Wednesday, 30 July 2008

July Book Blowout round-up

This challenge has come to an end, (well officially it ends tomorrow but I won't finish Bellefleur tomorrow so its ended for me). I aimed to read 13 books and ended up beating that target by 1 and a half books.

My favorite out of the 13 would be joint between Persepolis and Twilight, there was a few books in there which weren't amazing but it was generally a good month. I liked having a goal for the month, and for once being able to meet it!
Mrs S' questions:
1. Did you discover a new author?
10 out of the 14 where new-to-me authors!
2. Where was the most unusual place you found yourself reading?
I read in all my usual haunts plus the garden as it finally got sunny.
3. Did you read more than usual?
I read more than a normal month as it is now the summer holidays so I have days on end to fill with reading ;-D
4. Did you give up anything in order to read more?
Working on all the stuff I planned to get ahead with for next term
5. If you won the Amazon voucher what would you spend it on?
Books, possibly The Beadle and the Bard pre-order
6. Would you like to see a 2009 Book Blowout?
Yeah, was nice to keep track of what I had read in a month

My What I actually have read list:
I finished The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble 1/2

1. Junky - William Burroughs
2. Stardust - Neil Gaiman
3. Twilight - Stephanie Meyer
4. Siddartha, Hesse
5. Persepolis
6. Breakfast at Tiffany's, Capote
7. Stuart: A Life Backwards, Masters
8. Persepolis, Satrapi
9. The Unabridged Pocket Book of Lightning, Foer
10. The Secrets We Keep, Monroe
11. Mirrormask, Gaiman
12. Journey to the River Sea, Ibbotson
13. Gatty, Crossley-Holland
14. Tomaree, Robson

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

My Thoughts: Tomaree by Debbie Robson

I got sent this novel as a bookring, like so many book I seem to be reading at the moment it isn't the type of book I normally read but I thought it was fairly good.
The story is told in a series of flashbacks. Peggy has returned to Australia after her mother's death and the recent breakdown of her marriage. She has gone back for the funeral and to sort out the house she has been left, with the view to possibly living there again, after 30 years living in the U.S. Whilst back at the house she unearths some family secrets, discovering why her mother has always been so distant over the years.
She also recalls her early romance with her estranged husband, this romance is told through flashbacks, there love existing amongst the war and her mother's disapproval. As with all books like this a happy ending is guaranteed.

It wasn't original, I could see the ending coming a mile away, but it was an easy way to pass a grey morning.

July Book Blowout Book 14

Monday, 28 July 2008

My Thoughts: Gatty by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Today had the most stunning weather, I enjoyed it by doing a tiny bit of gardening and sunbathing with this book. I managed to read the whole book in pretty much one go as it was such a good read.
Gatty is a land girl, with no one in the world except for her cow, Hopeless and her 7 chickens. One day she is called upon out of the blue to be a chambermaid to Lady Gwyneth, because of her wonderful singing voice. Lady Gwyneth believes that Gatty's voice will protect her, and those she is taking with her on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The voyage holds many problems, adventures and tales, as well as transforming Gatty from a young restless girl to a well rounded young woman.

This is one of the books I'll be putting up on my wall of recommended reads at school. Its a fantastic tale, well written and well steeped in history. Its full of historical and religious contexts but as Gatty has led a fairly secluded life they need to be explained to her, and thus to the reader who may have little knowledge of this time and of religion (especially in England where RE tends not to focus on Christianity from what I remember of school). Definately well worth a read.
This is the first of the Carnegie shortlist for 2008 that I am planning on reading, then winner has been announced but I like to read as many of them as can. As this didn't win I'm expecting the winner to be great.
YA Challenge Book 4 of 12
If you have read this book leave a link to your post here and I'll put it in my post

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Sunday Salon and My Thoughts on Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

England has been so sunny and hot this week, as its the first week of the summer holidays I've been able to go out sunbathing, go to the beach and spend time in many beer gardens working on my tan, and I've also managed to get some books read. I finished this week: Stuart: A Life Backwards, Persepoilis 2, The Unabridged Pocketbook of Lightning, The Secrets We Keep and Journey to the River Sea (see below for my thoughts). The heat has definately gone to my head as I also joined 3! challenges!!!

In this coming week I need to finish a couple of bookrings and try and start reading some Joyce Carol Oates stuff.

