Review: Victoria the Queen by Julia Baird

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire by Julia Baird

Release Date: November 22nd, 2016
Publisher: Random House
Type: Adult Non-Fiction Biography
Pages: 752

Summary: Drawing on previously unpublished papers, Victoria: The Queen is a new portrait of the real woman behind the myth—a story of love and heartbreak, of devotion and grief, of strength and resilience.

Fifth in line to the throne at the time of her birth, Victoria was an ordinary woman thrust into an extraordinary role. As a girl, she defied her mother’s meddling and an adviser’s bullying, forging an iron will of her own. As a teenage queen, she eagerly grasped the crown and relished the freedom it brought her. At twenty years old, she fell passionately in love with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, eventually giving birth to nine children. She loved sex and delighted in power. She was outspoken with her ministers, overstepping boundaries and asserting her opinions. After the death of her adored Albert, she began a controversial, intimate relationship with her servant John Brown. She survived eight assassination attempts over the course of her lifetime. And as science, technology, and democracy were dramatically reshaping the world, Victoria was a symbol of steadfastness and security—queen of a quarter of the world’s population at the height of the British Empire’s reach.

Drawing on sources that include revelations about Victoria’s relationship with John Brown, Julia Baird brings to life the story of a woman who struggled with so many of the things we do today: balancing work and family, raising children, navigating marital strife, losing parents, combating anxiety and self-doubt, finding an identity, searching for meaning.

My Review:
This book came highly recommended to me by a coworker. She said that the writing was very readable for a biography and that she wished the author had written more books. I can't agree more! Julia Baird did an amazing thing with Victoria the Queen. I had previously seen the movie Young Victoria and I had seen the Doctor Who episode “Tooth and Claw” that featured am elderly Victoria. One featured a young, driven, mischievous woman who was a abused as a child yet was still fierce, laughed easily, and fell in love completely. I could not connect that woman with the old, grieving woman who was “not amused.” What had happened to completely change her? I knew it dealt with Albert's death but I didn't know how.

Baird's tome, because any other word won't do a book of this magnitude justice, is rich in details. The sheer amount of research that she had to do to create this masterpiece blows my mind. I also live that she has new information that had never been published widely before. Victoria is a queen who has been misconstrued for years. Baird cleared up a lot of these notions. She was given full access to everything. During her research she found some of the important things such as Victoria's relationship with John Brown that hadn't been published before. Baird published everything she could to complete Victoria's story despite the Royal archivists advising her not to. I think that because of this new information and the tasteful way Baird handled Victoria's entire life the biography was incredibly readable. In fact, I forgot that it wasn't a historical novel at times and it was hard to put down.

Victoria led a magnificent life. A life that, unlike most, has distinct sections: childhood, teenage queen, life with Albert, life without him, life with Brown, and finally life without him. Each part of her life was equally important and fascinating. I was most interested in her life with and without Albert because I knew that she considered her time with him the most important of her life. Before marrying Albert, Victoria was insistent that she did not need a husband that, she was perfectly capable of managing the country all by herself. I admired that a woman dug her heels in and refused to do anything she didn't want to because she knew she was the most powerful woman in the world. She used that power to her advantage all of the time from keeping Lord Melbourne in office to marrying who she deemed worthy. All that changed when she married Albert though.

Baird paints a mixed picture of Albert. An extraordinary intellect who wanted power not just to have it but to use it to help the British people. At times I loved what he was trying to do for his adopted country but I was also annoyed that he just kept trying to take over the sovereign. His ambition was too much for his place at times, but his ethic and moral code was admirable. While Victoria was pregnant she went from not allowing him anywhere near anything to do with her work to basically handing everything over to him. During this period and for years after his death she insisted that he was the one who kept the country going because she simply couldn't due to being a woman. No, she allowed him to do it because she believed he was better than she. In the years following his death she belittled herself to make Albert seem larger than life and I don't believe it. Victoria was extraordinary in her own right. After decades without Albert, Victoria found her way back to being that headstrong young Queen. From talking to her troops to consoling fellow widows, she was an active monarch who had a hand in all things.

Baird's biography went into details about the good and the bad. She addressed rumors and misconceptions, she treated everything with the same critical non-biased eye that one expects from a great biography. At over 700 pages long (this includes the notes and introduction, the bibliography and index) it took me quite a while to read. As such, I found myself thinking about Victoria and her time often. Even if you only have the slightest interest in Victoria this biography is worth a read. 


Book Hunting Adventure: 1st Edition Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Thursday, May 12, 2016


The story of how I found my first edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling at my local Amvets Thrift Store!  

My best friend and I have a tradition of going to all of the thrift stores in our neighborhood every month or so to check them out. Rachel looks for anything and everything, while I am constantly looking for Harry Potter merch that I don't yet own. Any one who knows me knows that Harry Potter means everything to me and I will do anything to acquire anything related to it. 

