Casa Katy – Some of my favourite things

I’ve been in my little house now for over 7 months! That seems like such a long time, but I have to confess, it’s still a work in progress. With the nice weather, I’ve been focusing on my garden a lot, but that doesn’t mean to say I’ve neglected the rest of the house!

It’s funny how your priorities can soon shift. Before I got my little house, most of my spendies went on a combination of clothes, music and books. But beyond an outfit for the races and a bit of a sales-splurge in New Look (which was uncharacteristic anyway!), I’ve not spent that much on clothes (and to be honest, I need to…) Why? Because I would much, much rather spend money on Casa Katy! Continue reading “Casa Katy – Some of my favourite things”

Music review – Tarja ‘The Shadow Self’ and ‘The Brightest Void’

I don’t often do reviews of stuff, but I am a huge Tarja Turunen fan, and this double-release of two full length albums really deserves a place on my blog. If you’re not into metal, or opera, or the two together, maybe give this a miss, but if you have an open mind and are able to appreciate truly outstanding artists, I implore you, give these a go!

Tarja, Tarja Turunen, music, review, metal, symphonic metal, The Shadow Self
The Shadow Self against the special edition of Colours in the Dark

A bit of obligatory background: Tarja Turunen is a classically-trained soprano hailing all the way from Finland, and was for a long time the singer and (as these things so often turn out) “face” of Finnish symphonic metallers Nightwish. Coincidentally my absolute favourite band (though Epica come a very close second). Tarja no longer sings with Nightwish, and they’re on their second singer since her departure. I think I maybe reviewed Endless Forms Most Beautiful when it first came out. But this is about Tarja, who has forged a very successful and very good solo career since that creative combination broke. My Winter Storm, What Lies Beneath and Colours in the Dark are all fab albums, and What Lies Beneath probably ranks up there as one of my favourite all-time albums, if not in the number one spot. Just freaking listen to Naiad, Anteroom of Death, In for a Kill.

Now this year Tarja released two albums, which is a fair feat. And I don’t mean this rubbish of re-released a CD with a couple of extra weak bonus songs tacked on the end (every Top 40 artist, I’m looking at you). There are a couple of repetitions, but they are reimaginations of the same song.

When The Brightest Void came out, I was a little underwhelmed. I made the mistake of watching the video for No Bitter End for my first listen, and the hair-metal-esque performance didn’t fit right with the song (alas, in metal, so often the videos jar with the songs themselves, but I mean, anything is better than grinding up in the club). I listened to the album on Spotify for a while, and the rest of the songs were decent; I absolutely love Eagle Eye, that really stuck with me long afterwards, and Shameless was a good little rocking number. The more atmospheric, spacey songs, An Empty Dream and Witch Hunt, merit more attention – as background noise (I listen to music while I’m writing) they sort of just blurred into one. Overall, it was OK, but not quite what I was expecting.

Then came The Shadow Self, and oh my freaking god. This woman has blown it out of the park.

Tarja, Tarja Turunen, music, review, singer, symphonic metal, metal

Tarja, Tarja Turunen, Finnish singer, metal, symphonic metal, music, review, The Shadow Self

Tarja, Tarja Turunen, new album

Tarja already has a sensational vocal range, and she just blasts it out here. If you listen to Innocence, the second single, good Lord, the chorus sends shivers down my spine, and the insane piano work accompanying – including the sublime solo in the middle – is just sensational. Love to Hate feeds amazingly into Supremacy, a cover of the Muse song, which had Matt Bellamy hitting those high notes – alright, OK, so his falsetto is you know, fair, but Tarja, a proper soprano, hits that note and soars miles above anything else. Diva is exactly as the name suggests; it’s like a more sinister, more cutting, and I imagine more personal version of Primadonna from Phantom; minus the cheese and the pantomime. A reviewer on Amazon speculated about the song’s focus on the painful split from Nightwish. I don’t want to go into too much about that, but I mean, the parallels are there. (Though: I Walk Alone, come on! Even Anteroom of Death, Dark Star – they could easily all have roots in that. And, dare I say it, as a fellow ‘artist’ I completely get that inspiration comes from personal experience, and what better pot of ideas is there than the one created by a post-break-up, be it romantic or professional or whatever.) Undertaker has a wonderful vocal line in the verses, and is dead catchy, and not quite as far along the inventive/creative/out-there track as something like An Empty Dream or Witch Hunt.

