Saturday, July 30, 2011

Birthday Book Booty Boast

[Who said alliteration is out of fashion?]

I don't usually do this type of thing, but I am so proud and excited about the mass of books I have accumulated over my birthday week that I just had to share.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Did I Mention...


that I've got only a few weeks left of my MLitt

that I'm in full time work

that I'm part time interning at Canongate books?


...that yesterday I turned 24?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

For Review: Middlemarch ~ George Eliot 2 of 2

Way back in May I posted my review of the first half of Middlemarch. I was reasonably excited and looking forward to seeing how relationships and plots developed. So why has it taken nearly two months to get round to the end?

Something weird started happening. I'm all for the whole world on a grain of rice and all that chat, but Eliot took that a little too far for me. Sure, it's grand and all to cover all aspects of life - love, politics, etc etc. When it's done well, when it's small and subtle, when it's Tolstoy, it's all good. But Eliot got a bit crazy with it. I ended up skipping pages of just boring boring chat. Like watching the parliament channel. And then there were finance chapters, and doctor chapters. Really, I lost the plot.

I think I'd had enough. If, by four hundred pages, the book had ended, I'd be reasonably pleased (minus some ends needing tied). Middlemarch should be several separate books because, all though all the families do interlink, I think they're sufficiently different and far enough to be complete on their own. It was decent, it was fine, but by the time I got to page 536, my interest was lost. Not the size of the book, because I've got through several large brick books before. Trying to pinpoint what it was.

Hrm. Maybe it was the change of story, change of pace, change of interest. I just wasn't keen for it. I don't understand the fanaticism behind this book. Middlemarch isn't rubbish, far from it. But I got bored in the end (halfway through, really). Le sigh. So... I'm assuming (because this is the first time I've come across Eliot) that her fans think Middlemarch is brilliant. Personally, I don't think I'll be visiting Eliot any time soon. I'll stick with my Hardy. It's just a taste thing.

Monday, July 18, 2011

For Review: Room ~ Emma Donoghue

The blurb on the jacket, and various various glowing reviews, meant that I added the book to my reading list.
Usually, mass hype leaves me out of the loop a little - either I don't understand the novel, or the novel fails to get to grips with me. This time, every review that suggested the book is good is 100% correct.
Room is what a good book should be: daring, well-written, emotional, thoughtful, and a bit on the crazy experimental side. Let's not get me into a ramble about first person present tense again. But this isn't so simple (if that POV can even be called simple): Room is narrated by five year old Jack. Not only is he young, but all he's known all his life is his mother, the inside of a garden shed, and television programmes. Suffice to say, it's a very narrow view of the world. Though Jack accepts the world he lives in he's a curious boy and, in time, his mother begins to admit that there is more beyond their four walls of Room. The reader progresses on a journey about love and truth, and humanity and understanding. There were points where I laughed, where I cried, and where I was just outright frustrated. Cliched? Maybe, but life is: we are all constantly experiencing all of these emotions, and more.
Room is real, and shows humanity's ability to remain human in the face of so much monstrosity. The relationship between Jack and Ma is incredibly tender - they each want the best for one another and become increasingly frustrated that they cannot provide this.
If you're human, read it. If you've ever been a child with a mother, read it. If you appreciate good literature, read it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: 12 July

Today I'm five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I'm changed to five, abracadabra. Before that I was three, then two, then one, then zero. "Was I minus numbers?"
     "Hmm?" Ma does a big stretch.
     "Up in Heaven. Was I minus one, minus two, minus three -?"
     "Nah, the numbers didn't start till you zoomed down."

Room, Emma Donoghue

[One day this intro paragraph will be used in literature exams. There's so much to rejoice about!]

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

You Don't Know What You're Talking About

This is blogger. That means that I review books on a blog. Figures.

But whose word do you take? Mine (or the book blogger's) or the big guys behind the broadsheets?