1st ed. UK Children's GoF
So it was no surprise to Rachel when suddenly the book she had just pulled off the shelf at my favorite thirfty was plucked from her hands before she even read the title, accompanied by a gasp and a high pitched “It can't be!” Rachel had unknowingly picked up a first edition copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I had recognized the spine colors. I couldn't even imagine how this book made it's way to this place, but before I could think too hard about it I immediately went to the front and bought it. There was no way I was going to let that book about of my sight until it was officially mine. That is the book that started my collection of UK Children's editions of Harry Potter. 

One never knows what one will find in a thrift store if one looks hard enough. They are magical places.


Bravery and Backpacking

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hello there, fellow Bookworms!

In the months leading up to my backpacking trip the number one thing that people want to talk to me about is a variation on,
"Aren't you afraid of going by yourself?" and "Wow, you're so brave to be going by yourself." 
I'm never really quite sure how to respond to this. I don't feel braver than anyone else. The truth is I'm going solo because I couldn't talk anyone else into going with me, not because I am exceptionally brave. 

I don't remember when I decided that I was going to backpack through Europe. It was a combination of reading 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson and Rory and Lorelai planning their own on Gilmore Girls. I think I've had the idea vaguely in my head since maybe 2007 or 2008 but it wasn't until about 2010 or so that I decided that it was gonna happen. Originally, I wanted to go with my best friend, but when it become increasingly clear the closer I got to my college graduation that there would be no way she would be able to go. So for about 4 years I was going backpacking with her, but if I'm being honest when I envisioned going she was never actually there with me in my mind's eye. I was always by myself, doing what I wanted when I wanted without anyone to run the ideas past. Just me.

However, going by myself wasn't actually an option according to my parents. So I scrambled and tried to see if anyone else wanted to go. Plenty of people thought it was cool and said they'd like to but couldn't afford it or couldn't get time off. I was starting to give up hope. And then, while literally standing in line with my cap and gown on, ready to walk into the gym to receive my diploma (holder), a friend said she'd do it. She'd make it work. Suddenly the trip was back on!

The friend who offered to help me achieve my dream was more of an acquaintance than actually friend at that point though so in the coming months as we planned we learned about each other (and did become fast friends!), but as much as we liked each other it was glaringly apparent that we have VERY DIFFERENT IDEAS about travel. The 3 month spontaneous backpacking, staying in hostels, eating rough in Europe trip became a month in the UK with a home base, restaurants, and wifi. It was neither of our faults but I came to realize that, besides the fact that she truly couldn't afford it my dream, there was no way either of us would enjoy the trip. It wasn't fair for her to spend money on a trip that was just for me. And so it got cancelled. 

I was devastated. I felt like I couldn't start my life until I went on this trip (I still feel like this, honestly). That's when my mom offered to do a week in London, the place on the top of my list, if I could help pay for it. I LEAPED onto it, thinking that if that's as close as I could get I would take it.

However, as great as I knew going to London with my mom would be it just wasn't enough. It was not backpacking through Europe. But I knew that if I went alone without my parents' blessing, everything would be miserable. Then personal catastrophe struck and I spiraled into a deep dark depression that I saw no way out of. My saint of a mother recognized this and said that I should go solo if I really wanted to. She would be worried, of course, but she knew I could handle going alone. Now if only everyone else in my life was like her....

Other than comments about how "brave" I am the questions I am most often asked are a variation of the following:

"Aren't you afraid something will happen? Aren't you afraid you'll get mugged or oh, God, raped by a stranger?! You are a young woman alone and vulnerable in a foreign country! It is foolish of you to be so naive about your safety. The world is dangerous place for single woman!"

Honest to God, next time someone comes at me with this crap I may punch them in face. It is infuriating. Society dictates that women need a man around to be safe and to that I say f*** you. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I am intelligent enough to avoid dangerous situations. The world is only as dangerous as you make it.
If a woman doesn't do something because "society" tells her not to that, to me, is even worse than society saying it in the first place! Nothing is going to change the perceptive about solo female travel unless more people like me stand up and call out their shenanigans. If you think the world is dangerous then don't go, don't broaden your horizons, don't live, stay home but stop bothering those of us who could not care less about what "society" says is proper. Screw you, Society, I've got a life to live. 

"Aren't you afraid something will happen? Aren't you afraid ISIS will plan another attack and you'll be blown up?"

If I don't go, they win. If I don't go, I will spend the rest of my life wondering "what if." I could be hit by a bus tomorrow, but that's not gonna stop me from going outside. You think I'm being caviler about my safety? Never forget that this rant is coming from someone who sees the dangers in everything, big or small, including using our gas stove because it could potentially, maybe, but probably not explode! Internally, I am Aunt Josephine from A Series of Unfortunate Events, I see danger in everything. I see worst case scenarios and make contingency plans in my head about everything from making soup to, yes, what would happen in case a bomb or active shooter.  But unlike Aunt Jo I refuse to let that stop me. I don't let in run my life. Terrorism has a 100% failure rate. Every city terrorized comes out stronger. Don't let the terrorists win. Travel, go see that not everything is horrible. 

