I liked that; you can't do it justice in a picture, you must see it for yourself. It's gorgeous.

We jumped onto a tour bus, too, to try and get an idea of where everything was. It's strange how small Rome seems when you're in a taxi or on a bus, nothing seems too far away from anything else, but when you try walking it... We got distracted by a lot of pretty side streets.

Elena and I on the bus. Such tourists.
On the Friday evening we found the Spanish Steps and had dinner in a lovely restaurant where I had the most amazing pizza. Seriously, it was so yummy. I miss Italian food so much.


World's tastiest pizza.

Me on the Spanish Steps

On Saturday we visited the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, which was equally as amazing as the day before. It's astounding that all these parts of ancient culture are still here; there's even a 2,000 year old door in one of the temples at the Forum, and the lock still works.

It sounds silly but the Colosseum was so much bigger than I imagined. Or rather, I hadn't really considered its presence until I saw it myself. I'm so used to seeing it in films and documentaries that when I first saw it - we stepped out of the metro station and it was right there - it was kind of jarring. There it is, this huge staple of Roman history, surrounded by 21st century roads filled with 21st century cars.

Me outside the Colosseum!
We had an audio tour of the Colosseum that was really interesting. One of the things I found most interesting was that there's a huge cross erected in the Colosseum to commemorate the Christians who were slaughtered there. However, there's no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Christians were ever thrown into the Colosseum. They were in danger - Nero started a fire in the city just so he could blame the Christians for it and massacre them - but not necessarily from gladiatorial combat. That doesn't mean they weren't thrown in there, because they may well have been, but any writings claiming such were written approximately 200 years after they were supposedly killed in the Colosseum. I thought it was an interesting fact, anyway!

The cross to commemorate the Christians

I think my favourite thing at the Colosseum, however, was this 2,000 year old mirror we found in one of the display cabinets. The glass itself is long gone, but the rest of it is in pretty amazing condition. We stood and stared at it for about 5 minutes wondering whose face it was that looked back the last time it was used.


After the Colosseum we had some lunch in a little cafe just across the road from where we'd just been.

Elena outside the Colosseum!
Then we were off to the Roman Forum! There was so much to see, and when we eventually left to go back to the hotel and shower and get ready for dinner I'm pretty sure we still hadn't seen it all.


I saw two things at the Forum that were my absolute favourites. Firstly, we found the Temple of Castor and Pollux.

Just look how blue that sky is
I got really excited about this because I love the story of Castor and Pollux, and I didn't even know they had a temple in Rome. Actually I didn't even know they'd have a temple in Italy at all because I associate them so strongly with Greece.



And I also loved this:


At first glance it might not look like much, but just look at what this was 2,000 years ago:


How beautiful does that sound?

We spent our third and final full day in Rome trying to see as much as possible that we hadn't already seen, including the Trevi Fountain, Villa Borghese and a bunch of museums. We did find the Trevi, but unfortunately there's no water in it and they were doing repairs on it, which was a real shame. I hope water leaving the Trevi isn't some kind of omen...

The Trevi minus water :(
But the lack of water didn't stop us from throwing a euro in - apparently if you throw a euro into the Trevi you're guaranteed to return to Rome! Also, fun fact: approximately 3,000 euros gets thrown into the Trevi each day.

Elena throwing her euro into the Trevi

We decided to check out Villa Borghese, which is basically a huge expanse of beautiful gardens, complete with museums, a casino and an open air cinema. It was very cute. We kept stumbling into authors, there!

First we found Victor Hugo...


... and then Elena was very pleased that we found Lord Byron.

Elena, AKA Mrs Byron

I also saw this statue outside one of the museums and I had to snap a picture of it because I thought it was lovely.


And in one of the museums we visited that day we found this statue, which I also loved:


One of my nieces loves faeries, so I had to take a picture of her, and I thought she was beautiful.

I'm going to wrap this up because I feel like this blog post is long enough already, but before I do I have to mention an absolutely stunning ice cream parlour that was just around the corner from our hotel. It was open from around 10pm to around 1am - yep, late night ice cream! - and sometimes people would be queuing around the corner to get in. For just 3 euros you could have 4 scoops of the most delicious ice cream I have ever tasted. Ever.

Just look at some of the cakes they sold:


Just


so


delicious.

Basically Elena and I had a fantastic holiday, and I can't wait to go back to Italy because I'll most certainly be going back!