I prefer the mellower version of Eagle Eye on The Brightest Void, but I much prefer the version of No Bitter End here. And Demons in You parallels nicely against Your Heaven and Your Hell, though I love the unusual intro for Demons in You, and while Alissa White-Gluz’s growling vocals aren’t going to be to anyone’s taste, they are on-point here, and her clean vocals are lovely (plus she has great hair, but that’s nothing to do with anything). I’m not sure about the weird end bit at the end of Too Many: it’s a fab closing track, but it’s a huge pet peeve of mine when bands and artists put “hidden tracks” at the end of songs – what even is the deal with that? It sounds naff on my car stereo, I have to listen through silence, I very rarely like both of them… and this one is just a bit random.

The Shadow Self is an excellent album. Colours in the Dark got a bit experimental in the middle, and sometimes the songs Tarja chooses to cover are a bit, uh, out there (I did quite like the Peter Gabriel cover, Darkness). But Supremacy is like something else, and sits so well on this album (here’s looking at you, Goldfinger). I think this well definitely be getting some serious listens for a good long time now!

Also, see the lady herself in concert! She blows my mind; I mean, she covered Vermilion by Slipknot, which despite being the only Slipknot song I like, is one of my favourite songs. Come on!!!

*Disclaimer: I’m totally in no way sponsored or endorsed by Tarja, I just think she’s freaking amazing. If you want to give her a listen, I think you’d enjoy! My favourite songs are: Our Great Divide, Anteroom of Death, Dark Star, Naiad, Victim of Ritual, Eagle Eye and I think every song on The Shadow Self.

Happy Paper Club – a mystery parcel

So, as you may (or may not) know, it was my birthday a couple of weeks ago. I got lots of lovely things and did a wee little post about them here #MyStyleWednesday – Summer baby

The other day I came home to a mysterious box posted through my letterbox! I was very confused as I was pretty sure (though naturally not 100% confident) I hadn’t ordered anything, and it all looked very professional and proper. I was meant to be racing out that night so I quickly made short work of the protective tape fastening all up, and was very surprised to find a tissue wrapped box of goodies, from my best friend Amy (who coincidentally also has a blog too, and I’d love it if you gave her a little nosy! She can be found here: In bed with Amy). Amy is big on subscription parcels, and knowing me to be the stationery nerd that I am, she knocked the ball out of the park with getting me a Happy Paper Club subscription! Continue reading “Happy Paper Club – a mystery parcel”

#MyStyleWednesday – Summer baby

As it was my birthday, I of course got lots of lovely things from my wonderful family and friends. Thank you all so very much for your gifts and kind words! Now I was planning on taking loads of cool arty pictures, but instead my DSLR decided it would flash up an error message, so instead we get dodgy iPhone photos. Hurrah!

How do you guys get your photos off your phones? For some reason my Photostream won’t sync to my phone, and so I have to save them to my Dropbox, and then decide if I can be bothered to edit them or not.

We had a lovely BBQ at my house with lots of food, and were very lucky because a couple of days later my patio table broke!

I know people say birthdays mean less and less the older you get, but I still look forward to mine, even if I don’t do anything big or special. For our eighteenth birthdays, Steffi and I had a big party at the pub in my village, the Middleton Arms, and really we should have maybe gone back there for a meal to reminiscence. Continue reading “#MyStyleWednesday – Summer baby”

Celebrating 26 years of my little life

Can you believe I’ll be 26 this weekend? I can’t! It feels like two minutes ago I turned 25. I still feel like I’m a wee little teenager, and judging by the amount of times I get ID’d, I must look it, too! I don’t know whether to be insulted or overjoyed when the cashiers in Morrisons question as to whether I am old enough to purchase a bottle of rose. It seems to be happening less and less, though, which is a little worrying. Either that, or they know me as a regular – still, the worry remains. Continue reading “Celebrating 26 years of my little life”

Half a Year Gone Already

Can you believe it’s July 2016 already?

