Friday, 31 December 2010

July's People by Nadine Gordimer

My last 1001 book for the year! I was aiming for 30 this year and I just managed it.

July's People is set in South Africa at the time of the black uprising, white families houses were being destroyed, parts of the cities were bombed and many were killed. This novel tells the tale of the servant July's plight to save the white family he has worked for. He transports them to his home village were they take up residence in one of the mud huts. The focus of the story is on how this family, both parents and young children cope living in a traditional village, living without the conveiniences of a fridge, television and society life.

I enjoyed looking at this glimpse of a white family in a different setting - often novels focus on the servants reaction to the big city. However, I would have prefered to see more of the African's ways of life, they form a background rather than a character, even July of the title only comes and goes. My biggest gripe, and something many books annoy me with, is the writing of the children. Their speach and actions were way too old for the ages they were meant to be. A baby asking eloquently whether he can go to the ciniema, a three year old who communicates in full sentences and can be suspected of having stolen a car!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson

Years ago I read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and loved it and did something that I used to do which was go by a selection of books by that author. I think I brought four books I now on the third - its no wonder mount tbr is so big!

Sexing the Cherry is a fantastical novel. It starts with the discovery of a child, Jordan, abandoned in the Thames in the 17th century, he is discovered by and brought up by a giant of a woman. Early in his life he sees the first banana brought to the shores of Britain, from then on he journeys the real world and the unreal worlds of him mind.

This novel is a complete work of fantasy, times and worlds change, weightless dancing girls, worlds which don't understand gravity and meetings with the king. I loved it this time around but when I attempted to read it a few years back I quickly gave up, certainly the type of book you have to be in the right frame of mind for.

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

A good 6 months ago my Mum handed me this book and told me that I would love it, it duly sat in my tbr pile waiting for me to get to it, and as I was home for Christmas I thoght I'd give it a shot.
The book tells the tale of two Mormon wives both trapped in polygamous marriages but split across a 100 year time divide. The earlier wife's tale is told through a story and extracts from her biography, letters and diary entries of the time and someones Masters thesis. She was the first wife to go public to the rest of America and reveal how the lives of these women were ruled.
The story set in modern times is actually told through looking at her gay son who has been rejected from the faith and by her many years before. She is suddenly arrested for the murder of her husband and he goes back to his old home to try and discover the truth.

My mum loved this, I thought it was okay. The story of the earlier wife was more credible, but because of the various sources I felt it would have woked better on its own as a single novel. While the second story would belong more to the trashy novel type of book - the story was okay, but a little to easy for him to solve, and way too many coincidences.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon

8 years ago I was meant to do a university module on post-colonial literature focusing on immigration/emigration, this was on the reading list, I got put in a post-colonial literature class but not the one I'd applies for. This book has stayed on my mental tbr list for all that time and today I finally got to it.

The Lonely Londoners focuses on a group of immigrants from Trinidad, who arrive in dank foggy London just after the war (why is London always foggy in books? I've been there loads of times and never recall it being foggy). Mainly young men, this novel looks at the lives that they create for themselves, in a country that once wanted them but quickly turned its back on them.

The writing is vernacular, which I know some people struggle with, but I quickly found a nice voice in my head so it didn't hinder the speed I read in. Focusing on a small group of men the story focused a lot on their white girlfriends and the way that the men all swindle each other and others around them for money. The strangest part featured a 4 page, no punctuation account of these black men being paid to sleep with white prostitues so white men could watch - this seemed very out of place in style, and I just wanted them to get angry, rather than see it as a free 'treat'.
The style of the novel shows a way of life, but never goes beneath the surface and really shows you how the characters felt about their treatment. Having said that I enjoyed it, but thought that 120 odd pages was enough - no story, character stood out to keep the novel moving for much longer.

Monday, 20 December 2010

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

I think I've found a new favourite author. After I had read We Have Always Lived at the Castle I knew that I wanted to read more of this author who I previously hadn't heard of. This was the next book that the library had available.

The Haunting of House Hill follows four people brought together to stay in a haunted house. Previous residents have all fled after just a few days declaring business elsewhere that has made them abandon the house, but never declaring that they were scared. The main character Eleanor, a lonely woman who had previously spent all her life nursing her sick mother feels the full force of the haunting.

The book grabbed me from its very beginning, the oddly angled house, the odd way that the characters interact with one another and the mystery of what it is that possesses the house ring out from the pages. It is scary, but I never was scared when reading it. I found it strange rather than scary, perplexing. Apparently this book is the basis for two films both called The Haunting, neither of which I've seen I'd like to know how they portray the characters when much of the book is pschological fear.

Chelmsford Cathedral

As I walked past the cathedral today I snapped a few pictures on my phone - new camera for Christmas, I can't wait! I will go back with a decent camera to photograph some of the detail. My favourite is the tree.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

TSS: Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

I've been hibernating and generally wasting the day today - damn my lack of motivation! However I did manage to read this wonderful novella. Way back Darren from Bart's Bookshelf reviewed this book and straight away I reserved it in the library, and it finally came in!

The novella starts:
I once believed that life was a gift. I thought whatever I wanted I would someday possess. Is that greed, or only youth? Is it hope or stupidity?

What a beautiful way to start the story. Green is a timid teenager living with her family at the edge of the wood. She is left one day when they go off to the city and never come back after a big fire - we are told very little of this fire, the few bits we do get sound a little like 9/11 but the setting and time is wrong.
Left along with her grief Green stops caring about her looks, shrouds herself with thorns and nails and black tattoos to cover herself.

I can't tell you much more without ruining the story except you should go read this book. The language and imagery is beautiful with a fairytale feel. The book is marketed as YA, but I would say its for anyone who appreciates beautiful language.
I wanted to buy a copy for my sisters birthday but can only find second hand copies available, although I may buy one anyway and explain why. There is a follow up to this novella which was released this year and its already been added to my wishlit.

More than just a wonderful story the presentation is gorgeous, as well as the gorgeous cover abover, the chapter openings are a gorgeous shade of moss green and illustrated. Page breaks have three teeny delicate leaves.

Even the publishing details are laid out like a stem.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Exodus by Julie Bertagna

Day one of the holidays and book one down! I'm trying to finish all my library books before the TBR Dare starts. England is bitterly cold and once more covered in beautiful white snow which fell very quickly - bot sure my brother would agree though is he is stuck in his car on the way home from shopping, typical England!
Back to the book...

Once upon a time there was a world...
... a world full of miracles. From the whirl of the tiniest particles to its spinning orbit in the unthinkable vastness of space, this world danced with miraculous life. Ur, the first people called their beautiful world, and the sound of that early name would carry down all the years, until aeons of time and tongues ripened Ur into Earth.
The people feasted upon their ripe world. Endlessly they harvested its lands and seas. They grew greedy, ravaging the planets bounty of miracles. Their waste and destruction spread like a plague until a day came when this plague struck at the very heart of the miraculous dance. And the people saw too late, their savage desolation of the world.

As you can see above this novel starts off full of beautiful language and images, well crafted, but also a warning to us all. Exodus is a novel about Mara a young girl who lives on the island of Wing. As the polar ice caps have slowly melted the world has been taken over by the sea. Unsure whether they are the last island on earth the inhabitants of Wing battle for survival against the elements.
Playing a computer game Mara meets an unexpected person amongst the ghosts on the internet and discovers that a New World exists, a city built above the sea, anchored to fend off the elements.
Mara convinces the inhabitants of her island to set off in search of this new land, in search of a new life.

