Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Teaser Tuesday 30 March

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two (or three or four, if you're me) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
5. Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!



~~~

'...the role of the disappointed lover of a maiden or of any single woman might be ridiculous; but the role of a man who was pursuing a married woman, and who made it the purpose of his life at all cost to draw her into adultery, was one which had in it something beautiful and dignified and could never be ridiculous...'
Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina
is a big undertaking for myself, considering I am working full time and studying part time, so it will feature for possibly a couple more Teaser Tuesdays. But, this novel is so rich that I think this is only fair! Just over an eighth of the way through and I'm already fanatical about this book!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hello Friends!

Hello lovely bloggy friends!

Been around this small space of the internet for nearly three weeks and I've already cracked fifty followers - that's five-oh. 50! Never did I expect to have so many readers so quickly. It's so lovely to know that I'm being followed (teehee), that people are reading and commenting and sharing the fun.

To celebrate, I'd like to offer one lucky reader a chance to win a cute little bookmark. Remember my post about bookmark day? The delightful Anna from airportlovestory has given me one of her own handmade items to give away. It'll look just like this one, only with pretty plum purple colours. Great for yourself, or for any friend who loves to read!

So what can you do to win it?

First, be a follower - every follower that comments to this post will get an entry.
Second, you can follow me on twitter. Report back here so I know who is entering!
Third, blog about my blog this cute little giveaway. After all, it's just a bit of fun, and who doesn't love to get something in the mail?

Open to all my readers, worldwide!

The winner will be announced on Thursday 1st April.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Blog Hop

This book blogger hop has provided me with some amazing blog reading! It's both an excellent way of letting others know about your blog and of finding new ones to follow. It's been great for me, particularly as a new blogger, to discover more in the book blogger world!



Just head on over to Crazy for Books, read the very simple rules and sign up to the McLinky! Take a peek and see what you might find!

If you've found me via the book hop this week, please comment here to let me know with a link to your own blog, if you have one!

Hop to it! x

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Alphabet Thursday: B

Every Thursday I will be at a new letter of the alphabet and, just like Sesame Street, I will write on a theme that corresponds with that letter. Simple! For these first twenty six weeks the focus will be: fictional characters.


Emma Bovary 
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

There are so many things I could say about this book; it's an incredible read on so many levels. All the same, Emma Bovary's character is a consistent centre for the book. She commands the narrative despite the book not always being about her story.


Idealistic and often somewhat naive in her ways, Emma marries the doctor Bovary on almost a whim. He is the wealthy and intelligent man-about-town and she, as a poor daughter on a farm, is more than willing to be whisked away to a luxurious life. And so she is. But she's an impulsive and often fickle woman. Her family life with her husband and daughter is well enough, but it doesn't illict the kind of excitement that she needs in her life. Perhaps she reads too many novels. Emma Bovary is essentially a drama queen and succumbs to love triangles, affairs and to getting her husband into debt by spending too much on the new fashions. Chasing drama to the bitter end, she's an exciting character despite how morally objectionable her decisions might be. I saw much of my teenage self in Emma; always wanting drama and action but regretting it when it came along for the heartache and difficulty it brought. Emma definitely presents her life as an excellent 'be careful what you wish for' story. A fascinating character who is likeable, even with her spoiled views.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Teaser Tuesday 22 March

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two (or three or four, if you're me) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
5. Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!



~~~

'He had to make an effort and reason with himself that all sorts of people were passing near her and he himself might have come just to skate. He stepped down, avoiding any long look at her as one avoids long looks at the sun, but seeing her as one sees the sun, without looking.' 
-Anna Karenina: Leo Tolstoy

Sunday, March 21, 2010

For Review: Wessex Tales ~ Thomas Hardy

Short stories are too often neglected, but they're a form to be enjoyed rather than ignored. Some people worry that a short story won't allow for the same kind of investment as a novel does - why put your time in a story when you won't get the chance to grow with the characters? A common misconception. Take, for example, Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain. It's just a handful of pages but never did I feel short changed. In just one sentence she can set the enter scene, and in just two sentences I felt like I'd known a character a lifetime. Do it well, and the short story is great fun, and especially attractive to travellers and busybodies.

