Monday, 28 December 2009

In my bag and under the tree

This last week has been imense in the number of books I have aqcuired. Like any good bookworm I had several on my Christmas list. I recieved Stitch n' Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook by Debbie Stoller (hopefully I will get further than a few inches with these patterns), The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, The Graveyard Book by the wonderful Neil Gaiman, Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan and Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.

Whilst Christmas shopping for other people I brought myself Coraline and Other Stories: The Bloomsbury Phantastics and The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes. I then popped into Cambridge believing that their Borders had shut down, but it was in its final days, books were 40 pence or less. There wasn't a great selection left but I still walked away with 14 books, including The Camel Bookmobile which I had wanted to read for ages. The rest of the books are under the piles of Christmas presents I have o put away if I want to sleep tonight.

When I arrived home, my mamouth orders from amazon had arrived, meaning I could barely open the door. I brought myself:
The Red Tree by Shaun Tan
Amok and Other Stories by Stefan Zweig
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Life's Little Ironies by Thomas Hardy
The Madwoman in the Attic by S. Gilbert
The London Underworld in the Victorian Period (V.1) BY Henry Mayhew
Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

And, tomorrow I have holds from the library to pick up! I love reading in the winter so hopefully I'll make a fair old dent in this pile quickly

Saturday, 19 December 2009

So I said I was done with challenges....

I had picked my 6 challenges for 2010, I had decided 6 at one time and no more then I read Eva's post, knowing I was weak willed, and saw a challenge I couldn't resist! Grrr!!!!!

Our Mutual Read is a Victorian reading challenge offering participants different levels of participation. I'm going for Level 2: 8 books, at least 4 written during 1837 - 1901. The other books may be Neo-Victorian or non-fiction. I'm also participating in the Short Story Mini Challenge:read 12 short stories written or taking place between 1837 - 1901 and post a review.
I guess in comparrison to most people I have read a lo of Victorian Literature but as an English Literature graduate I feel I should have read so much more. And I'm not going to kick myself too much for participating as I will use it to help me with the 1001 list.

Here is a potential list, I have starred 4 that I definately want to read.
Victorian Literature - Old and trusted friends:
The Island of Dr. Moreau – H.G. Wells
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy*
Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens*
Adam Bede – George Eliot
Born in Exile – George Gissing

Victorian Literature - Those I've been meaning to get to:
Hunger – Knut Hamsun (Been on mount tbr forever)
A Woman’s Life – Guy de Maupassant
The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Warden – Anthony Trollope
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
The Count of Monte-Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
Endymion - Benjamin Desraeli
North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell

Victorian Literature - A second chance:
The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (I must give this another try after a teacher killed it)
Almayer's Folley - Joseph Conrad
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde (A reread)*
Kidnapped – Robert Louis Stevenson

Affinity - Sarah Waters (I love this lady's work)*
The Crimson Petal and the White - Michel Faber (I loved this and would love to reread it)
A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray
The Court of the Air - Stephen Hunt

The Madwoman in the Attic - SM Gilbert (a critique of the representation of women in Victorian fiction)
What the Victorians Did For Us - Adam Hart Davis
The London Underworld in the Victorian Period: Authentic First Person Accounts by Thieves, Beggers and Prostitutes - Henry Mayhew

Short Stories:
Just So Stories - Rudyard Kipling
The Yellow Wallpaper and other stories - Charlotte Gilman Perkins

Victorian Children's Stories:
Something from my CS Lewis Anthology
Black Beauty - Anna Sewell (which to my shame I have never read)
The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling
The Water Babies - Charles Kinsley

My Reads:
Short Stories:
Amy Foster - Joseph Conrad
The Imaginative Woman - Thomas Hardy
The Boy's Veto - Thomas Hardy

Friday, 18 December 2009

My Thoughts: Fox Girl by Nora Okja Keller

I spent my snowy afternoon watching TV and then finishing the novel Fox Girl. The novel is set primarily in America Town in Korea. Sookie and Huyan Jin are best friends from two different parts of the town. Sookie's mum has lots of American GIs as 'boyfriends' whilst Huyan Jin's father dotes on her whilst running a corner shop which sells both Korean and American sweets and drinks. When Sookie's mum suddenly disappears the world her mum works in suddenly becomes apparent. Sookie is soon forced to work the clubs and look for American GIs to be her boyfrind. After a revelation Huyan Jin soon finds that the world of America Town which she had always looked up to is fast becoming her only possible means of escape.

The novel created a world for me which we know exists but tend to shy away from. The girls in the novel have to stoop to the lowest levels to finds means and ways to stay alive, creating women and men who are hardened to their loved ones. The myth of the fox girl runs throughout the novel - a fox who had it all but wanted to become human.
Read for my Olympic Challenge.

Theatre: War Horse

Yesterday was a very good day, not only did school get cancelled for today before even a single drop of snow had fallen - we have about 2 inches now so the whole country has ground to a halt - I got a phone call whilst I was in the pub (Christmas coke after work) asking if I wanted to go and see War Horse in London. Of course I said yes and was on the coach and on my way within 5 minutes.
The play War Horse is based on the fantastic childrens novel by Micheal Morpurgo. Set in the UK just before the Great War Albert is given a horse to raise and train in order to save his father's farm. He and the horse (Joey) become great friends and of course being a kids book the horse becomes the most desired horse in the country. When the war starts horses are sold to the army, including Joey. In grief Albert also joins the war. The story then continues throughout the war showing both of the characters plight during the war.