No 71

I’ve been living in my little house for over six months now! Simultaneously it feels like time has flown by yet like I’ve lived here for a long time. I’ve had quite a few big changes, including starting a new job, and moving into my little house. Both of those things were arranged last year, and they ticked off the two main things on my list of aspirations for the year. Coming out of a time when the media (here’s looking at you, Mailonline) and the general voice of the public seemed to have a downer on young people in general, with a difficult job market and a nigh-unscaleable property ladder, I very quietly set my mind to those two things, and I’m so pleased that I achieved both.

My favourite flowers
My favourite flowers

For 2016 I have the one main goal: to get writing, properly. It’s been easy to get distracted with new house, new job, new kittens, and the new Game of Thrones, but I set my mind to finishing off “My First Book”, shall we vaguely call it. This is a book I’ve had in mind since I was in first year of university, and have dibbed in and out of over the past few years. From about September time last year, I embarked on the not-inconsequential task of pulling together all the random vague chapters and drafting in the remainder, pulling together a sketchy first draft. That came to a close in February of this year, at which point I began the great editing process. As it stands, I’m about halfway through, having cut down on about ten chapters so far, and rejigging a lot of the pacing, action and some of the relationships. So far I am still really enjoying it.

It’s been quite an intense half a year so far, from a horrible start into a gloomy, dark sort of non-summer.

Bursts of colour
Bursts of colour

Things I’ve enjoyed so far

  • Wheel of Time – I finally finished this mega series! I actually cried at the end, and was pleased with its final execution, especially when you consider its original author and instigator, Robert Jordan, died before the last few volumes were to see the light of day. I’ve got the prequel to read yet, so it’s not quite over for me.
  • Game of Thrones – obviously! I got Sky TV just in time for series 6, which has gone beyond the books now. The past couple of years have seen me get back into a fantasy zone, which is great, considering MFB is definitely in the fantasy genre, though quite a different take to WoT, which is straight-up epic fantasy on a far-reaching, dazzling magical scale, and GoT, which is a much more human, visceral approach on it, with a smattering of zombies and soaring dragons flitting here and there.
  • Living in Casa Katy! While paying for everything is a bit annoying, I really like my little house. I have a lovely little corner set up for writing, and my front room is coming together nicely, as is my little garden, which I’m looking forward to working on a bit more once this summer *hopefully* gets underway… will it… ever? Who knows!

Things I’m looking forward to

  • Finishing MFB’s second draft. It’s picking up a bit of momentum in the middle section now, and I’m excited to charge on through, and see how things go. I’m adding structural pieces and frames to tighten things up, and I’m getting a definite buzz.
  • Winds of Winter – who isn’t? And is it ever coming? 2016 might be over and we might not be anywhere. One can dream.
  • My birthday! The mid-point of the year of course brings my little birthday, and without the summer school to distract me, I can look forward to it, though July as a whole is a busy little month anyway. I haven’t any special plans for my birthday as such, though I’m going to the Great Yorkshire Show so that will be exciting.
  • Summer in Casa Katy – I’ve bought some nice cushions for my patio furniture and it’s done nothing but rain since I got them. I would like to get them out of the plastic wrapping sometime, please.
Come back, Mr Sunshine!
Come back, Mr Sunshine!

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A glance at my bookshelves (1)

(Top to bottom – New Spring by Robert Jordan, Die Again by Tess Gerritsen, The Rule by Jack Colman, The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason and The Magus by John Fowles)

We’ve had a little nosy around Casa Katy, and now here for a closer look at the contents of my shelves.

When I was preparing to move out of Windy Farm, my parents’ house (and, I suppose, my “ancestral pile”, given we have lived there for a couple of years now, and before that, my great uncle lived there, and before him, my great grandparents), I realised how many books I have. Well, it wasn’t much of a realisation – I think that had dawned a good long while ago – but it really cemented just how bad my book-hoarding had become. And, most heartbreakingly of all, how few of my weighty tomes I had actually read! I took a systematic approach – or as much as I could, anyway – to my library, and split into piles: those I had read and those I had not. Easy-peasy. I classify, of course, those I have begun as not-reads.

