Tuesday 31 January 2012

Norwegian Wood Readalong - Final Post

I finished Norwegian Wood a while ago, and I didn't post last week because to be honest I forgot and also I'd finished the book quite a while previously and couldn't remember most of the things I wanted to say about it. It's pretty similar with this post... I'm glad that I finally read the book, but oh my goodness it was depressing!! What was up with everybody killing themselves? It seemed like every time I started to like a character, they killed themselves. I know I'm exaggerating, but honestly by the end I just it all to be over. I was kind of sick of everybody and their self -examination. I'm not sure whether or not I still want to see the film. I'm thinking I probably will at some point, but meh, I don't know. I think I might have to give myself some time to stop not caring about any of the characters first...

Sorry about the extreme brevity of this post. I wanted to write it so that I felt like I was done with Norwegian Wood, but I really didn't have much else to say but 'meh'. I think I will probably read more Murakami in the future as there were lots of things I liked while reading the book, just by the end I was sooooooo tired!

Norwegian Wood Post 2 
Norwegian Wood Post 1

Monday 30 January 2012

Review: - Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

I’m doing pretty well with my Mount TBR Challenge at the moment – not so well with Support Your Local Library, but that will be rectified next month when the library reopens! Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of those books which has been on my TBR list for about the past six or seven years, and I just never got to it despite it being sat on my shelf for probably around four of those years... I have read so many glowing reviews of it over the years and now I see why! As well as being a great, well –written and totally intriguing novel, it is also one of those books which made me want to know more about the author and about its’ social context. I’m a total geek, so I love books that give me an excuse to find out new stuff! As has been previously mentioned I know next to nothing about American literature and the history thereof – terrible for a literature graduate I know, and I’m working on rectifying it. I feel like this book helped a lot.

Zora Neale Hurston was born in 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama and moved as a toddler to Eatonville, Florida, one of the first black townships, and the setting for much of Their Eyes Were Watching God. Her mother died when she was 13 and she didn’t get along with her stepmother – eventually she joined a Gilbert and Sullivan troupe as a maid to the lead singer. At age 26 she passed for 16 in order to be able to finish high school for free. Zora became part of the Harlem Renaissance (if you’re as clueless as I am about American history and cultural movements as I am, Wikipedia and this website have lots more information!), and Their Eyes Were Watching God was published in 1937. Her second novel, it is generally regarded as her masterwork, but she never received the financial reward she deserved for both it and her other novels. She died in 1960 at the age of 69 without enough money to pay for her funeral and was buried in a grave which remained unmarked until 1973 when Alice Walker placed a marker on it as a tribute to the writer who so inspired her.

Their Eyes Were Watching God is basically a love story. It is the story of Janie Starck, a woman who refuses to accept life without love, and follows her in her pursuit of it from age 16 and an arranged marriage to a much older man, through various men and adventures, to the final love of her life. It isn’t a happy story at all, but I often find that I’d rather read a novel which feels like it tells a story that people may actually have experienced, and although it is nice when people are happy in everyday life, not everything ends with happy ever after. Having said that, although it is not a happy book per se, Their Eyes Were Watching God didn’t make me feel sad, maybe because the novel begins with Janie returning to Eatonville alone and telling her story to her friend Phoeby, so from the outset there is no expectation for it to turn out well.

The thing that I loved most about this novel was the writing – it was so unbelievably beautiful! This is possibly one of my favourite descriptions of anything, ever:
“She knew that God tore down the old world every evening and built a new one by sun-up. It was wonderful to see it take form with the sun and emerge from the grey dust of its making”
The novel really takes form through Janie’s emotions, and the description is really vivid and immersive. It took me a while to get into Their Eyes Were Watching God, because it is written in dialect which is kind of hard to follow, but once you relax and start to read it as if it were being spoken, it’s a really easy read. Apologies if this review becomes a little quotey but I want to remember the things which I really loved. It’s been a while since I discovered a book where I enjoyed the language this much:
“She was a rut in the road. Plenty of life beneath the surface but it was kept beaten down by the wheels. Sometimes she stuck out into the future, imagining her life different from what it was. But mostly she lived between her hat and her heels, with her emotional disturbances like shade patterns in the woods – come and gone with the sun”
Hurston manages to combine two totally different tones really successfully in her novel. The descriptive passages are as above – flowing and full of imagery, but the narrative is voiced in the Afro-American dialect of Janie (mostly) and various others. The important point to make, though, is that the novel (published in 1937, remember), focuses entirely on Janie, a woman. And she is a strong woman; she doesn’t let men tell her what to do, and she follows her own heart. I have to admit, I loved her!