Journey to the River Sea has been one of those kids books I have wanted to read since it came out as it has a gorgeous cover, won the Smarties Gold Awards and got great reviews.

The book is abpout an orphan who has to move to Brazil to live with her family over there. As with most orphans in books (and there are loads) the adopted family is mean and has taken on the orphan as a way to swindle money. Being set in Brazil we are promised adventures up the Amazon River, and with the two new friends she meets also orphans).

I'm not sure if I expected to much but I just thought this book was okay, it started off fairly slowly and I never got a sense of tension and adventure. I like kids books to take me back to being a kid, but this one didn't do this. If you want adventure in the Amazon you would do far better to read City of the Beasts bu Isabel Allende.


If you have reviewed this book please leave a link to your review here and I'll tag it on.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

My Thoughts: The Secrets We Keep by Mary Alice Monroe

Yay! I finally read a book for the Southern Reading Challenge! I've been reading Gone With the Wind forever and I've still got masses to go so I thought I should start picking up my other Southern reads.

This book is set in balmy North Carolina. The Blakey family has to come to terms with the sudden stroke of their previously active father and the prospect that they may lose the family home and land which has been with the family for many generations. This tragdey brings the family together and lets out more than a few family secrets.

Now this is far more my Mums type of book, I brought it in one of those 3 for 2 book deals where I was just searching out anything that could be the free book, and this is what came out. The book has sat on the shelves for a few years after going on hols somewhere sunny with my Mum, and it seemed more attractive than The Awakening which I can't seem to make myself pick up. It was a fairly good read once I got past the first 50 pages, kind of a holiday read, something easy for the beach or plane, and it certainly won't be recieving any rewards as a great piece of literature. But it's a good 'feel good read'.


If you have read this book, please leave a link to your review in my comments

2nds Challenge

Joy is hosting yet another great challenge:

Have you recently (or not so recently) read a book by a "new-to-you" author and can't wait to dive into another one of his/her books? If so, please join us in the second 2nds Challenge!
WHO: Anybody

WHAT: Read 4 books by authors that you have only read one other

WHERE: Mister Linky will keep track of monthly books read here on "Thoughts of Joy..."

WHEN: September, October, November and December, 2008

WHY: Because we love to read...why else?

My List:
The Virgin Blue, Chevalier
Two Carvans, Lewycka

Beloved, Toni Morrison
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, Mishma
Coupland, Girlfriend in a Coma
Family Matters, Rohinton Mistry

The Second Unread Authors Challenge Aug 1st 2008 - January 31st 2009

Sycorax Pine is hosting this challenge over at her site:
Almost all of us have authors who we have long meant to read, but somehow never gotten around to (you can see a long list of mine at the bottom right of the blog). Perhaps you have always been intrigued but intimidated by their work. Perhaps "required reading" and your favorite authors have taken up most of your time. Perhaps they have been sitting on your shelves for years, continually trumped by new fascinations. Well, now is their time.The rules:
The challenge will run from August 1, 2008 to January 31, 2009. You may join at any time before or during those six months.
During those six months, read at least SIX books by an author whose work you have never read before.
You may choose six different "unread" authors to introduce yourself to, or you may choose just one or two and explore their work in greater depth.
Authors may be drawn from any genre of literature. The only requirement is that they be authors whose work you substantially regret not having read yet.
Your choices may overlap with other challenges you have underway.To join the challenge or to get ideas from the posts of last year's participants, go to the Challenge Blog. You will find instructions on how to join in the post at the top of the blog.

Here's my possibles:
Maus, Art Spiegelman
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
Out by Kirino
Gatty's Tale, Kevin Crossley Holland
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto
Saul Bellow- Humboldt’s Gift
The Sea by John Banville
The Gathering by Anne Enright
Wild Swans - Chang
My reads for this challenge
1. Apache, Landman - a really good read, most of her books are for little kids but I will be checking out her YA book, Aztec: The Goldsmith's Daughter in the future
3. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred Taylor Table Talk, has recommended her other books 'Let the Circle Be Unbroken' and 'Road to Memphis' so I'll be checking them out at some point
7. Meet Me Under the Ombu Tree, Montefiore
Some of these are books I've been meaning to read for ages, others are books I have read about on other blogs. Maybe I'll discover a favorite author somewhere amongst these.
8. Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto, I've been meaning to read her stuff for ages and it didn't disappoint

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

My Thoughts: The Unabridged Pocket Book of Lightning by Jonathan Safran Foer

With such a gorgeous title I expected to be struck by a marvelous story.. sadly that was not quite the case. The book is one of the Penguin pocketbooks that they released to celebrate their 70th birthday, it had only 52 pages, the vast majority of these are the opening chapter of his novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly close, a novel I've had sitting upstairs for a long time, I haven't been moved to push the book closer to the top. I have read his other novel Everything's Illuminated, and struggled to read it but enjoyed it so I was never expecting an easy read.