My mom, who was the number one opponent of going solo has become my number one supporter. She will fight you if you say I shouldn't go alone. Why shouldn't I go alone? I am a level headed, intelligent, independent young woman with a dream and a determination to make that dream become a reality! You know what? Maybe I am braver than I give myself credit for. And you should be too. Don't let anyone tell you you CAN'T because if you listen to them you definitely WON'T.

I leave on my month and a half long solo backpacking trip in under 2 weeks and I am not afraid


Book Hunting Adventure: Tolkien's Sir Gawain

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


The story of how I found my copy of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by JRR Tolkien at Commonwealth Books in Boston!

In 2013, I went to Boston with my Aunt and cousin. While we were doing a self-guided walk of the Freedom Trail I happened to notice a little pedestrian alley. I really liked this, we don't have anything like that back home in Buffalo. I was just mentioning the cute little street to my Aunt when I noticed a sandwich board type sign that advertised “Commonwealth Books.” 
You can just see Commonweath Books down
the alley of Spring Lane.

Well, of course, I immediately wanted to go in. My Aunt was not into it. We had been walking for a while and it was really hot so she told me to go on and have a look around while she and my cousin ducked into a small cell phone shop on the corner to hide in the A/C.

Commonwealth Books was a nice shop. It was one of those shops that was like a little tornado of books. Organized, but packed. I looked around for a bit, but couldn't really find anything that I considered “must have.” However, just as I was leaving I overheard a couple girls talking about JRR Tolkien and how they didn't realize he translated famous old tales, not just Lord of the Rings. I kinda hovered in their general area being a creep until they moved because I love Tolkien and I didn't have any of his translations. I was really excited to see that the book the girls was looking at was the Professor's translation of
This is the book I found on my adventure in front of some of the
other Arthurian books I gathered for the project.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight! 

I was super excited! I didn't even know he had done a translation of that! I had read bits of it a few semesters previously and it was interesting but the translation wasn't very good. I knew that Tolkien's had to be better. At the time of this trip I was getting ready for a strange, invitation only class starting the next semester and I was planning on doing a lot of research on the Arthurian Legend as part of the class. Score! I knew that I had found that elusive “must have” book! I purchased it and went back to the air conditioned cell phone store to tell my Aunt about my find. 

Thoughts from Places Spotlight: London As Seen Through 13 Little Blue Envelopes

Thursday, March 24, 2016

(Please beware: this post contains 13LBE Spoilers)

Standing in front of Harrods
My beloved copy of 13LBE opened to the
Harrods chapter!
As long time readers of my blog will know, Maureen Johnson's 2005 novel 13 Little Blue Envelopes inspired me to travel. One of the most important places that the main character, Ginny goes to is London. There she follows the directions in envelopes 2 and 3. The entire adventure her Aunt Peg leads Ginny on comes to an end in London as well.

When I went to London I knew that I had to try and see some of the places that Ginny went to. First on the list was Harrods. Harrods is where Ginny's uncle Richard works and where Aunt Peg ultimately led Ginny to find her paintings. When Ginny first gets to London Richard takes her to Harrods. So of course I wanted to make sure that one of the first things I did was head to this huge department store. I underestimated it's size. This place is almost too big. I don't think I seen even a quarter of it because it was getting very late and my mom and I were exhausted. Originally, I was planning on finding Mo's Diner, where Richard and Ginny eat in the novel. I didn't though. Honestly, I'm not 100% positive it existed. I could have been searching for a fiction, but I didn't mind.  
Ginny "looked left" but in front of Harrods
you must look right! These were very
helpful in London.
The Egyptian Escalator
I also wanted to find the chocolate counter that Ginny went to so often in the novel to have the woman working there page Richard for her. I found it and was extremely pleased with myself. I didn't buy any chocolate there though because I had already bought a bar from another shop just in case the counter was a fiction too. The chocolate bar I bought even had a picture of Harrods on the wrapper (which I saved and pasted into my copy of 13LBE). I was amazed by the sheer size and weirdness of Harrods, just like Ginny was. They really do have a escalator that looks like it was ripped out of stereotypical ancient Egypt. I was so astounded by this that I stopped dead in my tracks and some guy bumped into me! Harrods was a strange, sort of wonderful place and I could see why Aunt Peg liked it so much!