But then came the tricky part. I was going through a phase of mad well-intentioned badly-executed organisation, which meant some books that had been read really should be taken to the second-hand bookshop (the one in Pickering, you know the one! Surely the best example of how a second-hand bookshop really should look) to be enjoyed by others. I had had a bad experience when I took three great Bags-for-Life full of books and got about seven quid in return, but I swallowed my tongue and reminded myself that this is for the greater good: other people can enjoy these books, meet new characters and explore new worlds. Besides, I probably got more per book than the average author gets. So I divvied the read books into: to keep forever and ever or at least a little while longer, in the hope I might re-read (here’s looking at you, Wheel of Time, Robin Hobb, etc.) and to put in a box for a little while and eventually send on a journey to somebody else’s bookshelves.

So I now stand in Casa Katy with a bookshelf (thank the Lord for Ikea) full of juicy tomes (not tomatoes) ripe and ready to be bitten into!

So here is a little glimpse of this Spring/Summer reading list:

A glimpse at my spring/summer reads
A glimpse at my spring/summer reads

Now some of these I have actually already finished. Go me!

In order:

New Spring by Robert Jordan – I finished the Wheel of Time last year, Jordan’s epic fantasy which he sadly passed away before seeing completion, that falling upon the shoulders of Brandon Sanderson, who also wrote one of my favourite books ever, The Final Empire (part of the Mistborn series). New Spring is the prequel that was published in between (books x and y) and details how Moiraine and Lan meet, and how she sets out following the prophecy that the Dragon will ride on the Wheel of Time once again. I really enjoyed the Wheel of Time – it was my second go at reading it, having managed in a previous attempt to get halfway through I think Lord of Chaos before losing myself. With such a lengthy series – fourteen books, come on! – and such a huge landscape to consider, with seemingly limitless characters, machinations, plots, locations and everything else, if you take your eye off the ball for even a second it’s hard to get back in. I’m super excited to read this prequel though, as Moiraine and Lan are some of my favourite characters in the series, and it’s so refreshing to see a female/male partnership that doesn’t end up in a romantic tangle.

Die Again by Tess Gerritsen – this is one of the Rizzoli and Isles books, on which the popular (and now fast approaching the end of its run!) TV series is based. I started off my dad on reading Rizzles; we loved the TV show and the partnership of no-nonsense kick-ass Boston police officer Jane Rizzoli and the Sherlock-esque Chief Medical Examiner Dr Maura Isles. In fact, I loved the characters so much I named my cat after Maura! I’ve not read any of the series but am familiar with various plots (e.g. Hoyt) from the TV programme, but Dad chucked this one at me saying I would like it because a) it doesn’t rely on too much previous information and b) Maura gets a cat in it! So I might give this a go and see how we get on.

The Rule by Jack Colman – I went to Ryedale Book Festival a while ago with Mum, just to scope out the scene and also to try and chat to a couple of local presses. I happened to speak to a very lovely lady who was there on behalf of her son, who had published his first book, The Rule, after winning a competition. All about Vikings, it was dead up my street, but I was also intrigued by this local lad who had gone and done what I spend most of my waking moments dreaming about. I bought his book and finished it earlier this year. Vikings and Anglo-Saxons seem to be all the rage now: whether it’s the Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings effect, or possibly a desire to look back at the people who played a part in forming our country(ies) and, shock horror, were a lot of them immigrants. But I don’t want to get too political! I enjoyed The Rule – the landscape was sparse and barren, really evoking just why the Vikings (and here the Anglo-Saxon once-upon-a-time scholar in me shudders to use the generic – and incorrect – term) found our island just so irresistible and, dare I say, ripe for the picking. I did find the description on the back very misleading, and as such I was guilty of that classic crime, judging a book by its cover, and found the content and the blurb a bit jarring. I struggled to connect with the lead character, Gunnarr, though I can’t fault his motives, and found the ending particularly heartbreaking.