The other story in this book is 11 pages long, A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease. This random story is simply the punctuation marks he has invented or manipulated to represent the lack of communication in a family.


July Book Blowout: Book 9

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The New Classics Challenge Aug '08 - January '09

The New Classics Challenge, the rulesDeb from the A Novel Challenge yahoo group posted a link to this list of Entertainment Weekly's list of new classics, what they call the best reads from 1983 to 2008. I loved the list - many of my recent favorites are on it so I'm intrigued to see what some of the ones I haven't read yet will be like.
So the challenge rules are:
1) Copy the list (which I have pasted here, just in case that link ever disappears) and bold the titles that you have already read.
2) Choose at least 6 other books from the list , read and review them between 1 August 2008 and 31 January 2009.
2) Come back here and post links to your reviews.
3) In January 2009, cast your vote for which one of the 100 books on the list is your favorite (and write a post on why). The winning book will be sent to a lucky winner chosen by the scientific method favored here in the blogosphere, i.e. names in a hat. Other contests are very probable too, I have some ideas, but they need planning.
1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997) - Currently Reading
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)3
1. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004) - Abandoned half way through, I don't get all the fuss!
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

Hmmm... I've read 20, well that's not too bad as this seems a very American list, I hope that it's not in order of importance!

I'm thinking of reading:
Beloved, Toni Morrison
Maus, Art Spiegelman
Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates
Eva Luna, Isabel Allende
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

That gives me an extra one if I hate one of them

Monday, 21 July 2008

My Thoughts: Persepolis: The Return by Marjane Satrapi

I read the first Persepolis book a week ago and was blown away by the way a graphic novel could depict so well the life of a young Iranian girl. In the second instalment we see Marji in Austria at first struggling to fit in with the lives of those around her, and then fitting in a little too well. She experiments with drugs and politics, and numerous other strange things (like trying to pee like a man!), eventually her life spins out of control and she returns to Iran where she again struggles to fit in, having lived with freedom for years the rules she has to follow seem even more constricting.

In my first review of Persepolis I gave it a rave review, see here, this follow up is good but I didn't feel that it held the power of the first. This was principally because it was dealing much more with Marji's life rather than the events in the country, but also because I found her teenage self so extreme.

This weeks Weekly Geeks asks other bloggers to ask us questions about the books we are reviewing this week. Here are the questions, and there answers in regard to this book:

Bookzombie: I have not read "Persepolis" but I have seen good reviews of it everywhere. My question for you is how would you convince someone to read this (using 25 words or less)?
Amazing. A must read for anyone who needs to be enlightened about life in Iran. The form makes it all the more powerful.
book chronicle: Perseoplis: I'm assuming you also read the first one and if so how does it compare? I have not read either though always mean to pick up the collection. Are you a long time fan of graphic novels or is this your first time with one? Either way, how do you feel Persepolis acts as an introduction to the graphic novel world?
As I have said above, I feel that the first one is far more powerful, perhaps because it is seen through the eyes of such a young girl. However I am glad I read the second so I was able to have a look a the way that her life turned out. I have read a few graphic novels now, the first Persepolis has so far been the best. I am enjoying this format despite thinking I wouldn't, I'll definately be searching out more in the library. I feel these books would be a great introduction to graphic novels as they didn't seem too comic book like and they dealt with the type of topic which I would read a novel about.

Graphic Novel Challenge: Book 3 of 3! Depite completing this challenge that I took on halfway through the year I plan on continuing to read graphic novels, I'm glad I participated in this challenge as it encouraged me to read a format I may never have picked up.
July Book Blowout: Book 8

Other Reviews:
Bethany's Review: The review which made me go out and buy the book!
Marg's Thoughts

If anyone has reviewed this or the first book please leave a link in the comments and I'll add a link to your review.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

My Thoughts: Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters

I'm not sure if this book made it across the pond, or if it would have the same affect outside of the UK, but I guess everywhere has homeless people. Staurt: A Life Backwards is about the like of Stuart, a part time homeless person, part-time prisoner, part-time drug taker.