Envelope #3 instructs Ginny to “become a mysterious benefactor.” Aunt Peg tells her to give an artist she likes £500. I do not have that kinda cash so I settled on a fiver. 
Alex and Jim!
I wasn't kidding about all
the sheep!
Richard tells Ginny she should check out Covent Garden and while Ginny didn't find her artist there I did. Jim and Alex performers who haunt the Garden regularly. They were fantastically entertaining and I wished I had more to give them. They did everything from juggling to unicycles. I really liked how they asked a young boy from the audience to help. I encourage you to go on youtube to look those two up. Covent Garden itself was a strange place though. It is an indoor/outdoor market type place where a lot of artists busk for a living. Among Jim and Alex there was also a man playing this crazy multi-piece instrument, a man who could make a creepily accurate sculpture of you in a half hour, and for some very odd reason a hundred or so Shaun the Sheeps. I could have stayed there for hours just watching all the people perform.

Standing in front of Aunt Peg's favorite painting.
My small tour of Ginny's London also took me to the Courtald Gallery where they have in their collection a very important painting to Aunt Peg, Manet's The Bar at the Folies-Bergere. Aunt Peg loved this painting so much she had a print of it on her wall where ever she lived. She also hid the key to the cupboard that held all her paintings under the left top corner, directly under the famous green slippers. I needed to see this painting for myself and so very early on our last morning in London I made my mom go to the museum when it opened. I was a girl on a mission! I was here to see Peg's favorite painting (also to see Van Gogh's Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear but that is another story). I am so glad that I went to see this painting in person. I never really understood why Peg loved this painting until I went to London. You stand looking at it like you are the artist, facing the bar. It portrays a young woman who looks terribly bored despite all the action that is happening in front of her (we see what is happening behind us through the mirror behind the woman). All of this excitement is happening and yet the girl is not enjoying it. That was sort of me in London at times. I was doing exactly what I had always wanted but I wasn't enjoying it, more like checking it off a list. However, here in this gallery with only my mom, the guard, and this painting I was finally seeing. I was seeing Peg's love of this painting and my own love of London.
My copy opened to the page the painting is first mentioned.
I pasted in a print of the painting ages ago. MJ herself took
a picture of this page when she saw what I did to it.

13 Little Blue Envelopes came alive for me in London. This year I plan to follow more of the envelopes as I backpack across Europe almost like Ginny does in the novel. I encourage you to read this amazing book if you haven't already. You can read my semi-incoherent-because-I-was-too-excited review of the book here, and my post about meeting the book's author, Maureen Johnson here.

More to come soon, 


Review: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Nimona by Noelle Stevenson 

Release Date: May 12th 2015 
Publisher: Harper Collins 
Pages: 272 
Source: Library (but I wish to buy it soon!) 
Summary ( Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

My Review: 

Right off the bat I have to tell you all that this is the very first graphic novel I have ever enjoyed. Enjoyed is an understatement, I adored this book. So much so that I’ve decided to finally try to start reading more graphic novels in general. The reason I decided to read this particular graphic novel is because of the author. Noelle Stevenson is also known as Gingerhaze on tumblr. She is brilliant, hilarious, and too talented for me to even handle. If you haven’t checked out the art on her blog go now…I’ll wait…

Nimona is a story full of heart and humor and it has broad overreaching themes that made me think a lot. Noelle's artwork is quirky and so full of life! It just comes off the page and despite it being fantasy I can totally see it happening. Nimona is such a great character! She's so complicated and emotionally strong. I adore her! I love that she's a shapeshifter and her devious impulsive streak. One of my favorite story lines was the back story behind Blackheart and Goldenloin (as well as their names themselves ha!). It was intriguing and heartbreaking. I demand another novel about those two. However, some of the dialogue felt forced at times, but I think that’s just her style. After years of reading her tumblr I find that that actually enhances the drawings and her unique type of humor. 


(Frustrated) Thoughts from Places: London in the Beginning

Friday, March 18, 2016


My First Day in London

Have you ever been so excited for something and then when it actually happens it is the exact opposite of how you were hoping it would go? Well, I do and my trip to London is the perfect example. London sucked. A lot of it was just awful. When I tell the story of my trip to others I have to stress the point that while there I considered the trip 30% wonderful and just 70% absolutely horrible. I have never been so frustrated before in my life. A lot of why it sucked and I was so frustrated was because even though I have been studying London for about a decade it actually makes no sense. Don't quote me (or her) but I think Maureen Johnson once said either on twitter or in one of her books that London streets looked like they had been planned by a drunk man following a cat. I thought she was exaggerating. She was not. London is just ridiculously unplanned. I am so used to Buffalo which has been called the “best planned city in America” that London, despite all the preparation, was just stupidly unorganized. At times during our trip I actually believed that the city as a whole was out to get people unfamiliar with it. 
Our hotel room
For example, multiple times we were following signs that were obviously placed there to help tourists find the major landmarks and the signs actually led us in the wrong direction. What the hell is that all about, London?! Basically, a lot of things went wrong. I say wrong because we had to see a lot in only a few days. The wronger things got the less we got to see. Originally, the London Trip was supposed to be 2-3 weeks instead of 5 days, but Mom could only take off so much and I rally wanted her to be the one to come with me.