Their Eyes Were Watching God left me feeling hopeful and invigorated and I definitely want to get hold of Zora Neale Hurston’s other books now, as well as reading some more Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and various other authors who were inspired by her work.

January RAK

Random Acts of Kindness is an awesome monthly event hosted by the amazing girls at BookSoulmates. Every month you want to participate you sign up with your wishlist, and the idea is that then you send out books to other people from their wishlists, and hopefully somebody will send you something from yours! I first participated in this way back last summer, but haven't received anything for a while although I've still sent out 1-2 books every month. However, this month I have been a very lucky girl! 

Firstly, here is what I sent out:
Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon to Sarah at Whispering Words. I went on a bit of Turgeon obsessive last year, and I hope she loves it as much as I did!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which I adored & cannot wait to see the film of, and......

... Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithian to Amy of Lady Reader's Bookstuff (whose blog design is gorgeous!). I really want to read this book!

Laura from The Scarlet Letter sent me not one but two books, both of which I've been desperate to read for ages. She absolutely made my day, and I'm so excited to read both of them!

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen - one of my favourite new discoveries from 2011, this is the only one of her novels I hadn't read, and I pretty much got stuck in as soon as it arrived and adored it!

 The Happiness Project by Gretchen Reuben - A while back this was all over the blogosphere, and I have to admit to loving this kind of thing. I enjoy memoirs, especially of the self-improvement/potential fulfilling variety. This will also be making an appearance on the blog in the near future I would imagine.

Thanks so much, Laura!

I have to say one of my favourite things ever is finding an email from somebody saying that they want to send me an RAK. It really brightens up my day, and I enjoy sending them out almost as much. I love the added surprise of not knowing what's coming until it arrives, and it really makes me feel good about the state of the world to know that there are lots of people out there spending their hard earned money on sending books to random strangers purely because they know how great it feels to get an unexpected book :-) 

Saturday 28 January 2012

January Summary & February Reading Plans!

HOW is it February already? I swear the older I get, the faster time goes, it's mad. Anyway! January, my first month of making proper reading plans, and I did well. Really well, in fact. I planned to read eight books and the first part of Les Miserables, and I read seven books and almost the first part of Les Miserables. The only book I didn't read that I planned to was 1Q84 Books 1 & 2, and that was because after reading Norwegian Wood I was pretty much all Murakami'd out (yes, that's a valid word). 

Sooooooo onto February reading plans! Obviously I need to read the next part of Les Miserables. Aside from that I have no reading commitments at all, which is nice. I'd like to read at least one other classic as well as my monthly graphic novel. Here are the books I plan to read. As with last month I will link up reviews as the month progresses!

  • The Awakening - Kate Chopin
  • One Good Turn - Kate Atkinson
  • Dear Fatty - Dawn French
  • The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S Lewis (any or all of)
  • Macbeth - William Shakespeare
  • A Wedding in December - Anita Shreve
  • Bleeding Kansas - Sara Paretsky
  • Kick Ass - Mark Millar
Also the rest of Aunt Jo's Scrapbag Vol 1 by Louisa May Alcott which I am reading (because it is short stories and I can just about cope with short stories) on my laptop... I've read the first two stories and so far it's just like tiny snippets of things which could just as well have come out of LIttle Women. Needless to say I love it! 

Friday 27 January 2012

Magical March Event!