The book starts startingly with the knowledge that Stuart died before the book was published, hit by a late night train. The book then goes on to describe Stuart's life from this point back to his childhood, plus the 4 years that the author spent with Stuart. Stuart's life is all over the place, he seems intelligent, on the ball, he takes offence at other peoples violent nature yet he cannot control or understand his life. He sometimes speaks with a clearness that explains exactly how he feels and at other times he struggles to form a sentence.

I read this as part of a bookring, other people who had read the book said that they thought the author was patronising, I just thought his tone perfectly summed up the experience of knowing someone like Stuart, someone who no matter how hard you tried you were never going to be able to rescue of fix. I had also seen the BBC's televised adaptation of the book and it had perfectly caught this feeling of frustration so I wasn't surprised.

The book is set in and around Cambridge, somewhere I have either lived near or in for the first 24 years of my life. I always find it strange to read about a place that I know so well. This book was written at the time I was at University in Cambridge, a university set right next to one of the homeless shelters. At that time Cambrigde was full of homeless people, I passed the same homeless people on a day-to-day basis and became hardened to seeing them. At this time I had seen all the newspaper articles about the Homeless man who owned a 5 bedroomed house and a nice car, I had watched people who I had given money to the day before sell drugs right in front of the same people she had begged from the day before. I remember my brother coming home digusted after giving a homeless person a pizza from Pizza Hut and being told by the guy 'what would I want that for'. Homelessness was a huge issue in Cambridge then. It's strange to think that I could have walked past this guy in te streets. Thankfully Cambridge now seems to have very few homeless people, but now I live miles away from it, if I see a homeless person I feel guilty and ashamed to just walk past. (That's a huge essay, kinda off tangent -sorry!)

I expected this book to make me feel like that but it actually doesn't, it's honest and brutal, but doesn't try and make you feel bad. The language is true to speech, the swearing brutally honest and imbedded in the everyday speech of Stuart, startling against the educated speech of Alexander, the author.


Sunday Salon and Weekly Geeks

Last week I sais that it was unlikely that I would be reading many books this week as a result of a last stressful week at work, a night a the theatre and a wedding (which I didn't go to as I was full of a cold). I actually finished 4 books! That sounds impressive but two of them were graphic novels: Persepolis and Mirrormask, and the other two were both under 150 pages: Breakfast at Tiffany's and Siddartha. I've also read half of Staurt: A Life Backwards which I should finish tonight or tomorrow. This week I shall have plenty of time to read as I'm now officially on holiday from work for 6 weeks! Yay! Which takes me on to this weeks Weekly Geeks.

Weekly Geeks, see here to participate, is asking other bloggers to ask us questions about books that we have to blog. Now I'm up-to-date with my blogging so I'm going to leave a list of the books I hope to read this week. If you have a question about any of these books please leave it in the comments here and I'll try and answer it in my review of the book.

The list:
The Unabridged Pocketbook of Lightning
The Awakening
Cold Mountain
and possibly start The Famished Road

Friday, 18 July 2008

My Thoughts: Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Of course I've seen the film, hasn't everyone? But I always meant to read the book, it's one of those classics that you just feel you should have read, and when the Classics Challenge came along I pushed my butt to finally get around to reading it, and boy I wasn't disappointed.

For anyone that's been living on another planet, Breakfast at Tiffany's is about Holly Golightly, a stunning New York girl who has men falling at her feet. As well as being beautiful Holly has a way of charming all the men around her, they know that there are others but they just feel drawn to her. Even the reader falls in love with Holly, we can see all the things she does wrong but as she is not malicious, we like the men forgive her.

The novella, at only 100 pages, is a real quick and easy read, its light tone and humour were just what I needed after a tiring last week at school bogged down with a cold, and spending my Friday night in.


If you have reviewed this book please add a link in the comments and I'll place it into this page.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Holiday Book Buying

Do you buy books while on vacation/holiday?
Do you have favorite bookstores that you only get to visit while away on a trip?
What/Where are they?