This was my first time reading Hardy's short stories, and oh my goodness I've been missing out on something glorious! Wessex Tales is a collection that includes 'The Withered Arm', in which a young woman must go to extreme measures to remove a curse.  'The Melancholy Hussar of the German Legion' is the tragic love story between a woman and foreign solider who longs for home.

'Interlopers at the Knap' is an incredible story, presenting characters that I was instantly in love with. Tragedy befalls the Hall household, and yet Sally carries strength better than any of the other characters. Unlike so many fictional women of the time, Sally Hall is headstrong, knows exactly what she wants and isn't about to let a man and his idealism ruin her life. One of the many glories of Hardy's fiction is the female character; always complex and wise creatures, they guide the stories at their command. Sally is her own person, despite the demands of patriarchy.

This collection encompasses many of themes that are weaved throughout his longer works - social hierarchy, legends and lore, folk customs, the macabre and the romantic. If you haven't read Hardy before, I would be tempted to suggest these stories, just to give a little bit of flavour of his style and that masterful storytelling that I know and love so well.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It's a Challenge

Just signed up to the Read Your Name Challenge.

Basically, it goes like this. My name is Bethany, so first I read a book beginning with B, then one beginning with E, etc, etc. Just a little bit of reading fun, and it'll help me decide what to read next (because my to be read list is endless).

I will be reading:

B
oyracer - Alan Bisset
Empire of the Sun - JG Ballard
The Cement Garden - Ian McEwan
Howl's Moving Castle - Dianna Wynne Jones
Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami
Yellow Wallpaper, The - Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Also, Susan at Blogging About Books presented me with yet another Beautiful Blogger Award! Whoo~

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Alphabet Thursday

So it doesn't rhyme and it doesn't alliterate, but alphabet Thursdays are going to be great!

Every Thursday I will be at a new letter of the alphabet and, just like Sesame Street, I will write on a theme that corresponds with that letter. Simple! For these first twenty six weeks the focus will be: fictional characters.

What better way to start off than with a character from my favourite book of all time?

Angel Clare:  
Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

Angel is a fascinating character, and a perfect example of the complexity of Victorian life and values. He is a middle class man, the son of clergy, but rejects the standards of the middle class way of life. Hence, he seeks life at the dairy farm to become a freethinker and to escape the difficulties of the social hierarchy. Angel very much sees himself as the forward thinking, open minded modern man, but his feelings towards traditional morals prove otherwise.
    
Angel proves to be a hypocrite, particularly on the night of his marriage to Tess. Without giving too much away (because I believe everyone should read this book at least once in their life) he ends up committing a horrible betrayal our heroine, and ultimately because she no longer resembles his own idealistic views of her.
   
Hence the confusion. Is he the hero or the villain? Does he really save Tess from her tragedy, or is he the catalyst of her doomed fate (perhaps moreso than Alec). Despite all that Angel says and does, I can't help but be in love with him. Perhaps it's that intellectual side that I enjoy so much, or perhaps it's because I can be particularly idealistic myself. Maybe Angel is redeemed because he is a better person, despite his bad judgement and choice of actions. Contrast this with Alec, who (despite the obvious) does so much 'good' for Tess and yet always feels like an 'evil' person.
    
My undergraduate dissertation was, naturally, on Hardy's novels; including Tess, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Woodlanders, so I could go on and on about this forever and a day. I won't. But let Angel be an example of the fantastic complexity and authenticity of Hardy's characters: people who constantly amaze and surprise us, however many times we might read, however well we think we might know them.

Blog Award!

Look at this! This blog has only been going a couple of weeks and already it's gaining recognition! How exciting! Lisa over at Book Blab passed this award onto me and I'm very grateful - her whole blog is just adorable and very exciting. I especially love her header!

Here are the rules:
Thank & link to the person that gave you the award.
Pass this award onto 15 bloggers you've recently discovered and think are fantastic
Contact the blogs and let them know they've won.
State 7 things about yourself.

I'd like to pass this award on to 
(a combination of creative Etsy bloggers and book bloggers):

1. Swiedebie at Swiedebie Blogspot

2. Kate at Scientic Culture

3. Mary at Leftz

4. Jennifer at Crazy For Books

5. Vantiani at Vanilla Vain

6. Beth at Weavings

7. Lindsey at The Book Guru

8. Meg/Choco at In Which a Girl Reads

9. Mary at Book Hounds

10. Susan at Well-Mannered Frivolity

11. Tweezle at Just One More Paragraph

12. Haley at The Life (and Lies) of an Inanimate Flying Object

13. Erica at Soon Remembered Tales

14. Noemi at Imeon Design

15. Sarah at Titchables

Now for seven things about myself.

