Saturday, May 28, 2011

For Review: Middlemarch ~ George Eliot 1 of 2

When I went to Germany for Christmas last year, my mum gave me a copy of George Eliot's Middlemarch. The book had come up a few times across my blog, especially in convos about the Victorian Literature Challenge. I'd never read Eliot before, and after reading countless reviews, I figured this was a good place to start. But wow, I didn't expect the book to be that big.

Anna Karenina, I was prepared for, but when I reviewed it last year, I don't think it did it justice. That book is just epic, full of everything and more, and Middlemarch is much the same. So this time round, I've decided to review the book in halves. So part one of two, this review looks at Middlemarch up to the end of Part IV.

I'm still at a loss to know where to start. We've got Dorthea married to old scholar Casaubon, his artist cousin Laidlaw. Then there's beautiful Rosamund and well-to-do Dr Lydgate. And poor Fred and Mary, whose families aren't the best of friends. Yup, Eliot is value for money - all these stories in one novel! And somehow, their lives all intertwine. The way their relationships affect one another is very curious, but it's just as you'd expect of a little English town.

Half way through, and it's difficult to know what to say about the plot, other than that I have been biting my nails, desperate to see how each of the relationships play out. Each character has their strengths and weaknesses to the point where I'm torn myself with how I want to see things work out. I'm quite partial to Dorthea, but I feel for Casaubon, but Laidlaw is exciting. Rosamund is just woman through and through, and I love her for that. I'm wary about Lydgate because he seems rather sneaky. Mary is just lovely, and Fred isn't worth the time of day. Such are my opinions so far. But it could all change! Ooh! So exciting!

Eliot's writing is, essentially, very Victorian. I didn't take to her as easily as I have other Victorian writers; she's all long sentences and long words and long paragraphs: stereotypical, really. But it's quite lovely to read. Her characters are immensely complex (I'm sure you've got the idea by now), and Eliot gets into the minds of each of them, while also bringing in a narrator's stance. It's kind of like a free for all: offered all these lives, with inside opinions and outside opinions, and it's up to the reader to decide who they love or don't, and why.

Besides her characters, Eliot's colourful descriptions of landscape are beautiful. They're delicious to read, and they feel like pastel watercolour paintings. Try it out, really. At the end of Part IV, Casaubon takes a stroll and, in all honesty, I'm jealous of his garden. It sounds like a dream.

So. Page 405. And I'm getting nervous. I'll be back with the second part of the review soon!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Something Exotic for Armchair American Tourists

Scotland. It's this little country where a few Scottish people live. Our literature scene is epic. There's so much going on (not to mention yours truly, who will be published one day, promise [I hope!])

Armchair BEA is, funnily enough, an event stacked full of American book bloggers, aka, the perfect opportunity to flaunt some 2011 Scottish greatness.

This year, I can't wait for this:
 Oh so excited. Oh so excited.

You want to know what life is really like in Scotland? Read Alan Bissett's books. We're not all heroin Trainspotting junkies. Nor are we all part of a Rebus investigation.

[More? My reviews of Boyracers and Death of a Ladies' Man]

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Addicts R Us

The best thing about the Armchair BEA has been bumping into other blogs and bloggers that before I hadn't heard of, or read. It's such a great chance to find some wonderful little corners of the web. Personally, I'm always curious about other book bloggers, so an interview sounded like a lot of fun.

I was very pleased to come across Kim's blog Reflections of a Book Addict. It's a blog and a half - there's everything there from reviews, to interviews, and book to film discussions. I wanted to find out more about her, so I asked a couple of questions.

You're told that you can only have two books for the rest of your life: one book that you've already read, and one book that you haven't read. Which do you choose and why?  