Those of you who regularly read this blog will know that one of my major goals with my reading is to continually challenge myself and push myself to read new and different genres. As a teenager I was an absolutely gigantic fan of fantasy, but lately I've not been reading as much and I miss it. Granted, this is probably due to the lack of new Neil Gaiman titles and the fact that I've read everything David Gemmell ever wrote at least three times, but still it won't do! Adam of Roof Beam Reader is hosting a Magical Realism and Fantasy event during March and I can't think of a better way to make sure I get to the titles I have listed for the Mount TBR Challenge!

There are different levels of participation. I plan to go for the Sorcerer's Class which requires me to read and review 3 -5 books during March. The books I plan to read are:

  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovich
  • The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  • The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Till We Have Faces by C.S Lewis
I have some pretty heavy family stuff coming up in March, so I hope that the fantasy will provide some escapism from it all! Hopefully I will be able to get through this list and review all of them. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell has been on my shelf a particularly long time, and after reading Clarke's The Ladies of Grace Adieu last year and loving it, I cannot wait to get to this one!

For more details and to sign up for the event (which you should totally do, go on, you know you want to!) go here! :-) 

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Review: - The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

You know when you're a little kid and you can't sleep at all Christmas night because you're *just too excited* about what Santa will bring? I am like that when I know people are going to send me RAK's. Not that I don't sleep, but I do literally hold my breath coming in my door every day to see if they have arrived yet, and I am always super psyched to open them and see what I've got. This month, I got The Peach Keeper (thanks again, Laura!) which is the last remaining Sarah Addison Allen book I hadn't read. It also just happens to be set in North Carolina, and so it counts for the 50 States Challenge!

I don't think I can overstate how much I love Sarah Addison Allen. I first discovered Garden Spells last year and fell in love. Her books are about magic, food and the meaning of home and every time I read one of them I get all nostalgic and have an overwhelming urge to bake... 

Here's a synopsis of The Peach Keeper from Goodreads:

It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.

Resonant with insight into the deep and lasting power of friendship, love, and tradition, The Peach Keeper is a portrait of the unshakable bonds that—in good times and bad, from one generation to the next—endure forever.
Friendship, love, and tradition pretty much covers it. It's not a particularly complex plot. Willa's family used to be rich, Paxton's family are still rich. In high school Willa liked to pull pranks which were attributed to Paxton's twin brother, Colin, until the last day when Willa finally announced that she was the 'Walls of Water High School Joker' to the world. Her classmates, especially Colin, still expect her to be the same as she was back in high school, and when Colin comes back into town for the opening of the hotel he finds out how much she has changed..

As ever food is involved although to a lesser extent than in either Garden Spells or The Sugar Queen.
In this case it's coffee. Willa runs an outerwear store which also has a cafe producing products containing coffee. I have to say I don't like coffee, but some of the stuff sounds amazing - you can get some recipes at Sarah's website, and I may well be giving them a go in the not too distant future!

The characters in The Peach Keeper were a little predictable, but in a good way; in the end all everybody really wanted was to come home and be loved and accepted, which is probably all most of us want, really. I guess that's part of why I like Addison Allen's books so much - she always seems to strike the right kind of note to resonate with me. I can almost always see myself somewhere in her books, and I love that. Also, all of the characters care and that's unusual. Although Paxton and Colin and even Sebastian, Paxton's gay best friend who turns out not to be gay/man she's secretly in love with, are a little bit mixed up and their stories are a bit tangled and confusing, really all they want is for the people they care about to be happy. With the world in the state that it's in at the moment (and yes, I know I'm always going on about this!) it's really nice to read something where nobody has ulterior motives and people look out for each other rather than trying to destroy eaach other or drag each other down.

So basically, yay for The Peach Keeper. It was snuggly and comforting and magical and I loved it!