1. Currently a quarter of the way through writing my own novel.

2. Coulrophobic. Yes, clowns do give me panic attacks.

3. Have an MA in philosophy and English literature.

4. Tea is my saviour.

5. More people should send snail mail. I love letters and all sorts of cute stationery!

6. Desperate to travel to Japan one day. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

7. Currently obsessed with watching Scrubs.

Back later with my brand new Thursday meme. Keep your eyes peeled - this is going to be great!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Teaser Tuesday 16 March

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two (or three or four, if you're me) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
5. Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!



~~~
" Listen, he didn't have to read nothin'. All he had to do was think. That was the trouble with people these days - they didn't think, they didn't use their horse sense. " 
'The Barber', from Flannery O'Connor's Complete Stories.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bookmark Day

Monday (tomorrow) is going to be a very busy day for me! I've got work, followed by a one-to-one tutorial to discuss my novel, followed by a two hour workshop on Calvino/Flannery O'Connor. So, here's bookmark day just that little bit early.

I'll show you mine, and maybe you can show me yours!
















This is the bookmark I featured in my previous entry about bookmark day, sitting nice and happily in my copy of Thomas Hardy's Wessex Tales.


And this is my copy of Flannery O'Connor's Complete Stories, with a BBC Poetry flyer that I picked up at the cinema!

For Review: If On a Winter's Night a Traveller ~ Italo Calvino

You are about to read a review for Italo Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveller. You may have read this before, you may have read about this before, or it may be completely new to you. Calvino's novel begins in much the same vein, and continues in the second person, referring to the protagonist and to the female characters always as 'you.' This was what initially drew me to wanting to read this book, because it's a device I'd never come across before.

The 'you' of this novel picks up a new book only to discover that it is interrupted after a few pages. Desperate to read on, you go back to the bookshop to pick up a correct copy but only to discover that this book contains a completely different story, with a different title. It also is interrupted by some printing error and so the hunt continues. A ten/eleven year old me witness much the same thing. I was thoroughly upset to discover that my copy of The Desperate Journey was messed up half way through with the print all upside down and back to front. I was staying on a small island off the coast of Orkney that summer and we had to go to considerable lengths to get another copy. Your hunt in Traveller is far more difficult, taking you across countries, genres and through various political and cultural extremes.

This is a very self-conscious book. The narrative is aware of the constructions of lanuage, on how books are read, how books are received, and it is full of a fanscinating intertextuality. In short, it really makes you think. You become increasingly aware of your own reading habits and about your own approaches to books. It's just so clever! Calvino knows exactly what he's doing and he executes it brilliantly. You are reading a story within a story about philosophy and erotica in Japan, for example. All metaphors and language, but simultaneously an exciting read.


If On a Winter's Night a Traveller had me feeling like an adventurer; I had to get to the bottom of all the interlacing stories, all the beginnings and the potential ends. Any avid reader of books will find something to identify with in this book, and will certainly find much food for thought!

You want to read it now. You investigate it more online; maybe through other reviews, maybe you look at the prices on an online book shop. So you should.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

On Your Mark

Keeping your page in the book you're reading is really, very important. It's always so frustrating when you lose your page and when you go to open the book you arrive at a page you haven't read yet, your eyes finding she dies or some other crucial words, ruining everything.

Never, ever do I dogear the pages of my books; they need to stay lovely and pristine. So, it makes sense to get yourself a pretty bookmark too. Some of my books I've used receipts, train tickets or postcards, but recently I treated myself to something lovely.

Discovered this bookmark on Etsy, over at airportlovestory's shop. It's pretty and it sits nicely in the book. The little butterflies stop the string from falling out the book too so it's all very practical.

March 15th is bookmark day, hosted over at The Biblophilic Book Blog. It's just a day to think of bookmarks, to honour the work that they do for us, and to consider all the different kinds of bookmarks people have and use.


Scribble the date in your diary and get involved! March 15th show me your bookmarks and I'll show you mine!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On Reading Steve Wasserman: On the Fate of Books After the Age of Print

“People in general do not willingly read, if they can have anything else to amuse them.”

The fate of books, that solid object that you hold in your hands, that thing in which you place a bookmark or, God forbid, that you dogear and scribble inside, the fate of books was in question throughout my undergraduate course. Some lecturers firmly stated that in the next ten or so years there would be no such commodity as a 'book'. Instead, we will ruin our eyes on computer screens or 'readers'.

Last week I was on a train, happily holding my copy of Toni Morrison's Sula when my reading was interrupted by a man who took the seat opposite my table. He looked at my book in the way that is becoming increasingly common - you're doing a what now? From his bag he produced a hideous object, huge in comparison to my novel, a silver, metal contraption. From over the top of my book I couldn't resist a peek. One of those Sony Reader things, his finger sliding on a button to change the page. For one it looked very uncomfortable, two it was huge, and three it was ugly.

Returning to my own book, I enjoyed the object before going back to the text. The pages felt cosy in my fingers, and I always take great pleasure in smelling between the pages at the binding. Don't care who looks. My little novel was infinitely superior to whatever he was reading. It might have been the most challenging and fantastic piece of literature but how was I to know? Half the fun on reading in public transport is perving on what someone else is reading, judging books by their cover.

But is moving to a 'digital age' the same as losing literacy? Never, ever, ever will I shy away from the book. And if one day someone decides that no more will printed all hell will break loose. What are they gonna do? Burn them? Over my dead body and my bookshelves.

This guy was reading on an ugly overpriced gadget, but whatever it was, at least he was reading.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays

A whole new game discovered thanks to Susan at Well-Mannered Frivolity.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two (or three or four, if you're me) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
5. Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!