The frustration of day one especially, we landed a little late and customs took ages. We waited until the rest of the plane emptied out and because of that we were last in line. Then mom couldn’t find her suitcase, it ended up on the floor on the other side of the conveyor belt. When we finally got out of all that nonsense and were trying to find the Gatwick Express we were greeted by shirtless Scots in kilts. Weird, right? We bought a couple postcards and stamps then got on the train. We were supposed to be out of the airport and at Victoria Station by noon. 
The Gunner and I
No. By the time we got to Victoria it was past 3 and we decided to check into our hotel instead of leaving our luggage in lockers at the station. When we got there and checked in I cried. It was horrible because of all the time lost. Mentally, I was already taking out most of the things I wanted to see. I was freaking out. And then I stubbed my toe on the weird bed. There was a desk but no chair. There was a shower but no shampoo. There was soap, sorta, there was a hand soap dispenser in the shower. The toilet was down the hall and up half a flight of stairs. I was pretty sure there was mold on the handle; mom said it was just corrosion. There was another door in the bathroom too that leads outside, not normal! And then to make everything even weirder and worse we had to give our room key to the desk every time we left. Oh and the outlets didn’t work. When we asked at the desk where our fridge was and why our outlets didn’t work they said that we couldn’t have one and that they would check them. While I was in the room I wrote out my postcard to my work saying basically that everything sucked so far. We also decided to take out the Victoria and Albert Museum and that mom would do it Wednesday by herself while I was in Oxford instead (which was actually okay with me because they didn't have anything I really wanted to see).
The Little Duck Whisperer

We left the hotel and made our way to Hyde Park Corner so I could see the Royal Artillery Monument with the Gunner, one of the main characters from Charlie Fletcher's Stoneheart. That was pretty cool, but looking back I barely even looked at him. I felt rushed. I felt like I was just checking him off my list. Next we went into Hyde Park proper and walked along the Serpentine. There were a lot of swans and ducks and a little boy who was feeding them. There were trick skaters and a weird ice cream truck. As we were looking for Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens we saw an actual cricket game! We took a wrong turn and found a woman trying to feed birds. Later, after we actually found Peter we saw her again and she had gathered quite a crowd of both birds and humans alike. One green parrot was hanging off a tree eating from a girl’s hand.
Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Gardens

When we found Peter Pan I was really excited about seeing it, but mostly I was pumped we finally found it! I went to scan the QR code to hear Peter talk and it didn’t work. It worked for everyone else but not me and I that’s when I got extremely mad and frustrated. When I get frustrated I am the meanest person in the world. I dont want to be obviously but it's one of my flaws. And so I lashed out at mom. More and more people kept coming and scanning that code and it was working for them and I just said “forget it let’s leave.” Everything was going so wrong and I was so tired. By that time it was going to be dark in an hour or so and we wouldn’t make it to the TARDIS in time if we went to the Elfin tree at the other end of the Gardens and Harrods, so we took out the tree and walked to Harrods. We also ended up taking the TARDIS out. And we got seriously, scary lost in the dark outside of Harrods trying to find a bus stop that we needed to get back to the hotel, but didn't exist. It also didn't help that we were so hungry we couldn't concentrate. So many things had gone wrong already and we hadn’t been in London for more than a few hours.

Mom and I were reminded of the bird lady from Mary Poppins
I cried a lot that first day. But I learned a lot that day. I started to learn how the Tube worked. For the first day the platforms confused me and we ended up going to the wrong side a couple times but once I figured it out the next day everything became a lot easier because we were able to get from the station we were at to the station we needed to be at. However, once we were out of said station there wasn't a clear path on how to get to the place we wanted. So much so that I am pretty positive they give wrong directions so that tourists don’t come back. Frustration should not be a part of any trip but it does happen. From now on when I plan trips that I cannot embrace getting lost (so as to find new things) I’m going to add at least 2 hours a day cushion for when we are frustrated and just need to stop.

More cheerful London posts soon, I promise,

Get Ready For Some Book Hunting Adventures!

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Introducing Bookworm Extraordinaire’s

 Book Hunting Adventures

This new feature on BWE is inspired by R.S. Garnett’s 1931 Some Book-Hunting Adventures in which he relates his own tales of scouring the shops for that perfect find. As I related in my review of it, I found this book quite by chance as I was in the stacks of my library in August. As I read it the idea of this series began to worm its way into my brain. Garnett had some pretty interesting tales about how he came into his books and the more I thought about I realized that I get my books in some strange places. Everywhere from thrift stores to a sketchy old man under a bridge my books have come to me in odd ways. BWE’s Book Hunting Adventures is going to be a new series in which I share my stories with my readers. I hope my Book Hunting Adventures amuse and inspire you as much as Garnett’s did me. 