Monday 23 January 2012

Review: - A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

I have always studied English Literature, all the way from secondary school through to my BA degree, and I'd love to do an MA one day soon, so I've had a lot of experience with Shakespeare - some good, some bad, some downright repetitive (I've studied The Tempest a grand total of five times!), but my very first Shakespearean experience was with A Midsummer Night's Dream at the grand old age of ten. I was in an after school drama club where the teacher thought it would be good to cast me as Helena because (and I quote) 'you're tall'. I should add that I have all the dramatic ability of a stick insect. Oh, and I'd had a giant crush on the guy playing Lysander for about two years but was always too cripplingly shy to talk to him... As you can imagine, it was an interesting experience! Despite the agony of the actual performance, I fell in love with the play. I found it hilarious and romantic at the same time and I loved learning my lines - they were so beautiful and poetic and sounded so great said aloud. Reading it again I found myself smiling at lines I remembered vividly. A particular favourite was "thou painted maypole" (Hermia, Act 3,Scene 2), which I remember finding absolutely hilarious at the time (ah, ten year old humour!). 

A Midsummer Night's Dream is believed to be Shakespeare's fourteenth play, performed around 1595. It's also probably one of the most well -known of his plays, and is performed annually in Regents Park in London on an outdoor stage. It has (according to Wikipedia!), four ballet adaptations, nine film adaptations, two television productions and countless literary adaptions. Also, for me 2012 is the year of all things fairytale and folklore, and this definitely counts!

For anybody who doesn't know, A Midsummer Night's Dream basically takes place in a wood outside of Athens. Four Athenians are the central characters: Lysander and Hermia are in love and planning to elope together, Demetrius wants to marry Hermia and although her father says she must marry him, she refuses, and Helena is in love with Demetrius. The problems arise when the Athenians unknowingly wander into the middle of a dispute between Oberon, the fairy king, and Titania, the fairy queen, and become subject to the meddling of Robin Goodfellow, otherwise known as Puck. People are made to fall in love with other people, different people are given asses heads, and general hilarity ensues until eventually they all live happily ever after (it's not a tragedy, after all). 

I am always really apprehensive of starting to read Shakespeare - for some reason part of me still thinks it's going to be really difficult to read, although I know it isn't. I read A Midsummer Night's Dream in a day, and periodically had to remind myself to put it down and do things like go back to work. I got so swept up in the language, and I just wish that I could write things like this:

"If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here,
While these visions did appear;
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream, 
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And as I am an honest puck, 
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpents tongue,
We will make amends ere long,
Else the puck a liar call.
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends." 
Robin Goodfellow, Epilogue

I know that there is much more I could say about the play, but basically I would just recommend that you go and see it. I plan to go in Regents Park this year if I can get tickets, as it's on over my birthday which would be amazing. Even reading it is just such a magical experience, and although the human characters are a little bit on the whiny side, and Oberon and Titania are frankly a bit petty, Nick Bottom is hysterical (with or without his asses head!) and Puck is a chaos - making genius. I think he was the forerunner of Peeves from Harry Potter

Shakespeare wrote his plays as entertainment for Queen Elizabeth and various other noble people. I really really wish that some of the people who script for TV shows nowadays would take more than a few leaves out of his book. Why can't we have stuff this good to entertain us??  

Friday 20 January 2012

Norwegian Wood Readalong Post Two....

I had a bit of a panic on Monday night because I suddenly remembered the next day was Tuesday and Norwegian Wood had been languishing in the corner to which I banished it last week when I made myself stop reading and as far as I remembered I hadn't read past the end of chapter five.. After I'd been panic reading for about ten minutes, it transpired that I was well into chapter 7, at which point I thought it was probably better to just keep going...
Because of that I've finished the book, so I'm going to keep it short this week, and still talk about the allotted chapters next week and the following so as not to ruin it for any of you who haven't yet finished it.

Chapters 5 and 6 were reeeeeally Naoko-ish (yes, this is a word). I missed Midori. I liked that we found out where the hell Naoko had gone off to, and in a way I kind of liked the insular nature of Toru's visit to the sanitorium, but the entire two chapters were basically more about Naoko and Naoko's problems. I still like Murakami's style I think. It's difficult to tell because the things I think I like about it - that it's really simple and kind of mundane in its' description - are the same things that can make me really hate a writer. I think the thing that keeps me reading Norwegian Wood is the same thing that kept me going when I read Kafka on the Shore, which is the quirkiness. He goes on and on talking about bus routes and what Toru ate and drank and what time in the morning it was, and then suddenly he throws in a character like Midori or Reiko, seemingly just for flavour. Also I really like a lot of the descriptions:

"Her face had lots of wrinkles. They were the first thing to catch your eye but they didn't make her look old. Instead, they emphasized a certain youthfulness in her that transcended age. The wrinkles belonged where they were, as if they had been part of her face since birth" p123
I kind of like how visual the book is in general, but especially these chapters in the sanitorium - I really did get the feeling that it was a place outside of reality. Like it had its own time zone and life was kind of suspended while you were there. 