~~~~~

"In an existence like mine forecasts could not be made: I never know what could happen to me in the next half hour, I can't imagine a life all made up of minimal alternatives, carefully circumscribed, on which bets can be made: either this or that."

- If on a Winter's Night a Traveller: Italo Calvino



Here is My Truth

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.

     Erasmus

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Top Ten Reads


Top tens are always subject to change. It's so hard to pinpoint just ten out of the thousands of possibilities. Still, these books will always remain very firm favourites. Willing to rave about these books forever and then some.






Best book written in the whole entire history of the world ever. Fact.




Where to start? It's insane how GENIUS this is. Kid you not.




This book is geek hot. Bunch of students studying Greek, lots of angst, lots of Greek God games, murder, incest. Thank you, please.




So ridiculously clever.



Slight crush on the crazy murderer here. I see some patterns forming. Fetish?




Harrowing, harrowing, harrowing but sensational. The end seriously wowed me, and really disturbed me. Excellent!




Where would any one be without the Brothers Grimm? Make sure you're reading the original versions, not the yicky ones.




Just thoroughly incredible for so, so many reasons. Nabakov had such a great, really raw talent. Stylistically it's fantastic. Somehow the narrator ropes you in to thinking that actually maybe what he's doing is actually okay. Wrrrong.




Again this comes up with my fascination of fairy tales. That, and Carter is a stunning writer. I really admire what she does and could only wish that some of that talent would rub off on me.




Just sensational. Don't think I've ever cried so hard at a book - and that's saying something!

Ten Simple Rules

By this point, this list has made itself everywhere. It’s a fantastic list, and very inspiring for any writer. Note that there are now a lot more than ten rules for writing by the time you collect every writer’s ten rules. That’s a lot of rules to go by.
These count as some of my own golden rules:


Elmore Leonard:
4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs”.
((this is definitely something I am insanely guilty of, and something I am constantly trying to correct))

Roddy Doyle:
5 Do restrict your browsing to a few websites a day. Don’t go near the online bookies – unless it’s research.
((must take a leaf out of his book; bad, bad habit of mine!))
Geoff Dyer:
9 Do it every day. Make a habit of putting your observations into words and gradually this will become instinct. This is the most important rule of all and, naturally, I don’t follow it.
((this is something that I actually do, and it can be horribly exhausting))
AL Kennedy:
7 Read. As much as you can. As deeply and widely and nourishingly and ­irritatingly as you can. And the good things will make you remember them, so you won’t need to take notes.
((this is my personal number one golden rule. If anyone asks for hints and tips this is always the first one I give))