Saturday, January 26, 2013

The 24 Hour Readathon Returns

So a couple of years ago (9th April 2011, to be exact) I read books for twenty four hours straight. I did nothing else all day, but read. I did this to raise money for the Scottish Association of Mental Health, a charity that does great work to eliminate stigma and raise awareness of mental health issues. This year, I'm doing it again. On Monday 11th February, just a couple of weeks away, I will again read and read all day long.

From the Scottish Association of Mental Health:
One in four people in Scotland will have a mental health problem at some point in their life. This means that you may know someone with a mental health problem, or maybe you're worried about your own mental health.
At SAMH we believe there is no health without mental health. We're here to provide help, information and support; to campaign on behalf of people with mental health problems and to raise money to fund our vital work. We're here for everyone, and we're here for you.

Last time my target was £100, and I managed to raise £120. So this year I've set my sights slightly higher, and I'm looking at raising £150. But I can't do this without your help.

Any Tweets, Facebook shares, chatty conversations, will help to spread the word of what I'm doing. And, of course, any donations are greatly appreciated. You can read more about this event, and you can donate at this webpage here.

I'll be updating my blog very briefly along on the day too, so you can check in on my progress - I hope to beat the 1099 pages I read last time!

Thank you for all your help - it means a lot x

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Teaser Tuesday 22 Jan

Are my words ever actually audible, or do they just echo in my head while people stare at me, waiting? I want to change my punctuation. I long for exclamation marks, but I'm drowning in ellipses.
Warm Bodies, Isaac Marion 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

For Review: The Bronze Horseman ~ Paullina Simons

Personal book recommendations are rare for me. Not many of my friends are avid readers or, if they do enjoyr eading, expect to get their recommendations from me. Admittedly, this has changed since being surrounded by fellow English teachers in training, but before now it was a rare occurrence. The Bronze Horseman, however, was recommended to me when I was seventeen, and a couple of years later by anotehr friend. The book has been on my To Be Read list for eight years, the oldest thing there, and it was high time I read it.

So I did. Hmm.

1940s Lengingrad and Tatiana meets a handsome Red Army soldier called Alexander. But it turns out very swiftly that he's actually in a relationship with her older sister Dasha. And there's a war on and she starves and he goes to fight. Lots of bad things happen, then some nice things, then some bad. Essentially, it's a trashy romance dressed up in World War II Russia. I might actually have got something out of this when I was seventeen, but I'm far too cynical (or realistic?) to be even close to enthralled. In theory, this could have been great - but -

But Tatia is sixteen when Alexander first sees her, and he follows her around the city and it's all actually quite creepy, especially with Tatiana licking icecream wearing a white dress. From start to finish, the handsome twenty two year old will refer to her as 'little', 'young', 'tiny', 'innocent', and 'naive'. And dear me, is she ever. She's an idiot at many points, and naive to the point that it's unbelievable, ie seeing enemy flyers telling women to wear white so they know who not to hit, and clever Tania goes out in that white dress. With her naivety comes vulnerability, gullibility, and she loves to remind everyone of how feeble she is. Alexander laps that up, and he commands her all the time - don't do this; do that; I'm telling you - and she does. I think they're supposed to have an incredible enduring love, but it reads like Alexander just wants his end away with a blonde virgin, and that Tatiana's too naive to care that he's gorgeous but an aggressive bully. Don't get me wrong, I like love, I love love, but between them was only lust, at least where the sexy American-turned-Soviet Alex is concerned.

At seventeen, I probably would have thought that those kinds of relationships were okay - as long as we're gorgeous nothing matters - but actually it was just pathetic to read. Everything I do I do it for you is a fine mantra and yes, there was a war on, but all the things that should have given Tatiana an ounce of self-respect and character just didn't. So The Bronze Horseman turned into the kind of read where I was begging for something to really mess up the characters.

Characters, and the writing was far from great. The like to 'silently stare' at each other, which is interesting, because I didn't realise that staring could be noisy. And at one point Alexander's face was as 'closed as a bank on a holiday'. Plenty of phrases and sentences that had to read more than once to be properly understood.

In fairness, though, The Bronze Horseman, as a novel, did its job - it had words in that I could read: on long hot train journeys across Thialand, nights in a hotel where the TV aerial didn't work. It passed empty time, soft and simple. I left the book in Bangkok.

Harper: 2001;
656 Pages

Finished 10 Jan in Bangkok

Sunday, January 13, 2013

For Review: The Crimson Petal and the White ~ Michel Faber

You can't sleep - there are a thousand thread going through your head - what-ifs, what-if-nots, all the various consequences. This is called 'a great book'. Forget unputdownable, a really great book will leave you unable to sleep. The Crimson Petal and the White is an incredible book. It had the unsleepable quality, and it still has even after reading.

Sugar is a prostitiute in Victorian London, who writes by day and has grand plans of doing better in life. One day, she's found by entrepreneur William Rackham, who is consumed with his infatuation for her. At the heart of this novel is the golden thread that is their relationship. Far from simple or straight forward, William and Sugar have one of the most complicated and authentic relationships that I have read in a long time. Surrounding them are other prostitutes, middle class widows, and the rest of the Rackham family - brother, wife, daughter, and all. It's an incredible achievement to have so many characters each with their own story, and for every single one to have their own life and personality, and for the reader to care about them all. I couldn't say whether I love the earnestly religious Henry Rackham more than I love the confused and inquisitive Sophie, or the well-meaning and honest Emmeline Fox to madwoman in the attic Agnes Rackham. All these lives are interwoven carefully through the chunky novel, and while there's so much that I'd like to explore more and discuss, there's also so many elements to the story and the characters that even the slightest giveaway will make a difference to how a reader approaches the book - hence why, I think, the blurb on the back says so little.

What I can say, though, is that Faber has written something actually spectacular. Nitty gritty Victoriana has been done to death, and not always very well. The Crimson Petal and the White is stunning. Faber, centuries later, can write about life that Hardy would never have had published. Decorum, propriety and, ultimately, novel writing, are a different thing in this century and Faber takes advantage of that. Far from being stifling, The Crimson Petal is so easy to read, which surprised me give its weight and font size. Easy to read, but not because it's simple, but because the narrative is so fluid and so expertly handled. The aforementioned 'interweaving' is done in such a way that as each section left a character, I was gutted not to be reading more about them. But, as I turned the page, I realised that I was excited to get back to another character, and equally as gutted to be leaving them. Brilliantly written, Faber has a way of exposing his populace quickly and easily, in a way that that draws the reader in immediately. Every thought and action holds some significance of feeling, and just as in life, it's up to the reader to intrepret what it means, and for whom. I haven't had the chance to talk to anyone else yet who has read this but, when I do, I imagine that we'll be able to talk at length about who felt what, and why, and as for that ending...

Like I said above, I couldn't sleep for worrying about things in the novel, and I certainly spent, and still spend, a good portion of time wondering about what happened next, and all the possibilities. Faber gave nothing away, but offered so much. Thoroughly, immensely, I enjoyed this book.

Canongate Books;

824 pages