I find Toru and Naoko's relationship increasingly weird though. It kind of seems like the only reason they are really together at all is because Toru feels responsible for Naoko because she was his best friend's girlfriend, and his best friend killed himself, which is clearly not a great thing to base a relationship on. Also it would be good if Norwegian Wood could get out of its' own head a little. It makes my head spin a little bit - they always seem to be talking about really deep stuff, which is fine, but to me it's kind of no wonder they're all a bit messed up if they sit around analysing everything all day. 

These two chapters weren't the greatest for me, I have to admit. I feel like the story is a little lifeless without Midori! 

Thursday 19 January 2012

Fill in the Gaps...

I have not blogged at all this week, and I feel ridiculously bad about it so I thought I'd just put up a little update post more to try to motivate myself with what I need to be doing than anything else! The big news is that I totally failed in my book buying ban already.... I went into Waterstone's the other day while waiting for my husband and bough him Kick Ass by Mark Millar because we watched the movie for the first time the other day and he was dying to read the book. I figured that didn't count, as it was a gift, but then they were having a sale and you all know what that means.. I bought The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas at 50% off because I've been reading good things about it and I read the first paragraph and it seemed interesting, and The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings at 15% off because of the movie that's coming out soon. The Descendants also happens to be set in Hawaii which is convenient because I didn't have a Hawaii book for the 50 States Challenge yet and I started it yesterday and I adore it so far. 

So yes, I am officially a giant fail - face but I don't feel bad about it - I also bought River Cottage Veg Everyday as we've been watching the series and I'm really interested in doing more vegetarian cooking, so I'm going to use it as an incentive and feeling productive rather than guilty. I'm doing brilliantly with the reading so far this year but terribly with reviewing, which I hope to rectify tomorrow. Hubby's on a late at work, so I plan to sit on the laptop with a lot of tea and get all caught up and scheduled on reviews as well as doing some (*gasp*) online reading for my Year of Louisa May Alcott... Wish me luck!

Monday 16 January 2012

Review: - Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

I don’t know if I mention it enough, but just in case I don’t, I really like graphic novels. Like, really like them. I have a lot of t shirts with really geeky graphic novel related things on them, and I refuse to be ashamed. I love the effort that goes into them and I love their general thick glossiness and how the stories themselves are generally totally kick ass. As part of the Graphic Novel Challenge last year I decided to branch out from my almost solely Neil Gaiman based graphic novel collection and try some different styles. Fun Home came on my radar when I was looking for books the internet thought were similar to Perspolis by Marjane Satrapi. Any of you who have been reading my blog over the last year will probably know that Persepolis was my ‘oh my god what is this book and why did nobody tell me about it before??!’ book of 2011. I LOVED it, and up until I read The Night Circus, it was the book I was recommending to everybody, so I had incredibly high expectations of Fun Home going in.

Alison Bechdel’s autobiography centres around the family business; a funeral (‘fun’) home, and her childhood and growing up, although really it focuses on her issues with her father, Bruce Bechdel, and coming to terms with being a lesbian. Alison’s father is painted as a remote man, unpredictable, angry, and distant from his children. The reasons for this – that he was a closet homosexual who was having affairs with male students, and Alison’s babysitter – don’t become clear until later on in the book, but they have a considerable effect on Alison herself both consciously and unconsciously. She feels as a child that he loves their big, historic house more than his children, and is more interested in renovating it than in spending time with her and her brothers.