This book started off really well for me, but then 10 pages in I nearly gave up when the computer game suddenly appeared. Luckily it lasted only a few pages and the novel was back on track, although it still took a good 50 pages for it to grab my interest again. I'm glad I continued as I loved some of the characters and the various communities that we meet in this novel.
I thought that the book may be preachy, but the message was far more about fighting for change in the new world, rather than the faults of the past. If you enjoyed The Pretties, The Knife of Never Letting Go (and who couldn't, that was an amazing trilogy) and The Giver this is a novel you should definitely check out.
I saw this novel in an In My Mailbox post over at Fluttering Butterfly, and I'm glad that I noted it down and checked it out of the library.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted as I've been busy tackling this book, traffic and work.

“There came Death hurtling along the Boulevard in waning sepia light.
There came Death flying as in a children’s cartoon on a heavy unadorned messenger’s bicycle.
There came Death unerring. Death not to be dissuaded. Death-in-a-hurry. Death furiously peddling. Death carrying a package marked *Special Delivery Handle with Care* in a sturdy wire basket behind his seat.
There came Death expertly threading his graceless bicycle through traffic at the intersection of Wiltshire and La Brea where, because of street repair, two westbound Wiltshire lanes were funnelled into one.
Death so swift!

How can you resist a book with a start like this? Blonde is the fictionalised story of Marilyn Monroe's life, from birth to death. Oates stipulates very clearly at the beginning of the book that several areas haven't been written about whilst others have been moulded to fit her version of events, but its certainly left me wanting to read a biography of the star now.
As a child Marilyn is abandoned by her busy mother and left to be cared for by older relatives, it soon becomes clear that the mother's behaviour shows signs of mental instability. Soon Norma Jeane (her real name) is left to live with her mother in a small apartment. She has to deal with her mothers drinking which several times nearly led to the bed they shared being burnt down. Alongside many other issues, such as men, obsessions, neglect etc until her mother finally tries to burn her in a scolding bath. Her mother is sent to a hospital whilst Norma Jeane enters an orphanage.
We then watch Norma Jeane pass through school, foster parents, an early marriage, modelling, divorce and finally becoming Marilyn. And so continues with the rest of her life, the high profile marriages and relationships, the battle with drugs, stage fright and the need to be loved.
The varied narrative styles all form to create the picture of Marilyn as a lost soul, a shy child desperate to be loved who relies heavily on her body in an attempt to gain the love and affection she so desperately wants. Oates weaves a fantastic but dense tale, never creating a Marilyn who is easy to pigeon hole, feel sorry for or love. Her version is a woman that doesn't know herself, so we are left with the numerous versions that she plays out.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The 1001 Books to Read Before You Die Challenge

Now, although this is a new challenge and I'm signing up I'm not counting it in my alloted challenges because each year I try to read 30 books of the 1001 list, and participate with a group of readers over at bookcrossing who do something similar (in fact some of them aim for 50 or 100 books from the list a year!) But I saw that the 1001 challenge was being hosted at Pub Writes and signed up as I'm hoping other readers reviews will push me towards some of the books on the list I'm not aware of.
The challenge over on this blog is to have read between 5-16 books, I'm aiming for 40 as that is a doable amount, and making it harder I'm trying to spread my reading across the centuries. Here is a list I'd like to work through, those in bold I own.
21st century
1. The Red Queen, Margaret Drabble
2. Youth, J.M Coetzee
3. Adjunct: An Undigest, Peter Manson
4. Soldiers of Salamis, Javier Cercas
5. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
20th Century
6. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
7. Great Apes, Will Self
8. Cocaine Nights, JG Ballard
9. Written on the Body, Jenette Winterson
10. Jazz, Toni Morrison
11. Wild Swans, Jung Chang
12. Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord, Louis de Bernieres
13. A Disaffection, James Kelman
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
15. The Swimming Pool Diary, Alan Hollinghurst
16. Nervous Conditions, Tsisti Dangarmbga
17. Shindlers Ark, Thomas Keanally
18. The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch
19. Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon
20. Do Androids Dream of Sheep, Phillip K. Dick
21. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
22. Arrow of God, Chinua Achebe
23. The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa
24. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
25. A Kingdom of this World, Alejo Carpentier
26. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
27. All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
28. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
29. Orlando, Virginia Woolf
30. Amerika, Franz Kafka
31. The Forsythe Saga, John Galsworthy
32. Gabriella, Clove, Cinnamon, Jorge Amado
19th Century
33. Hunger, Knat Hamsum
34. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
35. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
35. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
36. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
18th Century +
37. Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe
38. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
39. Don Quixote, Migel da Cervantes Saavedra
40. Metamorphoses, Ovid
41, Aesop's Fables, Aesopus
42. The Tale of Genjii, Mueraski Shikibu
43. The Thousand and One Nights
44. Ooronoko, Aphra Behn

As you can see it is an ambiyios list but if managed I would lighten up a good few book shelves, as most of these books would be sent out through book crossing to find other readers.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The TBR Dare

C.B James has come up with a great idea, not a challenge but a dare to only read those books from mount tbr for a fixed duration of time. Here's what he says:
This is not a reading challenge. It's a dare.

I dare you to pledge you will read only the books in your TBR (To Be Read) stack for as long as you dare starting January 1, 2011.

One hour, one day, one book, one week, one month, or until the dare ends on April 1. (I never make open-ended New Year's Resolutions. Every goal should have a end date.)

There is a blog here with fuller details.

I reckon I could be strong enough to last out till April 1st if I can include bookrings that I'm already signed up to, as they are on my tbr pile just currently living at someones house. The hardest thing for me will be not reading library books, rather than not buying books.
But rather than setting a date I'm going to pledge to read 25 books from mount tbr, as this gives me a nice aim. Some of the books I'd like to tackle are listed below, I'm not writing a definitive list as I have Christmas and a *horrible* bithday arriving before the end of the year.
Recommendations from this list are welcome.
1. Greene, The Human Factor
2. Pamuk, My Name is Red
3. Coupland, Girlfriend in a Coma
4. Gaskell, North and South
5. Elliot, Adam Bede
6. Murakami, Wild Sheep Chase
7. Kafka, The Trial
8. Do Androids Dream of Sheep
9. Rynd, Anthem
10. Tomorrow: When the War Began
11. All Quiet on the Westen Front
12. Gilead
13. 39 Steps
14. Howards End
15. Driving Over Lemons
16. Krakatoa
17. Allende,Zorro
18. Murakami, Hard Boiled Wonderland
19. Faulks, Heart Song
20. Maidenhome

5 reasons why I .....BookCross

As you can see from yesterdays post I won't be finishing a book for a while so I thought I'd go for a different type of post.

I joined Bookcrossing in 2007 and have loved and participated in it ever since religiously. I thought I'd give a quick 5 reasons why I bookcross for anyone who has ever considered participating.