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell – from the raiders in the far distant north to raiders raiding our north! For all I want to call him Bernard Cromwell, I’ve been hankering after his books for a while, and so after enjoying the first couple of episodes of The Last Kingdom on TV (and then missing one and subsequently never catching the rest), I got the book for Christmas. Cornwell is an accomplished writer with a longlist as long as, well, a longship, and so here we follow Uhtred son of Uhtred, the Anglo-Saxon ealdorman raised by the Danes. Personally I was just chuffed that I could recall a lot from my old university days! I enjoyed this romp, though it did curious things with the pacing – something I find a little unsettling with George R R Martin. Here great events and shifts for the characters seem to be thrust upon the reader without much warning, and without much change in pace – none of your standard lulls which build up to a great crescendo, and while maybe it is intended to be indicative of the fast-moving ever-changing world of that time, it did cause me a few hiccups. I might read the next one, or I might catch up with the TV series, but it didn’t grab me with an all-consuming fervour to devour the next one.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – please excuse the lack of correct accent marks, I’m being especially lazy. I’ve had this on my bookshelves since forever and have tried it once before, only to be a bit baffled by the content and all the men with very similar names. One sunny afternoon I sat out in my patio and gave it another go, and now I’m powering through the first quarter, and think I might well make it to the end. I’m still bamboozled by all the Jose Antonio Buendia Aureliano Arcadios, but I think I can about tell them apart. This is a curious little book – I say little fondly, for it’s a monster of a story. Very famous and I think massively influential on many other writers, it combines magic realism and fantasy and warfare and family drama all together with some wonderful humour and wit on the part of Garcia Marquez. It definitely reads wonderfully well in a warm dreamy summer’s eve, of which we have very little of over here at Casa Katy (it’s raining as we speak). It’s also reading much better than another I’m on with, not on this list, and that’s the Master and Marguerita. I’m excited to see where this goes, however just as I get invested in a character’s development or a possible partnership or what have you, Garcia Marquez tends to off them or that plot point in increasingly mad ways. Jose Buendia being strapped beneath the old chestnut tree is a strong image I think that will haunt me for a good while, and I’m sure is something many might like to relate to, in these post-referendum times. Argh, I said I wouldn’t get political!

The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason and The Magus by John Fowles – now these two are not yet begun, and I intend to dive into once I’ve wrangled a bit of time. I picked up The Piano Tuner in Waterstones on a whim and haven’t a clue what to expect. John Fowles is known to me as a writer, as I read The French Lieutenant’s Woman when I was 16/17 and it powerfully imprinted on me. I would absolutely recommend that to anyone looking for a fantastic read who isn’t afraid of a bit of period setting, and a bit of critique on a period novel within a novel – jolly bit of inception there. I’m excited about The Magus so if I ever get on with the Jose Antonio Aureliano Arcadios, I will dive into this one.

And that’s our lot! Let me know if you’ve read any of these, if you like them, dislike them, and if you’ve any recommendations! Currently I am poor but I am the proud owner of a Malton Library card, so with luck, I might pick up some weighty tomes in there.

I’m also looking to update my Goodreads account, so look for me on there under Katy Allanby.

Thanks for reading!

 

Casa Katy (the First)

Dreamy Mantlepiece shot

Around the middle of last year, Natwest bank were running a radio advert about mortgages and their mortgage rates. For a long time I had been in that same boat as many of my peers: yearning for a little place to call my own, but believing that as a single person in a time of supposed sky-high housing prices, there was zero chance of me ever getting approved for a mortgage let alone find somewhere I could afford. But times seemed to be changing, and the airwaves were abuzz with competitive mortgage deals, especially those aimed at first-time buyers. I played around with the Natwest mortgage checker, was pleasantly surprised, and so went off to the bank with my mummy and daddy to try and woo the nice bank lady into lending me a big ole pile of cash.

It wasn’t quite like that, but the process was much easier than I had anticipated, and so I spent hours trawling Rightmove and Zoopla, weaning myself away from the gorgeous detached mansions and five-bedroom cottages that were on another planet. I viewed six whole houses, and it was the sixth one that would become Casa Katy before the year was out.

I had a wishlist for my dream first home, but ultimately, any home I think will be a compromise, and I got the main things I wanted, which were essentially, walls and floors and ceilings and a garden. I also managed to swindle lots of exciting outbuildings, which in the past soggy months haven’t been much other than empty husks which I tend to eye wistfully, with poised intent.