Thoughts from Places: Starting My First Trip Across The Pond

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


The First Leg of My London Trip

Buffalo to Toronto to London

I took this as we waited at the Border. Looks like Canada
is CLOSED. I thought it was hilarious.
I've wanted to go to London forever, practically. This was problematic seeing as it's 3,000+ miles away across the pond and I've never been on a plane, nor did I actually foresee myself getting on one. However, it turned out that the biggest problem of getting to London wasn't to be the plane ride itself (which I had been dreading) it was getting to the Plane itself! My mom and I had a plan: take the Megabus to Toronto, hang out at the Eaton Centre for a little while, then take public transportation to the Pearson Airport. Sounds simple, right? It probably would have been for anyone but us.

We got to the bus station almost an hour before the bus was to depart only to find out that the bus was going to be late. It came almost 2 hours later. But wait, that’s not all. When we finally got to the border, everything went smoothly until, of course, the bus broke down. We found out later that the battery died. Though, while we were waiting at the US/Canadian Border we did have entertainment. A man was dancing, there was a huge spider, and we discovered a poster claiming a $50,000 reward for information leading up to the capture of a clown’s murderer. We didn’t leave the border until 12:20. We were supposed to be in Toronto at 11:10, we didn’t arrive until around 3pm.
I wasn't kidding about the Clown Murderer...

Our flight was scheduled to leave at 10:20pm so as per instructions we planned to arrive at 6pm, 4 hours early for an international flight. Originally, we planned to eat lunch at the Eaton Center, explore it for a few hours, eat some dinner there as well and then make our way to the Pearson Airport.  Because of all the Megabus Drama, we were able to eat lunch, explore the Eaton Center only enough to buy a souvenir each as we searched for the correct door to lead us to the proper subway platform. (Let me just say here that a mall is a little too big if it has a subway station, but also ridiculously and unnecessarily large if it has MULTIPLE STATIONS!!)

Actually getting to the airport and to the proper place inside of it was also incredibly hard and frustrating. We couldn’t get on the subway unless we had tokens. Okay, so I bought 4 so that we would already have them when we came home. So, my directions to the airport said: take the subway then take this bus. We got to the bus station and the woman told us it cost $6 each and that the next bus didn’t leave until 5:45pm or something ridiculous like that. In a panic, since this was our only option we quickly bought the tickets, and just as quickly regretted it because we were now going to be late for that 4 hours before International flight thing. I went back to the window and asked how long exactly the bus ride was because if it only took 10 minutes or so we would be fine. The woman then realized that she was wrong and that the next bus would be arriving any minute and that we probably just missed it because we had been talking to her, but to run out and check! Turns out she was still wrong because the bus didn’t come for another 10 minutes but whatever! We got on the bus and to the airport.

Mom snapped this photo of me being really excited
about leaving.
And yet our problems were still not over. The bus dropped us off at Terminal 1 and we, of course, needed Terminal 3. We went in and asked a security guard how to get there. He said and I am quoting directly here: “Go up, and up, and then take the Sky Train.” WHAT?! How is that at all helpful? What is a SKY TRAIN?! UP AND UP WHERE?! So, we just decided to go up the escalators to the next floor and ask someone there. I asked at a rental car desk and they vaguely pointed over my shoulder. As I turned around another woman who had been on that $6 bus was asking a passerby where to go and we followed her since she seemed to be getting better directions than I was. She became something like our angel. She knew exactly where she was going as soon as the man pointed her in the right direction. Better yet, she was traveling on our airline as well, but to Rome. The “sky train” by the way, was just an elevated train that ran between terminals and was located on the third floor. The guard’s directions were okay but they failed to mention all the turns we had to take in between the “up and up.”
That's right, Llama George came to England with me! Here
he is poking out of my backpack.

When we got in line to get our boarding passes a woman asked us if we would be willing to switch our departure date to tomorrow because the flight was overbooked. They would give us $400 and put us up in a hotel. My response was “but we can get on this plane right? This is the plane we want, not your plane tomorrow. Are you saying we can’t get on this plane? Because we booked these in April and we are getting on this plane tonight!” And she relented and let us past her. Despite that scare though, after meeting that woman, whom my mom called our Toronto Angel (I was referring to as nice Rome Lady), things started to get better. I desperately wanted to use my backpack as a carry on. I knew that technically the dimensions were a couple inches off, but I was confident that it was under the weight limit and I was hoping that they would let it slide. They did. There was no problem at all while checking in and getting our boarding passes. I had a few panics in the days preceding the trip because I was having a hard time getting the proper info to get our passes. Finally, I had just printed out the Priceline Itinerary hoping that the ticket numbers on there would be good enough to prove that we did in fact have tickets.  Turns out we didn’t need any of that, just our passports. I was also allowed to take my backpack on board no problem at all. He also gave us a $10 off coupon to their lounge which we didn’t use but it was still an incredibly nice gesture after all the crap we had just gone through. We never saw the Toronto Angel again. She had disappeared into the crowd and we never were able to thank her.