I rarel say this, but the play was even better than the book. The horses were puppets manouvered through three actors. The movement of the horse was perfect whether it was racing, moving its ears or listening to Albert talk. After a little while you forgot that the horse was a pupppt and didn't 'see' those actors creating its movement. The actors were also perfect. And, being a girl I cried. We took 20 kids from school from 11 to 16 years old, they were perfectly behaved and fascinated by the play, and to make it even better we came out of the theatre to walk through London's theatre land in the snow.

Heres the trailer to tempt you, its been named in The Times the play of the decade and its certainly the best thing I have ever seen:
The Trailer

I'm off to build a snowman and brave the walk to the shops to grab some fish and chips, then will be curled up with a book all afternoon. Bliss

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Sunday Salon

I haven't posted anything on my blog for ages, I have still been reading but only in short snatches and very slowly. In a funny old mood, Christmas and New Year always make me feel strange one minute I'm fine then next sad with no way to explain why even to myself! But, I have one week left at work and then two weeks and 4 days off! I'll be going home for a few days but generally I'll be spending a lot of time in doors chilling out with books, so I thought I'd create a Christmas reading list for myself.

I've got to finish Book 2 (should have done this by Thursday just gone) and Book 3 of Les Miserables. I'm loving this at the moment but need to sit down for a long old session of reading as at the moment I don't feel like I'm getting far.

I've got The Well of Lost Plots and Serena to read, both are bookrings. I don't know anything about Serena accept that it is from my favourite publishers, Cannongate. The Well of Lost Plots will be a great comfort read.

I have a gorgeous boxed edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (with introductions by Will Self and Zadie Smith) which my mum brought me years ago which I'm planning to read over Christmas week.

I've also got a stack of other books which I need to get to, hopefully I'll be able to knock off lots of books off the tbr pile to make space for those I will recieve for Christmas and my birthday

Friday, 4 December 2009

My final challenge for 2010

2010 Social Justice Reading Challenge

I decided in 2010 to cut back on challenges, no more than 6 open at one time. This is my final one, I've been holding back till I found a Non-Fiction challenge which will challenge me and this one looked ideal.

The Social Justice Challenge is held here looked perfect to get me reading about things in the real world and also broaden my knowledge.
The description of the challenge:

Reading opens new worlds to us and can sometimes expose the injustice in our own. We have all been powerfully moved by the injustice we have learned about in books and decided we wanted to host a reading project that would encourage us to learn more about these issues in the world.

It can sometimes be overwhelming and disheartening to read about the powerful obstacles others in the world face. So this reading challenge is different. Not only will we be encouraging you to learn about issues of social injustice in the world through books, essays, blogs, and other media–we will also be challenging you to take an action step and make a difference as a result of what you’ve learned. Let’s put our knowledge into action and make a difference!

We have chosen to focus each month on a different area of social injustice in the world. During that month, we are asking that you read something from the list of resources or watch something suggested by that month’s host. That will complete step one of this challenge: Learn.

Throughout the month we will also be posting ways you can make a difference in this area. Don’t worry, we will provide several different options at many different levels of commitment. The important thing is to take an action step towards doing something to change things! That fulfills step 2–Take Action.

We realize that as the year goes on some months will be busier for you than others. Some themes may be more important to you personally than others. So the challenge is customizable each month to fit your needs by the month.

When you sign up the Social Justice Challenge you are committing to 12 months participation. The amount you participate each month, however, is up to you.

Activist–At this level you are agreeing to participate fully in the activities of the month. You will read at least one full length book as well as choosing something from the other media list. You will also complete an action step. By signing up for the challenge, you agree to do a minimum of 3 months at this level. You do not have to decide which months in advance.

Intern–You agree to either read something from the reading resources (it can be an essay or children’s book) or choose to do something from the other media list. You will complete an action step. You do not have to decide which months in advance.

Volunteer– You agree to read at least one of the recommended blog posts, essays or shorter novels. You will complete an action step. You do not have to decide in advance which months they will be.

Observer — Need a break? Just follow along with the blog for the month. This month has no commitment level. You can only do a maximum of three months at this level.

Topics covered, Jan - Dec in order:
Religious Freedom
Domestic Violence & Child Abuse
AIDS Crisis
Illiteracy and Education
Modern Day Slavery
Homelessness & Refugees
Women’s Rights
Child Soldiers & Children in War

My participation will be varied throughout, I'm hoping to be able to read a book a month but know that this may be a struggle with my other commitments. I'm looking forward to seeing what the activites involve and taking part. I'll be planning my reading a month in advance to give me a chance to grab the books, for January I have ordered Sorrow Mountain: The Journey of a Tibetan Warrior Nun as my non-fiction read, I also hope to read Anil's Ghost by Ondaatje which I think I have on my shelves somewhere.