I haven't been on holiday for ages, if I go away I always take plenty of reading material. I think I have only run out of books once, I went to Vietnam for 2 weeks, I took 9 books at least 4 of them were over 500 pages long, yet I still run out. I didn't realise that the majority of places in Vietnam shut at 9 at night, there were a few places that stayed open but as a female alone on holiday I didn't want to be halfway across Hanoi on my own when the majority of places were closed. I had one American channel which showed old American sitcoms and an Ipod which I couldn't charge properly, needless to say I got through a lot of books. I went and brought The Quiet American off a street stall and some holiday trash reading from a second hand stall to get me through.
When I go to my mums in Cambridge for a couple of days I always take 2 or 3 books, I never get through them because the house is rarely quiet and we're out a lot but I like to have them near. If we go into Cambridge on a Sunday there is a second hand book stall with good quality books and a shop called Galloway and Porter, they sell books which are supposedly slightly damaged. I used to go there to look for text books as they sell loads, most fiction in there is £1 but you do have to search. I also love Heffers in Cambrigde, there are several of them in the town but the one opposite Trinity college is fantastic, it has a huge selection but is very pricy.

A Night at the Theatre

Last night I went and experience a little bit of culture, I went to the stunning Open Air Theatre in Regents Park. The park itself is lush, and luckily for us the rain held off so we could lay on the grass with our picnics and Champagne (none of that for me as I was driving :( ). The theatre is set in a bank in the park, and we were surprisingly high up, I wasn't expecting it to go up so far. I've seen plays outside before, mainly Shakespeare in the gardens of Cambridge University but it has always been a sitting on a blanket affair, I was glad of a seat and a higher elevation point, just a shame that it wasn't as warm as the previous night and that the little moggies had a taste for my blood and kept nibbling away at my legs.

We went to see Twelfth Night a Shakespeare play I wasn't at all familiar with. Personally I was bored stiff for the first half an hour but then it got started and I started enjoying myself. Next year I'm going to see if I can get tickets to see Midsummer Night's Dream as that is by far my most favorite play and would be stunning in that location.

I've added some pictures for you, they are taken off the net as cameras were banned!

Monday, 14 July 2008

My Thoughts: Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

I wasn't to sure if I wanted to read this novel, but it was part of the Noble Spiral (I get sent one Noble winning book roughly each month then pass it on to the next participant) so I had to give it a go.

The book has a simple enough plot, Siddartha is a Brahmin but he wishes to push his philosphy further, he is seeking peace and being at one with the world. As he journeys through life in various guises his philosophy changes as he understands more about himself and the world around him. Underneath this simple plot is all the philisophical discussions and theories. The ideas are mainly centred around Buddhism and drawn out from this way of living.

The novel is not really my type of thing, it reminded me of the type of 'clever' books I read at University and I'm sure it would be a great text to study, I feel that had I known more about Buddhism, India at that time and the author I probably would have got a lot more out of the novel. Having said that the book was highly readable, mainly down to the beautiful use of language, it certainly descerves it's subtitle 'An Indian Poem'.


If you have reviewed this book please leave a link to your review and I'll add you to mine.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

My Thoughts: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi & a book blowout meme

Last month I had my first introduction to graphic novels with Dream Country by Neil Gaiman, Persepolis showed me what a Graphic Novel can do with a serious topic. Persepolis is about a little girl growing up in Iran during political change. Life goes from being free to having strict rules forced upon the people. Marji's parents generally tell her the truth, she is allowed to hear vivid details about the torture of prisoners, they take her to demonstrations and she reads political and marxist texts for her bedtime stories. Coming from a very political family she finds it extremely difficult to be the obedient little girl which is required under the new regime.

I found this book extremely easy to read and a very powerful look at life in Iran, I have read books about Iran before but this one is very powerful in it's message. I thought that the torture scene was particuarly hard hitting. I'm not sure if this is because the image is below to reiterate what is happening or because it is seen from the eyes of a child.

I shall be reading Persepolis: The Return in the next week.

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed this book please leave a link to your review and I'll add it on.


Mrs S has set this mini-meme for the July Book Blowout

The Where’s your book set? meme
Here’s how it works - just answer some or all of the following questions about the book you are currently reading (or just finished if you are between books). You can either post your answers on your blog and link us up using Mr Linky below - or post your answers here in the comments.
Here’s the questions:
1. Title and author of the book

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
2. What year is the book set in?