This is the really cozy place we waited for our
Another thing I was super worried about was Security. I had spent days going over what was and was not okay to bring on a plane. I knew that everything had to be put into a separate bin and that I had to take off my shoes and belt (chose not to even wear a belt just in case). I knew that liquids had to be 3 oz or less and that they had to be in a quart bag (even though I didn’t actually bring liquids). I also had my medicine in their original bottles and in a separate clear bag. I knew absolutely all of this and didn’t need to. The woman had me put my backpack in one thing, my meds still inside, and my shoes on! I went through the metal detector and I BEEPED!! I couldn’t believe it. I DID EVERYTHING RIGHT. WHY WAS I BEEPING!? I panicked and my panicked brain said “OMG DO I HAVE A METAL HIP?!” which makes no sense because I don't, but I checked my hip and there was my phone still in my pocket. I went back put it in my bin and walked back across with no beeps. “That happens all the time, sweetie, don’t worry” said the nice lady, and then she gave me my stuff. Seriously, Canadians are almost too trusting. Mom went off too, by the way, she forgot her rings.

        We found our way to our gate which also had an incredibly over priced cafĂ© right next to it, but also outlets and comfy seats. We hunkered down for our 3 and a ½ hour wait. A little while later I went to find food and came back to find some pilot in my seat. Mom had told him not to sit there but he ignored her. He was the pilot on the flight to Pakistan. As soon as he stood up I slid into my seat. His response was: “Oh. My seat.” Mine back? “Sorry, it was mine first.” And then I ignored him. He moved to the seat next to me but asked the MAN across if he could sit there. However, the rest of the people surrounding us were little old people going home and they were adorable.
I was fascinated with the current progress of the plane!

By that time I was getting INCREDIBLY ANXIOUS. But not as anxious as I think I should have been if that makes sense. I thought that I would be inconsolably freaking out.  After the rude piloted Pakistan flight left, the flight crew for our plane arrived. I heard this conversation: “Oh I’m glad I found the right gate so quickly!” then “The big bald guy is hard to miss!” He was in fact hard to miss. He was also really nice. He was one of our flight attendants.

       Then it was time to get on board the plane. I am proud of how unfreaked out I was. Apparently, we had a very smooth take off. I have nothing to compare it to so I’m just going to go with it. Before we took off I heard an English woman behind me say, “Jolly Ranchers? *ate one* Oh, these are fruity. They’re lovely, they are, like foxy glacier mints!” I glanced at mom and smiled, if it hadn’t yet sunk in that I was finally on my way to England, it did just then.
The sunset from the plane.

I spent the last few hours of the night watching Inside Out with mom. I slept for a little while, but it was stupidly warm on the plane. I did see the sunrise from the plane though. It was incredible to see what the clouds see. I actually cried from sheer joy when we were landing. I was finally in England.

Sorry to leave you hanging, but I promise to tell you all more later!

Review:Some Book-Hunting Adventures: A Diversion by R.S. Garnett

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Some Book-Hunting Adventures: A Diversion by R.S. Garnett

Release Date: 1931
Publisher: William Blackwood & Sons Ltd.
Pages: 318
Source: Library (but I wish to buy it soon!)

Summary: R.S. Garnett was asked to write stories about how he came to own some of the books in his collection.


I was in the stacks of my library, doing my job, when the title of this book caught my eye and I knew I had to read it. I kind of feel like no one else has read this book, mostly because I had to create its Goodreads page myself, but also because even though it is from the 30’s it is in great condition. I really like the idea of me being the only person to discover this book among the millions of books on our tiers. It also gave me an idea for a new feature on this blog that I will tell you all about at a later date.
            This book is a collection of stories about how Garnett came to own some of his books. Some he bought for himself, some were given to him by various people, and some came to him in strange ways indeed. This book was surprisingly readable. What I mean to say is that it seems that this book was written like a very long letter to the man who asked him about his adventures. Indeed, sometimes I lost track of what was happening because of the inside jokes between Garnett and this man in a monkey hut to whom he dedicated the book to. And yet, despite, maybe even because of this intimacy I adored this book.
            Some of the later tales in the book did not interest me, but the earlier ones caught my imagination and wouldn’t let go. His first Book Hunting Adventure is of a book he found in a small shop with a pretty girl. So pretty in fact that he forgot to pay for his find and when he went back the next day to right his wrong the shop and the girl had disappeared entirely. Then there is the adventure where he gained Trelawny’s “Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron” because of an act of kindness to a favorite bookseller who was out on his luck. Garnett tells humorous tales of how he gained a series of books by setting up a practical joke on his wife to countless encounters with odd booksellers and patrons alike. He even tells of his adventures that involve the meeting of a couple very strange poets. R.S. Garnett came by his books in such fantastic ways that it almost seems a fantasy.