1. I'm a romantic - I love the idea of my books travelling person to person across the globe.
2. Bookrings - a bookring is when when one book gets passed from person to person, each person makes a jounal entry about their thoughts on the book. These allow me to here other readers views, and to try books very cheaply (I sent two bookrings onto the next person yesterday, costing me less than the price of my Burger King meal).
3. Chelmsford Bookcrossing Meet-Up - I've meet fellow book readers in the local area who I would never have met, although these women are vastly different from me in age - I'm the youngest by a good 15 years - its great to meet up with people who have a similar reading taste to you, and also just to have a chat with a different bunch of people once a month.
4. RABCKs/Random Acts of Bookcrossing Kindness - these are books that people send to you without expecting anything in return. Sometimes you've been offered a book off of your wishlist, requested a book or just arrive home to find a mysterious parcel with a book a fellow bookcrosser thinks you'll enjoy - either way getting a parcel is lovely, and opens up a new world of books.
5. Wildreleasing - wild releasing is when you leave books in public places for strangers to find. I've left many books that I've never heard back from - yes they may now be in a dustbin, but I hope they are in someones home. Some of the books I have left have been found read and then wild released. The strange thing is hearing where the person found the book as its often no where near where you left it. My most random discovery was a book left in London, found about 5 miles away on top of one of those short lamp posts, the lady then went and left it in Spain.

Yes its not for everyone, and actually many people choose not to use bookrings ect because of their personal preferences - I personally prefer to bookring or RABCK my book as I know they'll be going to a reader - but this is a great way to recycle books, keep your bookshelves lighter, and share your favourite reads.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

On a female kick

I keep starting new books, one book leading me to the next, before having finished anything! I went looking for a book for a Celebrating the Female Bookswop which I orgainised over at bookcrossing, but rather than just finding one to read and then post on I've managed to start three, and two of them non-fiction.
Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates a fictionalisation of Marilyn Monroe's life, I'm about 50 pages in and really enjoying it, though my edition is off putting - the book is super bending and super shiney and as large as a paperback so not all that easy to keep hold of, especially as my hands are all achey at the mo. Having to prop the book up with a cushion on my lap.
The Duchess by Amanda Foreman This is a biography of the Duchess of Devonshire, whose story was palyed out in a film by Kira Knightly a few years ago. I enjoyed the film and I'm enjoying the book, which at the moment is largely centred around her involvement in British politics and the medias damnation of her (nice to know the English press has always been so awful!)
And finally Anything but ordinary: The Nine Lives of Cecile by Cecile Dorward and Ron Davidson an autobiography that I am loving. I'm about 100 pages in, at the moment I'm reading about her marriage, but know that when her husband died she set off travelling the world despite being 60+, I'm really looking forward to those sections.

Other than reading I'm staying indoors hiding from the weather (a trip to the postoffice and library took 4 hours earlier, should have taken 2 as I was walking but the paths were slippy as could be), which is thawing out, and thus horrid and slushy. Cooking sausage caserole and having mulled fruit pie and custard with a friend, whilst we act as if we are way older than we are and stay in watching Strictly Come Dancing and X Factor - no wonder we're both single!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Being cooped up all day and feeling a bit restless I knew that if I was going to read it needed to be something light, and immediate. No lingering descriptions, social comments etc, so a YA book it was.
Shiver was sent to me last year by a fellow bookcrosser, I'd been looking out for the book at the time, but then I read lots of mixed reviews and its position on the tbr pile lowered. I'm glad that I finally got around to it.
Shiver, in the same vain as Twilight, has an ordinary, if slightly (apparently) shy and isolated teenage girl as a lead character, and a mythical (in this case a werewolf) love interest. As in Twilight the boyfriend should be a killer, a threat to the humans, yet he hates harm to humans and killing anything bigger than a rabbit distresses him. The couple have had a fascination with each other for years as the girl watches the wolf who once saved her from an attack, then they finally meet and their lives become entangled.
Yes, the story has that same intense teenage love to it that Twilight has, it has its sequels and you can kind of guess the outcome of the end of the novel way ahead of time, but it hit the right spots. The alternating narration, the inclusion of beautiful poetry by Rilke and the gorgeous coverwork all work in its favour, as does a plotline than moves along at a nice pace.
I will seek out the next book in the series, although not for a while yet. Was good to read some YA fiction, its been a while.

Snow Day Reading

I'm now on my third day off of school due to the snow, and as it is still snowing fairly hard I think I may be off again tomorrow! TYpical England! I'm liking being on and loving the snow but wish it would brighten up a little so I could get some decent pictures, the light is poor so the few picures I took turned out boring.
I've used my time to create a scrapbooking page - something I haven't done in ages, waste tons of time on the net and two read two books.

The Celestial Omnibus by E.M Forster which I thought was a novella, but then discovered was a collection of short stories, so not applicable for the novella challenge. I dipped in and out of the collection this morning and have to say that out of the 6 stories I loved four of them, gave up on one and skimmed through the last.
The stories all feature mystical worlds or happenings, with a heavenly feel to them. 'The Other Side of the Hedge' is a lovely little story about the race that life is and its end. My other favourite was 'The Celestial Omnibus' about a young boy with horrid parents who travels on a magiacal omnibus up to a world filled with authors and characters from novels, poems and mythology.

I also sat down and read 'The Magician's Nephew' by C.S Lewis which will be able to count for the November (I'm a few days late) Novella Challenge. I have the Chronicles of Narnia in one big book, and I'm hoping to tackle one story a week, and then move on to other children's classics that I somehow missed.
I have read this before and enjoyed it just as much this time. I love the idea of the yellow and green rings, the world of Narnia and when the animals plant the Uncle thinking he is a tree.

I've been told I'm expected to complete work at home today, so I should really tackle the stack of homework sat on the stairs. I'm also planing on reading Shiver by Maggie Stievater a book that I saw reviewed on lots of blogs last year, the wintery weather certainly feels like the perfect time for a wolf novel.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

My resolve is weakening...

Ok, last month I said that I would only join in in three challenges at a time but then I saw the Caribbean Writers Challenge here and my resolution went out of the window.
I read several Caribbean books last year and loved them, so this is a chance to discover some new authors. And, making myself feel better, in my 11 in 11 challenge there is a Carribean section so I would be reading books from these islands a day - this challenge is simply broadening my reading habits.
The Goal: To read either 1 Caribbean book a month (totaling 12) or 1 Caribbean novel every other month (totaling 6) between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011. There is a mix of novels and fiction as well as collections of short stories and poetry so if you are not particularly enthused about any of these I would suggest the 6 books, that way you can read all the novels.

The Books:
January: The Duppy – Anthony C. Winkler (Novel) READ
February: The Journey to Le Repentir – Mark McWatt (Collection of poems that follow a story)
March: The Dragon Can’t Dance – Earl Lovelace (Novel)
April: Tiepolo’s Hound – Derek Walcott (Poems)
May: A Morning at the Office – Edgar Mittelholzer (Novel)
June: Limestone: An Epic Poem of Barbados – Anthony Kellman (Series of poems)
July: He Drown She in the Sea – Shani Mootoo (Novel)
August: The Mimic Men – V.S.Naipaul (Poetry)
September: Tide Running – Oonya Kempadoo (Novel)
October: The Polished Hoe – Austin Clarke (Novel)
November: Suspended Sentences – Mark McWatt (Short stories that make up a novel, this is up for debate)
December: Still choosing but open to suggestions! (Will be poetry of some kind)

I'm only signing up to read 6 at the moment, one because I'm trying not to buy many books so this will rely on whats available in the library or how cheap I can get them on amazon.
The Challenge has changed slightly and we can now read any Carribean lit that we are interested in, I will be using the above list as a guide but also relying on what I have to hand or available in the public library.