Although I didn’t love it like I love Persepolis, I can see where the comparison came from.  Both are stories of growing up in unusual and difficult circumstances (just to be clear, I’m not comparing Bechdel and Satrapi’s situations – they are clearly not the same, but they are both stories of a young girl feeling very lost and uncertain of who she was and where she belonged), and their style of illustration is similar – both are done solely in black and white and are very clear and easy to follow. Personally, it’s a style I find more relaxing than the full, aggressive colour of many other graphic novels.

The story isn’t told chronologically but jumps around a lot which I found made it more engaging. Both of Alison’s parents are prodigiously intelligent people; her father is a professor, and her mother is an actress. When I originally wrote that sentence, it came out in the past tense, and although Alison’s mother is still acting during the course of Alison’s childhood and adolescence, she feels like one of those women whose individuality became subsumed by her husbands’ personality and her children’s needs. Her mother seems very disappointed with life, resigned to living with a man who doesn’t really want to be with her, and whose interests are totally separate from her own. Bechdel talks about her mother with a sort of sadness, and actually I just found out that she is bringing out a new book in May 2012 entitled Are You My Mother, seemingly to even things out a bit.

Throughout the book, Alison’s parents are not often seen together, and when they are they are violently arguing, but still it takes Alison’s mother until Alison is nearly twenty to ask her father for a divorce. Her parents seem to both have very creative and intellectual lives, and her mother is in many ways an incredibly positive role model for Alison – acting and completing a Masters thesis while raising three children, but despite all the achievement she is shown as disappointed, lifeless, and worn out. The facial expressions in Fun Home were one of the things which made it most effective for me. Bruce Bechdel’s face is always the same – closed up and emotionless even when he is talking to Alison about having to visit a psychiatrist because he is ‘bad, not good like you’ (p153). Because Bechdel obviously knew what her father had done while writing the novel, the underlying accusation is always there throughout the story , giving the reader a different perspective on events than Bechdel herself would have had at the time.

People say that to a degree, every family is dysfunctional. I personally don’t have an experience of this – my family is big and loud and we all have similar interests and are always talking and ringing each other to borrow books, movies, clothes. We go to the pub together, to the cinema, some of my siblings came to stay for New Year and we had an awesome party... So I am lucky, but I know a lot of people who are less lucky than me, and everybody has their secrets it’s just that some are bigger than others, and Bruce Bechdels’ secret was definitely one of the bigger ones.

Another thing that I liked about Fun Home though was the other thing that makes it so comparable to Persepolis. It is filled with books. Throughout Alison’s life, she reads. Her father reads - he recommends her books from time to time. When she begins to think that she is a lesbian, she reads about it – all the books she can get her hands on. I can completely relate to this, and I’m sure many other readers can. When I want to learn about something, I read about it. Although I really enjoy a good debate, I am the kind of person who likes to be sure that I have all my facts straight first, and so in many ways I would rather learn intellectually first, before putting ideas into practice. I learned to knit this past year from a book,  which I know is not really comparable to learning about your sexuality from books, but it can be so comforting to read about somebody who has been through the situation you have been through and been confused as you are confused and to see how they resolved their situation.

Fun Home won’t be going on the list of things I rave at people about, but it will be staying on my shelf so that I can recommend it to people.  

Sunday 15 January 2012

The Sunday Salon - Giveaway Winners & Progress Report

Hello all! I hope everybody is enjoying their Sunday - it's actually disgustingly sunny where I am, considering it's January and all.. I'm wondering if we're actually going to get proper winter at all this year... Anyway! To business! I drew the result of my Blogoversary Giveaway this morning, and here's what happened:

The winner of the International Giveaway iiiiisssss


which is kind of fitting, as she was my Secret Santa for Persephone Secret Santa this year, so I'm glad she won!

The winner of the UK Giveaway is:

who I will be sending a copy of Reading Lolita in Tehran!

Congratulations Iris and Ellie, and thanks to everybody who entered and wished me happy things :-)

Now that's done, I thought I'd continue my whole scheduled reading plan by doing a quick update of what I've read so far in January...