One of my favourite things, however, is my little snug.

Photo 22-06-2016 21 24 47I wanted space for an “office” and this hollow underneath the stairs is perfect! The family I bought my house from had kept a piano under it; not being a musical sort of person (I like to listen to music but don’t have the perseverance to learn to play it), I had a better idea for mine. So here I have my desk and my little writing den, and a rainbow of coloured pens and various diaries, address books and assorted notepads. It’s an ideal little study on the side of my kitchen and hopefully is the place where I get some scribbling done.

As you can see I have a couple of pictures of me doing laps of the Nurburgring in Dickie the Little Blue Subaru, and I also have a couple of little cheerleaders, which you can’t see very well in the picture, in the form of Commodore Norrington from Pirates of the Caribbean plus his menagerie of eraser animals. Once a geek!

I’ve been in my house now for over 6 months and just trying to get things sorted. My kitchen is still a tip but I’m trying to take the time to figure out where the optimal places to put things are. I could never be one of those people who decorates their whole home before they’ve even lived in it! If I get Miss Paint and Decorate over to wallpaper, that wallpaper is going to be up on my walls for a good long while!

That’s it for Casa Katy the First. Stay tuned for further instalments of this thrilling saga!

A little absence, much change

I haven’t been the best blogger of late, and it looks like my last post was well over a year ago! You must forgive me, as it’s been quite the year of change, good and bad, for me, but I have come out the other side with new found determination.

I started 2016 with a new house and new job! I started house-hunting last year and found my perfect little house pretty quickly. I picked up the keys at the end of November and am now the very proud owner of Casa Katy. I have a lot of stuff, as you can imagine (mainly books!), and a lot is still at Windy Farm taking up space at my Mum and Dad’s. Slowly bit by bit I’m sorting things out as I can afford them. My house has a lovely garden, split into two parts, out back and a little bit of outside space out front, so I’m working on making a pretty garden refuge.

Photo 20-06-2016 18 10 04
Three views of my garden

Also at the same time, I left my job (and my mega commute!) and started a new job in York. I’m definitely not missing the drive, which was getting ridiculous, especially since my previous company was moving premises into Hull city centre – definitely no good for me. I now have all this time on an evening – time to write (she says, hopefully, with such good intentions!).

After I’d been in my little house a while, I adopted two cats from the Cats Protection League. Meet Luna and Maura! I think I only went for one, but couldn’t say no. They’re not sisters and don’t really get on, though after 6 days in a cattery together while I was in Germany, they’re not so bad. I still don’t feel grown-up enough to look after myself let alone two little girls, paying bills and my mortgage, but we’re getting on alright!

2016 hasn’t been the greatest of years; after a couple of big changes towards the end of last year, the beginning of this year, we had a tough time when my Grandad suddenly passed away. This was a really big shock for all of us, even though he wasn’t by any means a young man, he was still active and independent, and I don’t think any of us expected it to happen as suddenly as it did.

Grandad and me a few Nurburgring trips ago
Grandad and I a few Nurburgring trips ago

It really brings home the transience of life, and how quickly things can change, and suddenly no longer be; it also spurred me on to think about the things I’m really passionate about, and try and get a wriggle on with those.

I have a couple of ideas in mind, some of which will remain tantalisingly vague for the moment, but the big one is of course my writing. After the busy summer last year, I made a deal with myself to crack on with the proper first draft of my “first” book. I call it my “first” because while it may be the one I’m going to try and make a go of, it’s by no means the first one I ever started to write. This one is a weighty tome that has been in my head since first year of university, and has changed over time massively, particularly whilst it has been confined to the cobweb-draped recesses of my overactive fraught little brain. From about September to February I managed to bash out my first draft, and now I am half-way through the first soul-crushing heart-wrenching rewrite, so meekly titled the “second draft”. I have made a little cocoon under my stairs in my new house which is, thus far, being highly conducive to my jabs at writing and editing.

So, new job, new house, and new lease of life! There have been some big goodbyes over the past few months, and some big changes. And I hope to keep you posted on more to come.