Madame Bovary

I woke us this morning to a world covered in gorgeous white snow, and being a teacher and living in a country where snow causes massive panic as it happens rarely we were given the day off, and as it's snowed all day we also get tomorrow off :) I finished Madame Bovary and went to see Harry Potter, now just waiting for my legs and butt to thaw out after a 2 mile walk home from town.

Madame Bovary is a reread, something I do rarely, as I'm reading it as part of a book group that may or may not meet Thursday, weather permitting. I read this many years ago, I think way back when I was in university and had little memory of it so it was like reading a new book.
For those of you who haven't read it Madame Bovary is Emma, a young, fairly poor but beautiful girl who jumps at the chance to marry an older, unattractive doctor. Whilst he adores her as a possession, she merely puts up with him for the position he offers her in society. Over the course of the book she falls in 'love' with a series of men. These men vary in social position, from a prince regent, to a trainee lawyer to a rich local man. The men form for her an obsession, a way to escape from the monotony of every day life and the desire to feel wanted. Just as she is a possession for her husband, these men are a possession for her, something to cling to, look forward to and satisfy a small part of an unsatifying life.
Alongside her various relationships she also accumulates vast debts through her desire to have the latest clothes, objects and furniture, like the men she thinks these goods will make her happy.
Emma is a character that you are meant to dislike, we watch her downfall, gradually watching her sink further and further into her own problems, the main attraction is just how and if she can get herself from her self made problems. I'm not sure if we are meant to feel sympathy for her or her husband, I found them both shallow and dislikeable.
I'm sure the book will spark many discussion points

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Three Reviews

I have a new laptop and internet connection! Yay! I can now keep up with blogging, bloggers and all the other stuff that we rely on on the web.
Now a quick confession - I won't be able to finish the November Novella challenge on time, I have a couple more books to read, but won't have time to finish them this week as I have a bookgroup read that I have to finish as its the first book we're reading in a new group. However I hope to be finished the novellas by next week.

Now, I've finished three books in the last week so I'm going to do a quick round up of all three here then I'll be up-to-date with my blogging.

The Return of the Water Spirit by Pepetela

This teeny book (100 pages) from the African Writers series is rich in political, social and spiritual comment.Carmina and Jaoa live a spiritless life, shunned by his parents for their lack of religion she strives for power and money in the world of politics and trading. While he stays home playing Civilization on his computer. Around them the world is falling down, buildings collapse one-by-one, despite housing so many people the buildings drift to the ground, the people in them unharmed. A local girl, living close to a lagoon which has formed in the area, hears a deep music which gains in happiness and momentum as more buildings fall.
A good little read, although the symbols and infered meaning are very obvious and not skillfully placed.

A Man Without a Country - Kurt Vonnegut
For the 11 in 11 challenge over at library thing one of my sections to select books from is about reading more of authors that you have enjoyed previously and need to rediscover. I saw this memoir in the library and grabbed it as my first read from this section, I will probably read another Vonnegut fiction in the next year, but it was good to read something from the author.
Written in 2004 Vonnegut gives us his views on the world around him in a series of short commentaries. He writes about eveything from the First and Second World Wars to modern technology to George W Bush. He mangagrs to make many good, serious points whilst still keeping a light and readable tone.
My favourite part was when he explained why life should be enjoyed by 'farting about', taking long trips to buy a single envelope and then a single stamp for the pleasure of the trip and the conversations around you.

The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud
Inspired by Vivienne's post I grabbed this from the library, and then wallowed in it all of last Sunday, when I curled up with it and a blanket.
Charlie at 15 caused the death of his brother Sam, in his final moments he promised his brother that he wouldn't leave him and never has. Meeting every evening, the pair play catch and live in the moment before their lives were taken away.
Everything changes when one day the beautiful Tess arrives in the graveyard and Charlie has to decide between living in the past or moving on.
Yes, it's corny. Yes, you've read books like it before. And, yes you can guess the ending just from what I've written above. But it's like a blanket, something to snuggle up with on a lazy, grey Sunday afternoon.
This also counts as an 11 in 11 challenge book as one of my categories is reads inspied by others.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

A post of possibilities

Having had a rather bad reading week I was wondering what to post this week. Yesterday I finished Hannah Tinti's The Good Thief, which was full of potential but never grabbed me in the slightest and forced myself to read The Castle of Otranto -afterall it is just 115 pages long (and a book I said I'd read for the November Novella Challenge) - I struggled through the stupidly long (3 pages) paragraphs and chance happenings in despair. Thankfully this morning things are looking up: I started and feasted on the first 100 pages of The Life and Death of Charlie St. Cloud and I saw all the new challenges posted over at A Novel Challenge.
Now my rule for next year was no more than three challenges at a time, and many of these look so tempting! I have already signed up for The Dysopian Challenge, and the 11 in 11 challenge over on Librarything, so I'm going to pick one and just keep a note here of all the ones which seem appealing and which I could manage within my tbr stacks. This way I have a place to refer back to when I've ticked a challenge off the list.

Challenges I'm interested in:
Quirky Brown Reading Challenge
South Asian Author Challenge
Victorian Challenge
YA Historical Fiction
Read a Myth
Nordic Challenge
Person of Colour Reading Challenge
Eastern European Reading ChallengeShared/Suggested/Read-a-long reads (I may participate or just use these as potential finds):
The 2011 Wolves Reading Event Who are reading from this schedule:
January (EL Fay): The Bread Givers, by Anzia Yezierska
February (Emily): Our Horses in Egypt by Rosalind Belben
March (Richard): Conversation in the Cathedral, by Mario Vargas Llosa
April (Sarah): The Dodecahedron, or Frames for a Frame, by Paul Glennon
May (Frances): What Ever Happened to Modernism?, by Gabriel Josipovici
June (Claire): The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz
July (EL Fay): Snow, by Orhan Pamuk
August (Frances): The End of the Story, by Lydia Davis
September (Richard): The Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar
October (Sarah): House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski
November (Emily): The Planetarium, by Nathalie Sarraute
December (Claire): Buying a Fishing Rod for my Grandfather, by Xingjian Gao

A year of Feminist Classics Reading Project who will be reading:
January: A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollestonecraft - Amy
February: The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor Mill - Ana
March: A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen - Emily
April: Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman - Iris
May: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf - Ana
June: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan OR The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer – Amy
July: The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir - Iris
August: The Women’s Room by Marilyn French - Emily
September: The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf - Amy
October: Ain’t I a Woman? by bell hooks - Iris
November: Gender Trouble by Judith Butler - Ana
December: Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde - Emily

The Challenge I'm starting the year with:
Back to the classics, I choose this one because as soon as I saw that you had to read one book for each of the following:
A Banned Book
A Book with a Wartime Setting (can be any war)
A Pulitzer Prize (Fiction) Winner or Runner Up: a list can be found here
A Children's/Young Adult Classic
19th Century Classic
20th Century Classic
A Book you think should be considered a 21st Century Classic
Re-Read a book from your High School/College Classes

My mind raced to think of the books I have on the tbr pile that could be used to complete this challenge.