The book that I've already read would without question be Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  P&P has been my favorite book for many many years and no matter how many times I've read it, it never gets old.  The characters are like old friends giving comfort when it's needed.  The book I'd pick that I've never read....hmmm..this is a lot tougher.  I think Gone with the Wind.  I know the characters already from the movie, but I think that the story would be interesting enough for me to be fine with reading the book over and over again.
Congratulations! You're having a party! Which fictional characters would you invite? Who would you definitely not invite?
People definitely on my list: Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester, Katniss Everdeen, Peeta, Captain Wentworth, Anne Elliot, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Harry Potter, Sookie Stackhouse, Eric Northman, oh my the list could go on and on. 
My reject list would consist of Caroline Bingley (the woman never has anything nice to say, and I don't think she'd bring funny drama either), Bella Swan (she's what I call a wet napkin - BLAH personality)....I'm stuck on who else I shouldn't have!!

Armchair BEA - but do you read in an armchair? Where is your favourite place to read?
My favorite place to read is either my couch or my bed.  I usually take like 1,000 pillows and plop myself up nice and comfy, grab a blanket, a drink, and I'm set for HOURS. 

Sorry! You're not allowed to read today! How are you gonna spend your time instead?
When I'm not obsessed with reading, I'm obsessed with films.  If I couldn't read I'd definitely be watching films.  I studied media production in college, so I love watching films not just for fun, but to learn from them critically.

If your blog was represented by a colour and a shape, what do you think that would be?
It would be a rainbow colored rainbow?  I say that because rainbows symbolize equality, and I try to be fair and equal in my ratings of books.  I also try to review all types and genres and stay as open minded as possible when reading.

Here are some words. Say the first thing that comes to mind!
Fruit: Apples
Animal: Polar Bear
Sound: Car Alarm
Country: Italy
Book: The Hunger Games
Film: Casablanca

Sum up your blog in five words. Go!
Eclectic, honest, humorous, unique, fun
Thanks Kim, for answering my questions; I really liked your answers - especially about that rainbow.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Giveaway! Giveaway! Everyone Loves a Giveaway!

Bunch of books for you to win, for a bunch of book lovers!

Look at these. These are books:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Armchair BEA 2011: Well, Hello, There.

Not American. Not me. But still, the BEA looks amazing fun. If only there was a BEUK or something to go to. Aah...maybe one day. In the mean time, I'll settle happily for Armchair BEA. That means as much tea as I like, and no epic journeys.

Hello bloggers and Armchair BEA buddies!

My name's Bethany, and Subtle Melodrama is my little corner of the internet. Here, I like to rant about bookish things, slag off books that I dislike, and raise a flag for all those lovely novels and poems that I love. It's your usual book blog, right?

Maybe. I'm genre prejudice, but everything I read has to be of a literary standard (ie, not poorly written). That's the only criteria. So I'll read YA, Horror, Sci-fi, Fantasy, whatever, so long as first and foremost it is worth it.

See also: literary snobbery.

Otherwise? I'm a huge fan of chocolate, all sorts of black tea, I'm a writer (with a couple of online published short stories and a live reading under my belt, I give myself this title), I'm a sucker for anything cute/kawaii/kitsch, and right now, as I'm typing this, I'm really hungry.

So hello, everyone! Yay for Armchair Bea 2011!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Where To Find Me

Spreading my virtual wings across the internet a little bit.

First: Check Out My Love Rant About Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
Edinburgh City Libraries asked me to write an article on what books have inspired me to write. This was the book that started it all. Mostly. Article also features a picture of my face. Interesting.

Second: Got Facebook? Like Facebook? Like this!
Seems like all the cool kids are doing it these days. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Facebook. Epic timewaster, but it keeps me in contact with humans. Anyway, I'll post updates and chat and banter and not spam. Just another way to be in touch. Aww, blog family.

[Note how reference to wings makes picture of Patrick Wolf entirely legitimate]

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: 17 May

' "To be a poet is to have a soul so quick to discern that no shade of quality escapes it, and so quick to feel, that discernment is but a hand playing with finely-ordered variety on the chords of emotion - a soul in which knowledge passes instantaneously into feeling, and feeling flashes back as a new organ of knowledge." '

, George Eliot (209)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Literary? Really?