Of the books I planned to read, I have finished four of the eight. These are:

  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (for the Graphic Novel Challenge)
  • The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (for Mount TBR Challenge)
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare (for A Play a Month Challenge)
  • The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (for the 50 States Challenge)#

I have half finished a review of Fun Home which I hope to put up either later today or tomorrow, but I really need to get my act together with writing reviews - I'm accumulating quite a pile! I have also read nearly half of Norwegian Wood for the readalong and would have finished it if I wasn't trying desperately to pace myself to fit in with the schedule. Basically, I'm impressed with myself. This week I want to read the first part of Les Miserables for the year long readalong I'm taking part in, and finished The Folklore of Discworld by Terry Pratchett & Jacqueline Simpson for the Telling Tales Challenge, and also just for awesome.

I know my reading is incredibly challenge centred at the moment,and to be honest I thought that would bother me a lot more than it actually does. I appear to have chosen well this year :-) Who knows, maybe I'm learning?

Happy Sunday everybody, hope you have a great, relaxing day!

Friday 13 January 2012

The Way I Write Reviews

I've been thinking about the way I write reviews. During the course of the last year my reviewing style has changed and probably for the better - I scrapped the idea of giving books ratings towards the end of 2011and I've felt much more comfortable for it, but I kind of feel that a bigger change needs to come about.

More and more lately I've found myself just scribbling out whatever comes to mind when writing about books, and not really putting too much thought into the structure or whether I've said everything that I want to say about something. I dislike this. I'm getting sloppy and I feel like I'm not giving some of the awesome books I read the respect that they deserve. I think my problem is that I've been easily distracted for the past month or so. I'm not sure why this is, but I really need to stop writing reviews while watching movies/knitting/reading other books, and actually make sure I have dedicated review writing time each week.

This sort of falls in with my plans for our new spare bedroom. Since we found out we were moving and getting a spare room I've been super excited to turn it into a sort of reading room/office, but I've not really got around to it yet for various reasons, mostly laziness, but also that what I really want is one of these:
 Picture from here
However within my budget and given the fact I have no way of picking it up from anywhere should I actually manage to get hold of one, it's proving difficult, and without it I have no table on which to write which is somewhat of a problem (I know, I know, excuses excuses right?). The room does currently have a piano, a sofa and four big bookcases in it, although I haven't really got around to sorting them out yet, and the wardrobe is still kind of a dumping ground. My project for the coming weeks is to get this room sorted out, with some kind of space for me to write in and for the husband to compose stuff, to maybe get a few more bits of officey type furniture and just basically straighten it all out and get it sorted. Hopefully this will allow me to really get myself organized for 2012 on the blog... (If anybody knows where I can get a desk for cheapish, let me know!!)

That's my plan anyway, you may hear me whinging about its' lack of progress in the not to distant future...

Wednesday 11 January 2012

The Books I Started But Didn't Finish Challenge

I have a serious problem with starting books and then never quite getting around to finishing them. It's not that the books I start are no good, it's just that I'm easily distracted by other things. Some of the books I've not finished are meant to be great, and I would feel really positive if I could finish some of them this year. Jillian at A Room of One's Own is hosting the Books I Started but Didn't Finish challenge, and I am so joining!

This is my list of the books I want to finish this year:
  • Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak - This is my definitive unfinished book. I have been reading this book since I was thirteen, and I've started again on at least three seperate occassions. I have really enjoyed what I've read and I really want to finish it this year, as it's probably the book that's been the longest on my shelf unfinished.
  • The Swan Thieves by Elisabeth Kostova - The Historian is one of my favourite books, and I was super excited to find out that Kostova had written another one. I started this book and was really enjoying it when something else (I forget what) got in the way and I never finished it. 
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas - I started this as part of Allie's readalong last year, but never finished it. Again, disracted. I read about three quarters of it, though, and that was great. I'm excited to read the rest!
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens 
There are more, I may add them to the list as the year progreses depending how all my other reading goes, but I've decided to try not to pressure myself with too much to get through in 2012. I think I'll feel happier about everything if I keep my goals manageable and am actually able to complete some of them!