I'm sure that these lists will grow and grow as they usually do in the lead up to the end of the year. I like the idea of joining in with one of the lower levels of participation 3-4 books and having a themed month of reading but also being able to weed those books out of the bookstacks that wouldn't have got a look in otherwise.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates

I had see and quite enjoyed this movie a couple of years ago so when I was offered the book I thought ‘why not’. For those who haven’t seen the film he story is set in 1950s Connecticut amongst the new pastel box houses and pastel box cars. Frank and April Wheeler, the ideal American family on the surface live, look down on this cereal box style society. Beneath their idealism lies deceit, past regrets, emotional imbalance, unfaithfulness, hate, hurt and love.
Sounds like a fairly typical read but Yates style struck me almost like that of a voice over on a nature show. There was a stylised distance so that you felt like you watching this couple from both afar and at an intimate level.
Neither character is appealing, in fact every character –even the kids – are unappealing, annoying and stereotypes. He spends too long focused on how others see him, trying to appear laidback and like he’s just passing time till something better comes along. She, an emotional childish wreck, taken to telling her husband that she hates him, blames everything on her childhood. I’m looking forward to reading more of Yates.
Have any of you read his works? Do you like reading novels of films you have seen?

Novella Challenge Reads

I managed to tick off three of my novella reads last week, here are all three reviews in one post to save numeous posts.

The Epic of Gilgamesh (Penguin Epics)
The third millennium BC story was found carved into stone and is believed to be one of the oldest surviving epic poems.
Written in prose style it tells the story of Gilgamesh a man born so strong his town sought out a companion for him to equal him in strength. When Uruk is discovered the battle against the threats to the town, including a mighty dragon, are undertaken.
At Uruk’s death Gilgamesh becomes afraid of death and goes in search of everlasting life. His journey into death is beautifully told employing the repetition of the ballad form. A good way to spend an hour’s reading time.

The Last Will and Testament if Senhor da Silva Araujo – Germano Almeida
Last year I was trying to focus on reading my way around the world (I didn’t get far) and went in search of a book from Cape Verde as I wanted to read about parts of Africa I knew little of. This was the only novel that I could find that had been translated into English.
Araujo leaves behind a 384 page will which reveals that he isn’t the quiet retiring man that everyone thought he was. With an illegitimate child, numerous love affairs and his transgression from poverty to wealth his life is gradually revealed. This was an interesting way to tell the story of a man’s life. You get his accounts, left only to be read once he is dead, and the accounts of those that experienced these events with him – remembering the story from a completely different perspective.

Do you have any recommendations for the smaller or less translated African states?

We Always Lived at the Castle
This read was inspired by Chris' post here, and I loved this book just as I've enjoyed many of the books he's reviewed.
Merricat and Constance are the gossip of the village after their parents and young brother are poisoned at home with arsenic in the sugar. Costance, in charge of the cooking was tried and aquited for murder. Since they returned to their old house they have been shunned, gossiped about and watched by those who used to look up to this wealthy family.
The tale is mainly based in the castle and shows the sisters loving relationship, the tasks they do to keep the home and Merricat's the younger sisters adventures. Life changes when Cousin Charles, a man with ulterior motives, comes to stay. He plays nice to Constance but picks out the rebellious younger sister.
It soon becomes clear who the murderer was and that Charles stay at the house is not welcome.
I really enjoyed this book and will certainly be looking out for my own copy and more of Shirley Jackson's work. A big recommendation for anyone completing the novella challenge

Sunday, 14 November 2010

2666 - Roberto Bolano

Roberto Bolano died before the publication of this book, his last wish was that this book waaas published as 5 separate books, hopefully providing money for his children - his publishers decided that it was best to publis this all as one volume.
I'm going to talk about each section separately as in some cases their is little link between the sections.
The Part About the Critics
Four critics from different parts of Europe separately stumble upon the work of a little known author Archimaboldi, three of them work to translate his works into thier own language , and set out writing about his works. Their attention moves this little known author into a recongnisable laterary name.
This section is about their relationship with each other (three men and one woman = an inevitable literary love triangle); their search for the author who seems invisible and their interest in the painter Elliot Johns who chopped off his own hand in the name of art.
The short sections (2/3 of a page) give us glimpses of events over the years culminating in a trip to Chile on a tip off that the author is there.

The Part about Amalfitano
This teeny section is only 60 pages in length and focuses on the life of the Latin American professor that the four critics o0f the earlier section met on their trip to Chile.
His life is shown to us through snapshot moments, interspersed with accounts of letters from his wife that she sent to him after she left (she fell in love with a poet she'd never met and went in search of him). We also have Amilfatino's explaanation of why he has a work of geometry hanging from his washing line.
These sections, especially thouse accounting his wife's travels and explorations are longer but start to feature some of the magic realism Latin American fiction is famous for.

The Part about Fate
Oscar Fate is a New York reporter having aa bad week, first his mother dies then he is sent to interview a boxer-turned writer-turned preacher. Then off to Mexica to report on a boxing match which ends up with him mixed up in the Mexican underworld. This section features the daughter of the professor from the previous section. The focus has moved from literature to philosophy and now to crime.

The Part about the Crimes.
A huge section focused on a police investigation (lack of investigation) into the numerous murders and serial killing of women in a town in Mexico.
A large number of female killings are dealt with - after about the 50th grisly and graphic descriptions I ended up skipping these. The rest of the section is focused on some of the police, criminals, and a psychic lady who believes she can see the murders.
This section was far too long and tedious. Thankfully the next section saved the book.

The Part about Archimbaldi
This section starts with a young boy desparate to live at the bottom of the sea and follows him through his many jobs, life in the army, his love for a mad girl abd finally his transformation into Benno von Archibaldi - the author searched for in the first section. We learn why he is an enigma.

As a whole I enjoyed this book although this fourth section really let it down. Each section had some link to a previous section, but like other books like this I really wanted to go back and discover the rest of the srtory of some of the characters - a mamouth feast.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Buenas Noches, Buenos Aires - Gilbert ADAIR

This is my first read for the Novella Challenge, and was a nice break from reading the monsterous 2666.
With a pink flower, and pair of succulent lips on the front cover I certainly ended up with a story I wasn't expecting (I brought this for about 20p when Borders shut down - probably never reading the synopsis).
Gideon moves from Britain to France seeking a place to be free and find himself. An awkward soul , his homosexuality is hard to accept and experiment with. He begins work in a language school where he gets to know lots of gay men and is introduced into the gay community, but his desires seem only that until the Aids epedemic breaks out.
This novella would have been great for the GLBT challenge. Gideon's feelings, reactions and desires spill out of the page in this memoir style novel, leaving the reader unsure how to take his final claim. Certainly not a book for everyone, but a brave book to have written.

Monday, 25 October 2010


I've been away for a long long time, my home computer died and life got complicated. I'm still computerless at home but can use the internet at work or in the public library. I'm really missing some aspects of blogging and the blogging world so trying to come back into it, even if only on a limited basis. I'm whittling down my googlereader to just a handful of blogs, and joining a few challenges.

I'm trying to spend the next year attacking the TBR pile - which is my biggest challenge as there are 450 unread books on it (I know as I counted and listed them all to shame myself). I'm going to limit myself to 2 challenges at a time, and the majority of the books I read for that challenge must come from the TBR pile or be books that I've always meant to read. This also means that I will have more time to comment and visit other bloggers following the same challenge. Any old challenges that I was signed up for I have abandoned, as all my lists were saved on the computer, which I couldn't access.

Challenges I'm participating in
The Novella Challenge (Nov 1st - Nov 30th)

This challenge will be a great way to tackle the TBR stacks, I've chosen level 3 which is to read 8 novellas. These are all from my TBR pile:
A Wilshire Diary
The Last Will & Testament of Senhor da Silva Araujo
The Epic of Gigamesh
Buenas Noches, Buenos Aires
Iron, Nickel, Potasium
The Celestial Omnibus
The Castle of Otranto
Tirra Lirra by the River

Dystopia Challenge (Jan - Dec 2011)
I love this genre and have enjoyed many dystopian novels in the past, particularly YA fiction, which seems to fit this genre really well. I'm joining at the Asocial level (5 books), I've listed 6 which my reads will come from this gives me space to abandon one if I hate it.