What books have you read that have been hyped as literary and, in your opinion, were not?

Huh... My instant reaction?

Thinking about it. Thinking about it. Thinking about it. Nope. I've read plenty 'literary' books that I thought were crap, but I couldn't argue over their literary merit. Apart from maybe Lord of the Flies, but that's dangerous ground.

On the other hand, I've read plenty of books that I would consider literary that many people haven't considered in such terms. (see also: Bret Easton Ellis/Chuck Palahniuk).

My answer? Still no. I've heard people term several books under that 'literary' term, but I've been wise to their game and managed to avoid disaster (thus far). Win!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

For Review: The Chronicles of Narnia ~ C.S Lewis

Wow, I did it! I can now honestly say that I have read the Chronicles of Narnia. Way too late, but I did it. My thirteen year old sister is reading through them too, and I'm jealous that she's getting so much more from them than I did.

Not that I didn't enjoy them. I did, but... I can't say I loved it as a series. There were some books with rather charming bits, and some that just bored me. I'm not a reader of fantasy, and I really struggled with some of the content: ie, long battle scenes. What I did like was the characters, and the way they interacted with each other, and the way they viewed Narnia in comparison with out own world. But when it came to the real fantasy elements, I rapidly lost interest. If I can't cope with a few pages in Narnia, I doubt I'll manage chapters of some more adult fantasy.

The Christian allegories of Narnia were mostly very subtle. It would be just ignorant to pretend that methaphors and comparisons weren't there. By and large, I found them reasonably unobtrusive, to the point where I think these days, secular readers might miss the majority. However, by the end of The Last Battle I struggled with the painfully obvious ideas: no child could read that without twigging what it was all about. I'm not a fan of lecturing, but Lewis managed it so beautifully. The scene with the dwarfs at the end was particularly interesting, and it was amusing to see Lewis take quite a liberal stance.

The books were fun, light hearted, and certainly very thought-provoking. Lewis' ideas of gender and race seem to leak into the stories. Why are the bad guys black? Why do the Narnians make such a point of wanting to be white again? Is that race, or is a good vs evil thing? Also - the women know their place. They can have opinions, they are allowed to speak, but they're hidden and kept safe from the majority of action. Which I think is fair enough. The girls know where they stand, but they are strong and independent of mind. I like that.

So what was my favourite? The Silver Chair, quite easily. I adored that book. There was just something so charming about it, and the characters were all lovely, and responded to one another in such an optimistic way. Really, it was just heart-warming (and nice to read in the hot German sun).

Least favourite? The Horse and His Boy. It held my interest for about fifty pages. Then I was bored. I don't really know why the story was actually in there. I know, there will be reasons, but I feel I could have skipped it and I would still be au fait with Narnia's history.

The Chronicles of Narnia is worthwhile reading, whether a fantasy fan or not. They're only short, with each of the seven being less than 200 pages, and it's worth it even just for turning the cogs in your brain. I'm glad that I read them, but I know I would have gained so much more had I read them at ten years old. Or perhaps that's just retrospect, perhaps I only understand now how important they might have been.

Monday, May 09, 2011

For Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles ~ Arthur Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes is a new thing to me. I was never interested in the Sherlock Holmes films, or serial programmes on television. It's the crime thing, the whole detective scenario; it's not something that particularly excites me. But surely the original, Arthur Conan Doyle's writing, must be worth while.

So I picked up The Hound of the Baskervilles; a short novel, and so famous that I figured it was worth a shot. A big crazy dog killing off a family of Baskervilles? Yeah, I'd read that. It was really that supernatural, Gothic element, that pulled me. And I wasn't disappointed. The sprawling landscape of the moors, an old house with a creepy butler, a long line of Baskervilles, a love interest, and the looming fear of the curse of the hound. Brilliant. Had I read this serialised, as it was originally published, I would have been desperate for the next chapter. The Hound of the Baskervilles was just such an enjoyable romp.