It was, in fact, something I was thinking about a lot yesterday. If I was a writer, whose word would I take? Is there really such a huge quality difference between blogs and broadsheets? By and large, definitely yes. Let's not pretend that some bloggers talk nonsense.

Savidge Reads posted ahead of me, and this is what he ponders.

My reply?

Ooh! Very interesting. There are definitely only a handful of book bloggers whose reviews I take seriously – whether they have degrees or not, I don’t know. Broadsheet reviews can be insightful, but oh-so dead to read. Generally, if I’m interested in a broadsheet review then I’ll chase it up with blogger reviews.

Myself? I get frustrated when people don’t take my opinions seriously. I have a Masters in English Literature and I like to believe that I know what I’m talking about. Not that I’m gonna always be right, but I’d hate to think that my views were dismissed simply because I review on a blog.

Monday, July 04, 2011

For Review: Grow Up ~ Ben Brooks

Jasper and his friends argue about what generation they are. Pretty sure most often the late teens these days (I can say 'these days' because I'm getting old) are referred to the 'Skins generation' or something similar; taking drugs, lots of sex, smoking and drinking and all those things kids aren't supposed to get up to. But they do. Oh, they do.

Jasper is 17, and happily gets involved with all of the above. He also visits a therapist and is convinced that his step-dad is a murderer. So far, so reasonably normal, but it's got edge and it's not just run around fun and games. It might be unfair to refer to Skins at all. Grow Up is, actually, about growing up, and there's more to the story than superficial teenageness. Sure, it's there. But of course it is. Yes, there are mentions of Los Campesinos! but why not? Don't get on your high horse too quickly - these are landmarks, reference points for teenagers. Every teenager does that - defined by the books he reads, the music he listens to, etc - marking where he stands in society. Maybe you don't like it, but that's society for ya, and not just Jasper, or Ben Brooks.

Grow Up isn't just nonsense, and it isn't just junkie fun. Jasper narrates his story in first person present tense (which I personally have a bit of a thing for), and the voice is fresh, honest, and can be very funny. Some of the ways that Jasper views the world are very entertaining, and often quite obscure.

If you are old- and closed- in mind, then don't bother. Otherwise, give it a go and enjoy: Grow Up is a clever and cheeky little read.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Victorian Literature Challenge Pit Stop

Believe it or not, it's July! Happy July everyone!~

That means that the Victorian Literature Challenge is halfway through its course!

Here's my original list. The scored out stuff is what I've read so far!

1. Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen
2. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
3. Two on a Tower - Thomas Hardy
4. A Pair of Blue Eyes - Thomas Hardy
5. Under the Greenwood Tree - Thomas Hardy
6. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
7. The Hound of the Baskervilles - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
8. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
9. Middlemarch - George Eliot
10. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
11. She - H.R Haggard
12. Villette - Charlotte Bronte
13. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Bronte
14. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
15. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

7/15. So half way there. How are you guys getting on?

Friday, July 01, 2011

For Review: Seeds ~ Richard Horan

Seeds: One Man's Serendipitous Journey to Find the Trees That Inspired Famous American Writers.

It does what it says on the tin, and that keeps me happy. I love trees, and I think they really are very inspiring. I've spent considerable time with a notepad beside my favourite tree on the Scottish west coat. Maybe one day someone will go and visit it and look across the Clyde and try and figure out where my inspiration came from. But that's just me. I'm not an American Great.

Flannery O'Connor and Carson McCullers are favourites of mine, and I'd personally love to take a visit to their writing land. Horan does just that, and takes a look round the gardens of writers such as Harper Lee, Willa Cather, Jack Kerouc and Robert Frost (to name but a few). The anecdotes are coupled with Horan's own personal findings, and the result is a cute and interesting read. Robert Frost's section was particularly moving and reminded me that I really ought to revisit his poetry.

Maybe I should avoid using the word 'cute' to describe Seeds. It's endearing and, more than that, it's always fun to see where clever minds find their inspiration, and where they like to write. The world owes a lot to trees! And I am very grateful!