Monday, 29 April 2013

Musing Mondays


Hosted by Should Be Reading

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.

• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

Sometimes you just have to have a few hours off...

Late yesterday afternoon I stepped off the train from London, went home, went to the gym and was then planning to meet a friend for the evening. Just as I had finished getting ready, put my makeup on and neatened my hair, those plans were cancelled. So there I was, all dressed up and nowhere to go with the entire evening before me. I have, to my annoyance, recently become accustomed to going to bed very late. I'm a bed-by-nine kinda girl so not going until 12/1ish has been killing me (I'm having to take extreme measures to cover the bags, no, suitcases, under my eyes). My plans were cancelled at 7.30 which left me with at least four hours to fill. Initially I thought 'brill, time to blog, to read a bit and perhaps even do some work (surely not!)'. But do you know what I did? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Yep, you heard me, nothing. I lay across the end of my bed, feet resting on my radiator, stared out of my window and listened to music for over two hours. I'm not going to lie, it was bliss. 

I've still been feeling a bit 'meh' about things recently and even though I think I'm safely out of the slump, it was amazing to lay there, chill out and completely close off my mind to everything except the music. I love reading and I love being busy but I think my brain is going to thank me for the rest and will hopefully be a bit more rejuvenated from now on. It's been an odd year with so many changes, stressful moments and exciting new things happening and I think I've finally had chance to take it all in. I ended my evening with an hour of reading and even looked at my overflowing shelves with eager anticipation instead of dread. Now that's progress.

Just to keep it a bit book related, I am currently reading Amity and Sorrow and I am loving it! It is nothing like I expected, in a good way, and I am quite blown away by the subject and the writing. 

Happy Monday everyone!


Saturday, 27 April 2013

Translation Challenge: Maybe This Time

Maybe This Time
Alois Hotschnig
Peirene title no. 6
Translated from Austrian German by Tess Lewis

'Without disguising himself, he went around disguised, if not from others then simply from himself.'

I'm still visibly vibrating with the chills this tiny piece of literary goodness has given me. Mega CHILLS. Full-body CHILLS. Ahem. Yes, this book was chilling, did I say that already?

I'm sure that most of you are aware of Peirene Press. They publish contemporary European novellas in English translation in a pretty breathtakingly attractive format. Each year they decide on a theme and publish novellas according to that theme. Maybe This Time is part of the Male Dilemma series though I think the dilemma, or even dilemmas, that are described in the book are not gender specific but can be experienced by anyone.

Meike Ziervogel, the founder of Peirene, says this about the collection of stories in Maybe This Time: 'I love Kafka and here we have a Kafkaesque sense of alienation - not to mention narrative experiments galore! Outwardly normal events slip into drama before they tip into horror. These oblique tales exert a fascinating hold over the reader.'

The short stories in this collection left me very unsettled. There is something strangely uncanny about each and every one. Maybe it's the pervading sense of loss and loneliness that does that. Each story starts with some degree of normality but it's never long before it slips into strangeness and then even into horror. The main running theme is identity, or rather, the loss of identity. Each individual, generally unnamed, is struggling to understand who they are and how they relate to the modern world around them.

'She ate with relish as I sat there across from her and I watched as I disappeared into her. At the same time she slowly deteriorated before my eyes.'

I can't honestly say I liked any of these stories but I definitely appreciate them. I'm not sure anyone could say that they 'like' them per se. They just don't lend themselves to a enjoyable reading experience. It's hard to explain how much I enjoyed reading them even as I'm saying that I don't think they're, much? I constantly felt like I was missing something important, like I didn't know something important and I really don't feel like I grasped the meaning of some of the stories. But, all the same, I don't think that matters. This collection gave me chills, it pulled me out of my reading slump and I look forward to discovering what else Peirene has to offer.


Friday, 26 April 2013

Review: The Honey Thief

The Honey Thief
Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman

'When I sleep, I dream Hazara.'

The Honey thief reveals the history of Afghanistan through the tradition of storytelling. Najaf Mazari is an Afghan refugee living in Australia and a member of the Hazara. The stories in this collection revolve around the Hazara and their own history going back thousands of years. The stories remain separate from one another but are also interlinked and woven together with skill. From a master musician to a master storyteller, to a beekeeper and a young boy and girl entranced by Huckleberry Finn, these stories cover the history of the Hazara people, their ups and downs and never ending courage.

Storytelling and particularly the oral tradition of storytelling is a running theme throughout the collection, not in the least because the stories where themselves told by Najaf Mazari to Robert Hillman. Storytelling in this collection is shown as the link between generations and a way of both creating and communicating the history of the Hazara. We realise this is going to be an important theme towards the beginning when Abbas and his grandfather share stories.