Then perhaps my favorite is the tale of his cousin, the Guv’nor and the fishing trip. They talked of the books they enjoyed and the next morning the Guv’nor had sent along some of the books as well as a bag of Roman snails including, “one specially large snail, which I called ‘Dunstan,’ [that] I retained as a pet for several years. He knew me well, and was in every respect, for a snail, an intellectual monster.” (22). Throughout each tale there are witty one liners and great observations of the human character, as well as the whimsy of fortune that guides a booklover to attain his beloved books that made me love this book. If you can find it, I encourage you to read these “Adventures.”


Seven Years Ago...

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Hello, my dear fellow bookworms.

Seven years ago I started this blog. I can't believe that it's been that long already.

This year I will be backpacking through Europe and I hope to share my many adventures with you. This year I also want to continue to tell you about past travelling adventures and what I've learned.

I am planning a few new features on the blog as well. I'm most excited for the new feature that I like to call "BWE's Book Hunting Adventures," in which I tell some tales on how some of my books came to be in my possession (most of them are rather strange).

Thank you to everyone who reads this little blog.
Here's to seven more years!!


My Favorite Stories to Read in October!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

October is one of my favorite months because it gives me an excuse to read scary stories. I decided to make a list of stories that have scared me as well as entertained me in the past. 

Jade Green by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

 Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake 

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

 The Mediator series by Meg Cabot

 The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving 

Past Midnight series by Mara Purnhagen

 The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs 

The Scary Stories Treasury by Alvin Schwartz 

Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe 

And finally read some of the ghost stories of your local area, your state, or even your country! 


I’m Off to Merry Old England Tomorrow!

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Tomorrow I’m leaving for London! We’re flying out of Toronto so tomorrow is basically a travel day, since we won’t actually get to London until Saturday morning. But either way, I feel this bizarre sense of surrealism every time I think about tomorrow. I have waited for this trip for so long that I am long past feeling excited. I have to keep reminding myself that everything is going to be okay and that I really am going to London, England tomorrow night and that it isn't going to be cancelled. 

Toronto to London!
This is going to be an amazing trip and I can't wait to share it with my readers.
I can lie to you and say I will be updating while I’m there, but let’s be real: we know that’s not going to happen. Expect the next few months to be a lot of posts about how awesome London, Oxford, and Southend-on-Sea were!

Happy Wandering,

Wanderlust Fuel: London Part Two

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Doctor Who- the quintessential British series has plenty of amazing moments in London.

  • Police Box at Earl’s Court- there is no way a Whovian in London isn’t going to seek out this seemingly harmless box. 
  • Big Ben- from having a Slitheen ship crash into it to a dinosaur pacing near it the famous clock tower is a frequent backdrop for the Doctor’s adventures. 
  • The Who Shop- a shop as well as a museum devoted to all things Doctor Who this is a must visit for all Whovians.

Winning London- The Olsen twins’ movie where they invade England with the Model UN’s tournament.

  • Peter Pan statue in Kensington Garden- James takes Chloe here because it is one of his favorite spots in London. 
  • Guards outside Buckingham Palace- the UN gang tries their hardest to make them laugh to no avail, but uncharacteristically at the climax of the movie one of them helps James find Chloe. 
  • Tower of London- Chloe, Riley, and their friends take a tour of the Tower. Seeing this movie was the first time I was introduced to most un-Harry Potter related London.

Helene Hanff- author of 84 Charing Cross Road, a book of letters between Helene Hanff and the staff at the book shop.

  • Charing Cross Road- of course and all the shops on it. The actual shop, Marks & Co. is long been closed, even Helene never saw it open, but there is a plaque commemorating the spot at 84.
  • Bloomsbury St- in the sequel to 84 called Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, Helene stays on this street at the Kenilworth Hotel when she finally goes to England. 
  • Stephen Poole Fine Books- by the time Helene goes to London the famous Marks & Co bookshop is closed so they hold her autographing session next door here. 
  • Russell Square- Helene spends time in this park during her stay. 
  • Claridge’s- apparently Noel Howard’s characters dine here. I don’t know those references but Helene was super excited to go there so I’m sure it’s worth a visit. 
  • Hear the Sirens- as silly as it sounds I want to hear an ambulance siren in real life because she describes them as “a walrus weeping under water.”

Shades of London- Maureen Johnson’s thrilling series that is full of laughs but is also absolutely terrifying at the same time.

  • Whitechapel- the first book The Name of the Star is about a Jack the Ripper copycat so of course a tour of his killing ground is a must see. Rory’ school, Wexford, is also a five minute walk from Whitechapel Road. 
  • The Ten Bells- at least two of the Ripper victims might have drank here, Annie Chapman and Mary Kelly. In the book, the International Ripper Conference is held here when the copycat gives the famous message “The Name of the Star is what you fear.” 
  • National Gallery- Rory goes here on a field trip looking for the best butts and she sees one of her first ghosts. 
  • Goodwin Court- where Stephen, Boo, and Callum live. 
  • The Underground- Callum uses his sight to rid the Underground of ghosts.