The Trial, Kafka
Do Androids Dream of Sheep
Tomorrow: When the War Began
Brave New World
Farenheit 451

Monday, 3 May 2010

1001 Books to Read Before You Die + If on a winter's night a traveller

Last night I finished another 1001 book from the list, this leaves me having read 210 books from the list of what has now become over 1300 books (they update,add in and take away books every two years). Do I plan to read them all? No.
So why use the list I hear you ask. I love the list for one reason, and that is recommendations. I know there are books on there I will never pick up, like Ian Fleming's Casino Royale; books which even if I did pick up I'd never be able to complete like James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake and lots of books I've started, given up and never plan to go back to. But the list acts as a reminder of all those books I've always meant to read, of those authors I've read, loved and meant to go and discover more of, and also introduces books and authors I would never have discovered before.
In the last year I've read the fantastic Movern Callar by Alan Warner, Amok by Stefan Zweig, Tales from Firozsha Baag by Rohinton Mistry all of which I had never heard of and would probably never have came into contact with if it hadn't been for the list. And I've read books off the TBR pile which had been sat there through numerous years and house moves.
Do you use the 1001 Books to read before you die list? Why?

Last night I finished my 11th book this year from the list, If on a winter's night a traveller, I seem to be accuring strange books from the list at the moment (Movern Callar was my last and Blood and Guts in High School is coming up).
As with Movern Callar I have no real idea how to review this book, to try and make it comprehensible I'm going to do it as a question and answer review.

What is the general plot line of this book?
'The Reader' goes into a shop and buys a book called 'If on a winter's night a traveler', when he returns home he settles in to read the first and after loving the first chapter he discovers the book has been misprinted and it simply repeats the first chapter over and over.
On returning the book to the shop, he meets 'The Other Reader' who had had the same problem. They then procure numerous books and manuscripts each one promising to be a different book.
What is the style of the book?
The book is written in alernate chapters, every odd chapter is about 'The Reader' and 'The Other Reader' quest to find a complete book to settle down with. These chapter are written in second person. At the beginning this seemed to describe how I would analyse a book, relax to read etc as it should but as the story moved on 'The Reader' became a definite character.
The even chapters are all the first chapters that the Readers are given along the way, these are in different styles and genres. This part of the book is apparently the inspiration for David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas
What did you like/love about the book?
The first chapter I absolutely fell in love with, writter in second person he describes the process of going to buy a book:
"In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricades of Books You Haven't Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn't Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To That Category Of Books Read Before Being Written."

and also the process of sitting down and finding a comfortable place to start a new book. I would say that every avid reader, even if they don't plan to read the whole book (and it cerainly isn't to everyone's taste) should read this first chapter.
What did you dislike/hate about the book?
I certainly didn't hate anything about the book, but I found that after a while the different openings of books started to annoy me. I wanted to discover more about The Reader and The Other Reader, rather than the beginnning of another strange story - especially the ones that I'd have liked to know what happened next!
Would you recommend this to a friend?
I can't think of many of my real life friends who would like this disjointed style, but for readers who enjoy postmodern fiction, who are happy to not follow a trail of a story, and can appreciate a book for its style this is for them.

Monday, 26 April 2010

My Thoughts: Morvern Callar by Alan Warner

I'm going to start this with an apology, this post will be a shambles as I have no idea how to review this book!
Morvern Callar is a 21 year old, stuck in a dead end job, in a dead end town, with a dead boyfriend on her hands. After discovering the suicide of her boyfriend rather than reporting the incident to the police Morvern parties the nights away. Eventually hiding her boyfriends body in the attic she sneaks into his bank account using his cash for a 18-30s holiday for her and a friend and then also gets his novel published in her name.
It doesn't sound great and certainly didn't sound like my type of book but I loved it. Morvern was a strange creature, but alluring all the same. You somehow seep into her world, while wanting to be as distant from its bleakness as you possibly can be.

All I can say is read it! Thats my 10th 1001 book so far this year - probably about the only reading challenge I'm managing to keep up with!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Sunday Salon: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I've avoided Sherlock Holmes my whole life, the books seemed like something I wouldn't enjoy. Then during my teacher training a rather boring teacher who I had to shadow (he wouldn't let me teach his classes like I was supposed to) read to the kids some of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and boy did he kill them! Earlier in the year I went and saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie and loved it, so braved picking up one of the books.

The Hound of the Baskervilles starts with a mysterious 'death' on Dartmoor; a gorgeously barren piece of wilderness, with wild ponies, sheeps and fog that can descend and leave you lost in a matter of hours. With a heavy inheritance up for grab and a mythical hound in the families history Shelock Holmes picks up the scent of foul play and sends Watson off to investigate.

I enjoyed the story, it was an easy comfort read, and I'll be checking out some of the other novels in the near future.

Monday, 19 April 2010

My Thoughts: Inner Circle by T.C Boyle

Inner Circle was a strange read, with a strange subject. John Milk, a 'sex researcher' sits down on the day of Professor Kinsley's, the founder of the Sex Institute, funeral and starts writing about the time that he knew him. Milk covers everything from the first lecture that he attended of the Professor, to their research, personal life and sex life, and it is all so finely intwinned its like a trap.
Milk was an typically innocent student on the day he first saw the professor lecture on the subjet of sex and offered himself up for an interview about his sex life (fairly minimal, as a student in the 1930s). Soon after the professor offers him a job and he soon finds himself living his life through the research he does. The researchers want to bring to the public knowlegde and statistics about sex in order to make it a less taboo subject. They interview, study and watch people and believe that sex in simply a chemical reaction. They believe this so strongly that Milk is soon sleeping with both the professor and his wife, and when he gets married his wife is quickly expected to accept and participate in an open relationship.
This novel was a strange one, at times I wanted to scream at John Milk as he was manipulated by the professor he adored, as was everyone else around him. The story was good, the scenarios strange and in one or two places not to my liking.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The Sunday Salon: Carry a poem

Way up in Edinburgh, Scotland they have been given the title 'City of Literature', a recognition of the literature which is created from this base. They hold many events over the year to celebrate, spread and encourage the love of literature.
Carry a poem is a campaign to get people reading poetry. They have given away a free booklet packed with people's stories about the poems that they carry around with them and their reasons for it. Some of these poems are memorised, some tucked away on a piece of paper in their wallet, some tatooed onto them and some listened to on an ipod.
I recieved this book as a bookring (it will travel from reader to reader), and it was a great little read. I didn't like all the poems - to much Robert Burns for me! But there were several which were touching and a few that I will jot down before this leaves me. Each member of the bookring also sends along a few lines of their favourite poem with the book so the little collection grows. I chose to copy out one of my favourite poems 'In a Station of the Metro' by Ezra Pound.

What poem would you chose to include?

Recieving this book in the post reminds me that I'm supposed to be reading poetry for the Clover, Bee and Reverie challenge, I'm not sure why I find poetry so difficult to make into a reading habit. Both poetry and non-fiction I enjoy as I'm reading but a novel will always get picked up before a poem. I'm going to dig out a few poetry books and try and get back into the swing of things again - one day it may become a natural impulse.