3. What happened on this day in that year? Go to google and type in the date ie 13 July 1952 and see if you can find a news item for that day

July 13, 1980 U.S.S.R. performs nuclear test at Eastern Kazakh/Semipalitinsk U.S.S.R.
4. Where is your book set?

5. Have you visited that place before? If yes tell us something about your trip. If no, look the location up on google and tell us an interesting fact about the city/country.

Cyrus the Great's "Cylinder", found during excavations in Babylon, was inscribed with the first known declaration of human rights.

Elam, the oldest known civilisation in Iran, was founded in 1250 BC.

Cuneiform writing, a form of picture writing, was used in Iran over three thousand years ago.

My Thoughts: Mirrormask by Neil Gaiman

I grabbed this book whilst I was in the library today, I then came home and read it all in one go. This novella is about 15 year old Helena, she is a member of a circus and like all teenagers she wants out, she wants to be 'normal' and live in the real world.

When her Mum gets sick, Helena is drawn into a dream world full of flying books, winged hungry cats, police beetles and Valentine her side kick through this world. Quickly Helena realises she much prefers her old life and has to go on a quest to return herself to her family.

This was a strange little book, every page is illustrated with either cartoon like pictures which we would expect in a graphic novel or pictures from the film Mirrormask, it's like it can't quite make up it's mind which it wants to be. Personally I much prefered the graphic novel-esqe pictures. The story was interesting enough, well written, I wasn't gripped though, maybe it was because it was a novella but things seemed to move a bit too fast. One minute Helena has entered a strange world, the next she is a Princess eating tea with the Queen (I actually went back to see if I'd skipped a page).
If you have reviewed this book, leave a link to the review in the comments and I'll add it to the bottom of my review

Sunday Salon and My Thoughts on Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Another fairly busy week but I managed to finish 2 books so I'm back up to my average speed. This week is the final week at school before the holidays and rather than helping us teachers relax they shove everything in at once. It's not all bad though, I off to see Twelfth Night at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park (lets hope the weather has improved by then).

I spent my of my reading time on Stardust this week, my first Neil Gaiman of many, I'm sure. It was lovely to come home and disappear into a fairytale world for an hour or so.

Twilight - Stephanie Meyer

Yesterday I started Twilight (it got finished this morning in bed), yes I know I'm probably the last person to read this but at least I got around to it eventually.

For those few of you who haven't read this, the book is about a teenage girl, Bella, who has just moved from sunny Phoenix to dreary Forks, apparently the most rainy place in America. In this small town Bella stands out and everyone wants to get to know her. Everyone, that is, except her lab partner, Edward. Edward and his brothers and sisters are aloof, they stand out, they are stunningly beautiful, they are awfully pale, they don't make friends and they prove a great danger to the curious Bella. And you guessed it, they are vampires! Bella, decides to fall in love with Edward and he with her, and off the adventure begins.

I loved this novel. Yes it's predictable. Yes it's a typical YA romance/Gothic drama. Yes it is like a million other books I read as a teenager. Yet there was something about this book that stood out. It was fairly well written, they avoided too many stereotypes. Most importantly it made me feel like a teenager again - in a good way. It also reminded me how overpowering your first love can be, to the point where it is all consuming.

I can't wait to read the next book in the series. I think this is going to be the first book we read for the reading group I'm setting up at school.

Young Adult Challenge 2008 Book 1 of 12
July Book Blowout Book 3
If you've reviewed this book please leave you link to your review and I'll link it to the page.

Friday, 11 July 2008

My Thoughts: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

I've been meaning to read a Neil Gaiman novel for a while as everyone seems to rave about him and I finally got around to it! I had seen the film earlier this year, and while I loved the film I seem to have forgotten the majority of it so this story was still fairy fresh to me.

The novel, for anyone who doesn't know, is set in the village of Wall, a small English village in which the locals guard the wall which leads to the land of Faerie. Despite no one being allowed to cross into Faerie a market exists every 9 years which allows the inhabitants of Wall to mix with the people of Faerie. Early in this book the market results in a child being born, he is brought to live in Wall and grow up as a normal citizen.

When this child is 18 he falls in love with the popular Victoria Forrester. So in love with her is he that he promises her anything she wants in the world, she requests the star she has just seen fall from the sky. The star lays in Faerie, so off he goes on his journey. Along the way he meets a variety of characters and situations.

