Wednesday 12 March 2014

How Reading Mirrors Life Events...

Until the last few days I was on a bit of a roll, reading wise. Then some stuff happened, about which I won't whine because a) there's no point and b) you're probably all getting sick of me being vague about the thing I'm not going into detail about which has been affecting our family for a couple of years. So yes, stuff happened and suffice to say the past couple of days has been rough. My reading has kind of gone to hell. 

By which I don't mean that I'm not reading. Oh no. Instead, I've started a lot of books. I'm currently midway through/in the first chapter of a grand total of six books. It's probably fairly obvious I'm concentrating on none of them. The most logical of the books I'm currently reading is Little Women, which you probably know I tend to return to year after year and especially during times of stress. Because I know it so well it doesn't matter that I pick it up and put it down and in fact I started it this week two thirds of the way through from a previous reading a couple of months ago. It generally makes me feel better, and it is still working its' magic, it's just that my state of mind is too fragmented to really settle into anything. 

Yesterday, after a particularly brilliant (note the heavy sarcasm) morning during which Benji somehow managed to chuck himself head first out of his cot - seriously, he must have done a somersault over the bars because he ended up lying with his feet away from the cot - during his 'nap' time and nearly gave me a heart attack, I picked up The Professor by Charlotte Bronte, needing something to do while sitting on the floor outside his room desperately listening to make sure he didn't do it again, and hoping it would be soothing. It is so far I have to say. I'm not sure what it is about the Brontes but they have an ability to soothe even while their books are generally not about the most soothing of subjects. Also, it's short, and it's the Oxford World Classics edition, which has lots of extra material, as well as Charlotte Bronte's unfinished novel, Emma at the end, so the fragments suited my fragmented mood. 

I'm also halfway through The Girl who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (dammit why can I never get the titles of this series right without looking?!) by Catherynne M. Valente, which is so far as brilliant as the previous two and also good for unsettled reading because it's in short chapters, and is generally quite Alice in Wonderland ish and makes you feel a bit trippy anyway. So yes. Then I did that thing where you read a book till you're about halfway through and are really into it, and then somehow manage to get distracted by something shiny (hi, Little Women!) and put it down with Eating for Britain by Simon Majumdar, which is a really interesting non-fiction look at all the 'typical British' foods. I will pick it up again because it's also in short chapters, as well as being divided into sections for each meal. Plus, it's really interesting and so distracts me from the things. 

So yeah, basically my reading it all over the place at the moment and I've probably spent more time reading and re-reading Wow! Said the Owl, We're Going on a Bear Hunt, and Pilchard and the Field Mice to Benji than I have actually reading from my own books. Also today, just for good measure, I started reading How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm by Mei-Ling Hopgood. So far it's really interesting, but I've nearly finished chapter one so I'll probably move on to something else in a minute....

Does anyone else have this problem where their reading is really tied up with their moods, or do you just keep going regardless? 

Friday 7 March 2014

Non-Fiction Mini Reviews: At Large and At Small and Wishful Drinking

 I'm apparently on a bit of a non-fiction kick at the moment. I'm not sure why, but where I generally have huge trouble reading non-fiction quickly (like, it usually drags out for so long that I eventually give up), I've been devouring it in the past few weeks. I have a few more non-fiction titles on their way into the library for me so let's hope it holds out! 

At Large and At Small was my first encounter with Anne Fadiman. To be honest, really I was after Ex Libris or The Spirit Catches you and You Fall Down, both of which have been on my wishlist forever, but this was the one that Kent library services had and I'd reached the point where I'd been hearing brilliance about her for so long that I just had to read something and find out whether she lived up to the hype, and oh my goodness she so does. At Large and At Small is a collection of what Fadiman calls 'familiar essays'. It turns out that familiar essays are the kind of essays I like to read, and they range in subject from butterflies, through Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Arctic explorers, to coffee and ice cream. There wasn't an essay in the collection that I didn't enjoy reading. Fadiman's style is just lovely - informative and incredibly well put together without being boring or preachy. Her writing flows beautifully and I may even have to go out and actually purchase her other two books now. This is the kind of book that I'm sad came from the library, because it means I can't keep it. I want to keep it, dammit! 

Just one example of the loveliness of At Large and At Small:
"Now, under the watchful eye of a husband so virtuous that he actually prefers low-fat frozen yogurt, I go through the motions of scooping a modest hemisphere of ice cream into a small bowl, but we both know that during the course of the evening I will simply shuttle to and from the freezer until the entirety of the pint has been transferred from carton to bowl to me."

I do this. This is me, with the exception that my husband is right there with me, pretending he's not going to help eat the entire thing....

The other non-fiction book I've currently finished is Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher, which the lovely Nahree sent me as part of the Valentine's Ninja Book Swap. 

I've heard a lot about this book - a lot of people raved about how hilarious it was months/years ago and I was hopeful for it. To be honest, it was a little bit of a let down. Don't get me wrong, I still really enjoyed reading it and it was very interesting, for example how did I have no idea that Debbie Reynolds is Carrie Fisher's mother?? But it didn't make me laugh out loud once. It didn't even really make me snigger. I smiled a few times, but that was it. It was a bit funny, but nowhere near as hilarious as the internet hype monster would have us believe. 

If you're a Star Wars fan it makes very interesting reading though, because the whole way through it there are little hints of her raging bitterness towards George Lucas. I don't get the feeling that she hates the Star Wars films as much as she hates forever being seen as Princess Leia, maybe? Anyway, that side of it was interesting. I didn't really get why it was called Wishful Drinking, though, because aside from the fact of her being an alcoholic and addict in various forms, it's not really about drinking... Anyway! It probably sounds like I hated it and I really didn't. I still want to read her second book, and I'm still pushing this on Rhys the minute he finishes Artemis Fowl. So it was good, but once he's done I think it will be going on ReaditSwapit. Whereas At Large and At Small, if I only owned a copy, would be going straight on my most sacred keeper shelf. 

Tuesday 4 March 2014

A Brief Break for Illness...

Tonsilitis has reared its ugly head here, which is why it's quiet here. I have a lot of books to review, but between Rhys and I both being varying degrees of ill, keeping Benji entertained, and keeping the house vaguely tidy while being 6 months pregnant (and work, obviously), there's not a lot of concentration left for reviewing I'm afraid! 

Just in case you miss me, I've relocated my craft blog (to here) and I've been blogging there a bit, as it generally takes less concentration than talking about the awesome books I've been reading (Life After Life, Wishful Drinking, At Large and At Small and The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott - reviews of all coming soon, I promise!), so if you miss me you know where to go! :-) 

I'll be back soon, really I will.