Do you read poetry? If not why not?

And I'll just leave you with a reading by Simon Armitage one of the poets who I have only a year left of teaching. His poems always resonate with the kids as their often (in our selection) about the struggle between the parent child relationship, and they sit fantastically next to Carol Ann Duffy.

At the back of this book are some links poetry lovers might like to discover, The Scottish Poetry Library, and The Reading Rooms it has poems, podcasts and much more to discover. Also the Poetry Foundation website looks fab and jam packed.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

My Thoughts: Flight by Sherman Alexie

Sorry for the doouble post today, I won't be around tomorrow and already know what I want to write about Saturday and Sunday.

Last year I listened to The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian and loved it, I've seen lots of people on the blogosphere reading Alexie recently which reminded me that I had meant to check out more of his stuff. So off I went to the library catelogue and managed to grab an audiobook and a collection of short stories (hopefully I'll get to read those next week).
Flight was a great audiobook, as it was only 4 hours long so could be listened to easily in the space of a week. The story of Flight is so different from anything I've read before. Zits is an orphaned part-Indian-part-Irish teenager. Since his father aandoned him at birth and his mother died of breast cancer he has been in and out of foster homes and sheltered accomodation. Having been abused, neglected and ignored he gives up on life never giving any home he is placed in a chance. An alchoholic and drug taker at just 15 years old he is in constant trouble with the police.
It is at the point of an arrest that his life changes. Meeting Justice, a fellow teen, in a police cell Zits finally feels that he has a friend and belongs somewhere. Justice, clever with words and packed full of knowledge, convinces him to hold up a bank. As Zits walks into the bank and holds up the gun he suddenly spins out of this world, he time travels through various points in the past changing his view of himself and others.
This was a great YA read, a search for identity and a home, but it is filled with bad (and I mean bad) language which makes me wonder what age it would be aimed at. In one sense I could see my 13 year olds at school reading it, but then I'm not sure how many parents would approve of the language. Saying that many of them listen to rap and watch 18 movies so maybe I'm just showing y teacherly side :)

My Thoughts: Ash by Malinda Lo

My final review of my 24 hour read-a-thon. Ash was the final read of the read-a-thon and it was perfect for this, as it was fast paced, a light read and had a nice clear big text.

Ash is a retelling of the Cinderella story, with a fairy twist. The novel starts with Ash at the burial of her mother: a lover of fairy tales, a follower of mythical beings and rituals. Living here she is surrounded by people with mythical beliefs, rituals and spells, yet she is quickly moved away from this world when her sceptical father marries a new woman.
As with the fairytale, as soon as her father dies Ash becomes the servant of the family. She escapes one night finding a magical path which leads her to her mothers grave, she begs a magical man to take her to her mother, he refuses and takes her back home. Night after night she escapes into the coutryside around her meeting other mythical creatures but always returning home to a life of drudgery.
The twist in the fairytale comes when Ash meets the Kings hunter, a fiesty woman who steals her days to teach her how to ride and hunt. The story then follows the normal lines of the fairytale but with a deviation from the traditional ending.

I love the English cover shown above, but think the US cover is absolutely gorgeous (below).

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

My Thoughts: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

There is one thing you need to understand about this book early on, the title is a deception. Gertrude Stein used this book to write an autobioraphy of herself as seen through someone elses eye. Strange, huh?
This autobiography is principly based in France, where the American Stein spent most of her adult life. She mingles with artists, writers, poets and other people of importance and nearly every page has 3 or 4 name drops. For the most part she hangs around in Picasso's artelier where other artists visit in the evening, exchanging news, gossip and work. She also buys up a lot of art and talks about the books she has written.
I found this book a strange one to get into, it often seemed like a list of events and meetings, with very few feelings or descriptions thrown into the mix. Once we arrived at the war period in the book things had picked up and it was a it more exciting but in general I found I was indiffernt to much of what she had written.
Having wrote my dissertation on T.S Eliot's 'The Wasteland' and cubism/futurism and the way that they mirrored the collapsing society of the time (Industrialism, the death of God, Darwinism, the move away from the extended family, tinned food, the media, photography etc) I was familiar with the names of a lot of the lesser known artists and could picture some of the art that she brought or viewed. If this hadn't been the case I think I would have struggled more. I was put off her even more (I disliked her from the moment she declared that she and Picasso where two of the only geniuses/genui(sp?) of the period) when she slated T.S Eliot and the fell out with Ezra Pound, two of my favourite poets of that time.
I'm including this for the Women Unbound challenge, because although I disliked her her strength of character, her sense of equality and power as a woman in her circles makes her a feminist of her time.

My Thoughts: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I've been reading about this book for ages in the blogging world, and finally got aroung to reading it during the 24 hour read-a-thon (I came across 4 other bloggers reading this for the read-a-thon as well).

The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian world consisting of 13 states, a long time in the past the states all went to war and misery and destruction fled through the area. The states all now exist seperately, each one varying in wealth, living conditions and the field of work. Once a year the states are joined when the Hunger Games start. The Hunger Games selects 2 teenagers from each state to battle it out - till only one is left alive - for glory. In the richer states the teenagers are trained and glamourised in their pursuit of being in the Games, whereas in the poorer areas being selected for the Games is seen as a path to death.

Our heroine is of course from the poorer regions, so we're fighting for the under-dog, something us English love. She, and her male partner should fight against each other, after all only one can survive, but as with any novel of this type their lives are entwined.

The ending shone out to me as soon as the selections for the Games had been completed, but like many books and films it is the getting to the end that is the exciting bit. I enjoyed this book a lot, the pace was good, the characters interesting and the Games kept throwing in the unexpected. It wasn't brilliantly written, but like Twilight great writing wasn't what was needed as the plot took over. I've reserved the next book in the triology from the library as I'm only allowed to buy one book between now and my Cambodian trip (Monster's of Men by Patrick Ness). I'm going to have to start taking the book buying ban seriously as I not only have the whole holiday to Cambodia and Vietnam to pay for but also spending money for school trips to New York and China early next year, plus whatever next years 5 week holiday is (poss Australia or Sri Lanka).

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

My Thoughts: Tales from Firozsha Baag by Rohinton Mistry

This is my third Rohinton Mistry read and I loved them all so far, yes they're certainly not cheery but they're are so well written and constructed that you can appreciate the beauty of the situations.
This is a much shorter output than some of his other work. Tales from Firozsha Baag is actually a collection of short stories all based on the lives of people livng in an apartment block. Unlike with most short story collections I read this one straight through as their was so many links that the stories blended together in a good way.
The stories, based in India, feature many elements you find in lots of Indian stories - families struggling together, neighbourly jealousy, the story tellers, parents aspirations for their children and children migrating and forgetting their families. But he does it really well. Despite being short stories based on different families each character and situation quickly came to life.
A great read, especially if you want an introduction to this fantastic author.

Monday, 12 April 2010

My Thoughts: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

I first discovered Margaret Atwood when I was 17. I had to read A Handmaid's Tale for my A Levels along with 4 other pieces of protest literature (The Colour Purple, 1984, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest), it was this course which changed my degree choice from Law (I wanted to be a Legal Secretary specialising in family law) to English Literature, I can't imagine how my like would have turned out! As soon as read The Handmaid's Tale I went out and brought a stack of Margaret Atwood books which I've gradually read over the (12 -ouch!) years, I still have The Robber Bride to go.