This is a feel good book, something nice to drift off into at the end of a busy day at work. I will certainly be looking out for more of Gaiman's work. I have seen a stunning graphic novel copy of Stardust in the bookshop and may have to ask for it for Christmas.


Others Thoughts:
If you have read and reviewed this book please leave a link to your review and I'll add it on, also feel free to link back to my review.

The Japanese Literature Challenge 2

Yes, yes another challenge!

This challenge is held over at Dolce Bellezza the aim is to read 3 Japanese books between the 30th of July to the 30th of December, whether it is fiction, poetry, graphic novel, autobiography or a biography.

I'm not one hundred percent sure what I will be reading at the moment but I have a few ideas:
Any of Murakami which I haven't read
The Pillow Book by Shonogan
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, Mishma
Out by Kirino
I have read:

Monday, 7 July 2008

No Reading :'(

I had a whole weekend of no reading, not even a page. Boy does it feel strange. I spent my Saturday helping out at our school community fete. I assure you that when I battled a child (a big 16 year old lad) at Jousting I won easily ;-) I didn't really make a fool of myself by not even being able to stand up straight! I then spent that evening working in a bar, feeling the effects of the sunburn I had aquired during the day (Typical British weather, I left the house with heavy rain and wind crashing down around me, I end up baked!).

I then spent all day yesterday either in traffic jams and in training for my summer job, working with little kids at summer camp.

I went back to school shattered today, it's a good job a lot of the kids I teach are either on study leave or work experience at the moment.

Friday, 4 July 2008

My Thoughts: Junky, William Burroughs

Another book read that fulfuils a few Challenge slots (well done me ;-) ).

Junky is a classic cult novel that I have been meaning to read for ages. Apparently it is semi-autobiographical, it tells the story of a man who starts selling Heroin, never having taken it before. He quickly falls into the slippery slope of addiction. He struggles to pay for his next fix so he has to deal as a means of satisfying his need, as we all know dealing drugs is always going to be full of dodgy characters and situations. The character copes with withdrawals, both voluntary and forced as well as betrayal by those around him.

The book is fully submerged in the drug world, the language - with a helpfull glossary provided by Penguin - uses a range of terms for vaious drugs and drug users, most of which are fairly recognisable. The language is fairly sparse, matter of fact and focuses on action rather than description so the events in the characters life seem to rush through, one major event after another.

I have a few other books by Burroughs on my wish list and I look forward to reading them in the future.


The Classics Challenge 1/5 See other peoples reads in July for the Challenge here.

If you have read Junky please feel free to leave a link to your review and I'll tag it into the post, and feel free to do the same for mine.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

My Thoughts: The Red Queen, Margaret Drabble

This is a book I seem to have on my list for many challenges so it was great to finally get around to reading it, and it was a good read.

The novel is divided into three sections. The first section is told in a very interesting manner. It is the story of the Red Queen about her time as a princess and queen in South Korea 200 years ago. That's no unusual I hear you say, but it is the way in which the story is told that makes it different. The queen tells her story through a modern author, she refers from another world about how life was for women in Korea in the past and compares this to modern life.

The second section is about a academic living in modern Englan on her way off to a lecture tour, and how the memoirs of the Red Queen has influenced her journey.

As I started the book I was really not sure about it and on a few ocassions nearly abandoned it as I found the style at the beginning of the book hard to get into, but once I had excepted it I found that I whizzed through. I will say that I prefered the second and third section the most despite the fact that the story in the first section is much closer to my normal reading taste.


Book Blowout: Meme

The Book Blowout started yesterday and to celebrate Mrs S placed a meme so we can all get to know each other better. Here are my answers:

1. Describe yourself in one sentence

I'm an English teacher in England and my tbr pile has managed recently to escape onto my staircase.
2. What book will you start the challenge with?

I'm in the middle of The Red Queen by Margaret Drabble so I will be finishing that and then reading After Dark by Murakami
3. Where is your favourite place to read?

Curled up on the sofa with a blanket or in the bath
4. What is your favourite book of all time?

Hmm, I have a list about 12 books long. Off the top of my head I would say either Jane Eyre or The Time Traveller's Wife
5. Remind us all of your challenge target

It's 15 ! But the list is already changing, 2 more bookring books arrived today so they will need to be added in favour of something else.
Either post your answers in the comments - or post them on your blog and link us up in the comments - whichever works best for you.