Sherlock Holmes is how a good detective should be: not guns and gadgets, but intellect and cunning. There wasn't enough of the man in this book, as Dr Watson (who is adorable) goes off to the moors to investigate on his own, but what there was of the man I loved. Hello, new book crush. Holmes is quick witted, and so nonchalant in his treatment of his cases, but he obviously still takes it seriously, and with care. He's able to add both comedy and suspense; pretty good trick, Sir Doyle.

So - can anyone recommend me what next Holmes adventure to read?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Licking David Tennant...

Ten minutes ago I dragged myself out of the flat to go get a stamp for a boring letter to send to Glasgow Uni registry. Yawn.

46p for a 1st class postage stamp, and this is what I got:

Old news, yes (the RSC stamp collection came out 12th April) but the glee was so very real.

The whole set are now available as postcards! Anyone wanna buy me a present?

Friday, May 06, 2011

Friday, Friday, Gotta Get Down On... (you know the rest)

You know what I haven't done in a while? Take part in Crazy-for-Books' weekly blog hop. I've recently had to go through my blog list and do a bit of weeding, and now I have to fill in the space with some lovely new blogs! So this is perfect!

She asks this week which blogger we would like to meet in real life?

In all honesty? If I could, I would host an epic tea party, including a book swap, where bloggers could get together and chat about blog related things, and bookish loves, and general chit chat. And actually, that doesn't sound like half a bad idea. Hmm...

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Hyperbole and a Half; a book writing process. I'd say, this is sound advice!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Trick Is To Keep Breathing (and then some)

I did it, and I didn't die:

My reading debut at the Hunterian Anatomy Museum in Glasgow.

Aww yeah, buddy! So what happened?

First trick: Printed off my short story in massive font. So it spread over several pages, and I could read it easily with my face towards the microphone. I didn't know what to do with my hands though... so they were wrung together for dear life, like I was performing an opera piece. That might have looked a bit special.

As for the actual reading itself? I was good; only one glass of merlot consumed prior to reading. I was last in the running order, which is kinda scary, because people remember that more immediately. I'm always more likely to remember who was last to read.

Tips I'd been given before hand?
1. Rescue remedy mixed in with a glass of wine.
2. Downing a banana flavoured Yazoo - it coats the throat, appparently!
But I did neither of these. I was even too scared to use a throat lozenge in case I sounded groggy.

Ah yes, because that was an issue too. Along with nerves, I have a lovely springtime cold to contend with. I'm all choked up, and I was worried that people wouldn't understand me.

A particular Scottish author and American Psycho enthusiast told me just three things:
1. Don't read too fast.
2. Vary your tone.
3. Read with a bit of humour.

So, after all the tricks and rituals, none were really needed. Just three simple rules. And breathing.

Monday, May 02, 2011

My Life in Book Titles

Just a little meme I found floating around the web.  Complete the statements with the titles of books you've read this year! {Or if you haven't read enough to match all the answers, just chuck in some of your favourites!}

In high school I was A Pair of Blue Eyes (Thomas Hardy)
People might be surprised I’m Playing with the Grown-Ups (Sophie Dahl)
I will never be Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
My fantasy job is (at) The Shipping News (Annie Proulx)
At the end of a long day I need Glamorama (Bret Easton Ellis)
I hate it when Tamburlaine Must Die (Louise Welsh)
Wish I had The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S Lewis)
My family reunions are A Wild Sheep Chase (Haruki Murakami)
At a party you’d find me with Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy)
I’ve never been to Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen)
A happy day includes The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (Robert Louis Stevenson)
Motto I live by Gospel of Anarchy (Justin Taylor)
On my bucket list is Bad Dirt (Annie Proulx)
In my next life, I want to have Let The Right One In (John Ajvide Lindqvist)

How fun!