Alias Grace is a fictionalised novel based on a real murderess Grace Marks, she was widely famous in Canada in the early 19th century being charged with 2 counts of murder at just 16. Alias Grace is a mismatch of narratives and writing regarding this women and those she came into contact with. The main proportion of the story are Grace's story to her Doctor, Dr Jordan. Claiming to be unable to recount the murders she details her life from him, from the journey from Canada to England, the methods of bleaching clothes and the details of her acquintances downfalls - she is certainly an unreliable narrator. Being shown her wondering what to tell Dr Jordan and how to phrase her story allows us to feel, but also know, that we are in the same position as he is, we are being fed a story - which elements are true or not we shall not discover.

The novel is also interspersed with Dr Jordan's complicated life, his desires for every woman he see's, his correspondence with his pushy mother, his friends and work collegues. As well as newspaper cuttings, quotations from Grace Marks' biographer, pshycoanalysists and poets who wrote about her.

Threaded throughout the story are refernced to patchwork quilts and their various patterns, especially those ones which turned one way show one image but looked at from a different viewpoint show a whole new picture. That is what this story is like, as a reader we sometimes feel she is guilty as sin, sometimes we believe her spiritual version of the murders and at other points her coyness leads us to believe she is just an innocent caught up in a crime. Well worth a read.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Read-a-thon Hour 24 and I'm finished

Time spent reading: 14 hour and 25 mins
Pages Read: 1174
Books Completed: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (I had started this previous to the read-a-thon), Tales from Firozsha Bagg by Rohinton Mistry, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Ash by Malinda Lo.

As the final hour of the read-a-thon begins I have finished my final book, Ash, a retelling of the Cinderella story. Rather than start a new book I've decided to go and cheer on some of the other readers. I'll be back at some point this evening with a Sunday Salon. Each of the books I finished was great and each will be getting its own review which I'll be writing up in the days to come.

The End of Event Meme:
1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
Randomly the first couple of hours when I was feeling really restless.
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Ash by Malinda Lo and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Both great reads, nice sized font and well paced, exactly what's required for a long reading spell.
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
It didn't seem to be advertised as much this year, I din't see the buzz surrounding it that I have on previous years - although that maybe because I don't use twitter, I get the feeling from the blogs I visited that that was the place to be.
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
As of the other years that I have participated the updates on the blogs are always great as they keep you linked to the rest of the community.
5. How many books did you read?
I read 3 full books and finished another one.
6. What were the names of the books you read?
See the top of my post.
7. Which book did you enjoy most?
Probably The Hunger Games, which was great as I brought it ages ago and kept putting it off so I could read it for the read-a-thon
8. Which did you enjoy least?
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? Not a cheerleader this year, I did this last time and had problems opening some of the blogs, this may just be my computer it is old and well used.
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I'm very likely to participate again, I think again I would just be a reader but this time I will check out more bloggers who are participating and add them to my google reader. A lot of the blogs I read who have participated in the past weren't involved this year so I didn't have many posts to comment on.
I'm looking forward to getting outside for a while as today is another beautifully warm and sunny day.

Read-a-thon Hour 20: Another Book Read

Time spent reading: 11 hour and 15 mins
Pages Read: 883
Books Completed: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (I had started this previous to the read-a-thon), Tales from Firozsha Bagg by Rohinton Mistry, The Hunger Games
Current Book: Not sure what to go for next '~'?

With hour 20 about to begin I'm off for a bath so I can feel more alive. Just finished The Hunger Games, an amazing read certainly one I'll be recommending in the future. I now want the second one, but may have to wait for a copy from the library as I'm on a book buying ban - I have a 5 week holiday to save for!

It seems awfully quiet around here, the people I follow on Google Reader who normally participate aren't joining in this time and there haven't been any cheerleading visits in ages in this part of town :(

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Read-a-thon: Back and playing

It's twenty past five in the morning here, my alarm went off at half four but as I hadn't managed to fall into more than a slumber it took a while for me to get out of bed. I've read for the last 20mins while my computer has messed around with random messages and had to be rebooted - every read-a-thon it goes strange!
I'll quickly be checking Google Reader, sending a few messages then I'm back reading again.

Read-a-thon Hour 12: Off to bed

Time spent reading: 8 hour and 40 mins
Pages Read: 630
Books Completed: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (I had started this previous to the read-a-thon), Tales from Firozsha Bagg by Rohinton Mistry
Current Book: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, 251 pages in and loving it

This year I decided to try a different method, rather than stay up till I'm completely shattered I'm going to bed now as I'm tired and its about the time I'd normally go to sleep. I'm setting my alarm for half four, giving me four hours sleep. Hopefully I'll then be able to read to the end.
Just hoping I'm not going to dream that I'm part of The Hunger Games!
Night x

Read-a-thon Hour 8

Time spent reading: 5 hour and 35 mins
Pages Read: 379
Books Completed: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (I had started this previous to the read-a-thon), Tales from Firozsha Bagg by Rohinton Mistry

Current Book: About to start The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Listening to: Starsailor and Toykyo Police Club

Another 1001 book ticked off of the list - Tales from Firozsha Baag, a mix of intertwined stories from the lives of people all living in one appartment block. As I'm reading easily at the moment I'm rushing straight back into it, and delving into The Hunger Games which I've been savouring for this read-a-thon.

Read-a-thon Hour 6 and I have my mojo back

Time spent reading: 3 hour and 17 mins
Pages Read: 217
Books Completed: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (I had started this previous to the read-a-thon)
Current Book: Tales from Firozsha Bagg by Rohinton Mistry
Listening to: Nothing at the moment

Escaping to my bedroom certainly hepled, I can't believe how few hours I have managed so far when these should be the early hours!
Anyway I'm now back on track and loving my current read. I had an early dinner - tuna pasta salad, Yum :):) And I now ready to get stuck back into the rest of this book, hopefully it'll be finished in the next few hours.

Anyone else have any blips?

Read-a-thon Hour 4 (I'm already restless)

Pages read since last post: 28!

Arrgghhh... restlessness has set in, I'm always like this when I finish a book and start a new one immediately.
This is a quick post to enter Bart's minichallenge then the computer is going to get ignored for a while and I'm off up o my bedroom away from distractions to get started on my new book: Tales from Firozsha Baag.

Walking on Glass, The Water Babies, Legends of the Fall.

Read-a-long Hour 3: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Time spent reading: 1 hour and 45 mins
Pages Read: 104
Books Completed: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (I had started this previous to the read-a-thon)
Listening to: Thunder, Lightning, Strkie by The Go Team

Having preiously started Alias Grace I knew that I wanted it fiished efore I started any new books for the read-a-long. I loved this book which reminded me that I should read more of the Margaret Atwoods on my bookshelf. I'll be reviewing this properly in the next couple of days. Another 1001 book knocked off the list.

And my quick, off the top of my head answers for Bobby's mini challenge
Favorite Female Character in a book: Jane Eyre every time
Favorite Male Character in a book: Henry, from The Time Travellers Wife - I'd marry him in a flash.
Favorite Side Kick in a book: Hmmmm.....can I have sidekicks? Hermione and Ron
Favorite Couple in a Book: Henry and Clare (TTW)
Favorite Book Series: Harry Potter
Favorite Author: Neil Gaiman, Sarah Waters, Margaret Atwood...the list goes on
Favorite Book Cover: The Red Tree by Shaun Tan
Favorite Book of 2009: The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer, both by Patrick Ness