'Take the books with you. We will read them together, that will be best.'

My favourite of the stories is The Behsudi Dowry. That's not really hard to predict because it does involve books. It talks about the power of books to forge connections between people and bring families and lovers together. It ends with this brilliant line: 'Love is not the smile. Love is the struggle before the smile.'

I really liked how it starts and ends with the story of one particular character, Abbas. Although the stories sometimes seem totally disparate, Abbas links them together. He grows through the stories from a young boy to a husband and father and he becomes familiar to us as we go through the history of the Hazara. I thought it was lovely how Abbas seems to have an obsession with a 'vacuum' flask. it pops up in a couple of the tales as Abbas tries to work out it manages to keep hot things hot and cold things cold. His hunger for knowledge is quite inspiring.

The book itself is gorgeous. The cover is lush and feels pretty luxurious. There are a few nice extra touches inside too that might come as a bit of a surprise including a selection of recipes. There is also a useful glossary of terms. It is these few extras that really make the book quite special, it all feels very well thought out and presented. It's pretty much a delight from cover to cover.

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a copy to review.


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

She be slumpin'

I'm suffering from a raging reading slump. It's stressing me out BIG TIME. I hate not being able to read because reading is my life. It's like a support system. I've always got books to rely on when I'm having a hard time. Books get me through the stress of waiting rooms, solitary lunches, bus rides, tube rides, aeroplanes, sleepless nights, being home alone and every other situation imaginable. I have my favourite children's book (The Velveteen Rabbit) in iBooks on my phone, I carry my kindle, paperbacks, hardbacks and bookish magazines everywhere. It's like missing a limb when I don't have a book near me. I practically feed off that wonderful literary energy of the written word. It's fair to say that right now I feel pretty lost, detached from my own reality because I seem to be unable to immerse myself in another. The bottom line: this sucks.

I don't even know the cause of this slump. I have a number of potentials but I can't decide which one it is. Firstly, my life has suddenly got hella busy. I'm full time again, with a couple of writing jobs on the side, my social life has picked up and preparations are in full swing for the big move (countless application forms and browsing right move). But I'm loving this busyness, I'm happy. I'm seeing friends and family and I enjoy my job. For those who are wondering, I've gone back to a previous job as a receptionist. My bosses are amazing and lovely and I get to sit and write articles for them all day long. Bliss.

The other cause could be what I'm reading. I've been reading Honour by Elif Shafak for about 2 weeks now and I'm getting nowhere fast. I'm about half way through and making very slow progress. A snail's pace, if you will. But again I am completely at a loss to explain why that might be. The story is interesting and I think it is wonderfully written but I'm unable to read more than a chapter at a time. That may just be because of the fact that I keep falling asleep whilst reading which is unheard of for me but is likely linked to the general hectic life I'm currently leading. Hmmm.

The third possible explanation is my bookshelves and the TBR pile that is threatening to topple and bury me (not a bad way to go, I must admit). I am so desperate to read ALL THE BOOKS that I'm constantly looking at what I'll read next instead of focusing on what I'm reading then and there. Plus I keep worrying that I'll never have time to read them all before moving and what on earth will I do with them all. These are stressful times.

After serious consideration I am going to conclude that it is a combination of the above potential causes that are leaving me in this discombobulating state. I'm like a crazy woman right now. Looking at my books longingly, stroking their spines, sniffing their pages and guiltily arranging and rearranging them into neat little piles. It's getting to me. Send help.

Does anyone have any tips to overcome a book slump? Or, like a bad cold, do I just have to ride it out and hope for a swift recovery?

I'm going to put in a picture of one of my bookshelves. The majority of these are books yet to be shown some lovin' and read. A few of them are waiting to be alphabetised which, as much as I love alphabetising (yes, I admit that freely), it's going to be one heck of a job to squeeze these in.


Monday, 22 April 2013

Musing Mondays


Hosted by Should Be Reading

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.

• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

I am currently trying to battle my way out of a crippling reading slump by reading...Maybe This Time by Alois Hotschnig

I found this Peirene Press book sandwiched between two chunky hardbacks in Foyles a few weeks ago and quickly snapped it up thinking it would be perfect for the Translation Challenge I'm taking part in. I dipped into it last night and I think it may also be the answer to my reading slump. It's a collection of short stories which itself is short (win win situation). It's creepy and full of the unheimlich (yes, I love Freud, what of it?). I read one story last night before I went to sleep and as much as nothing much happened in it, it definitely chilled me to the bone. I adore books like that. It's a bit like Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle in that respect because you get that feeling of foreboding and you know something is not quite right but you can't put your finger on it. I think it's a talented storyteller that can achieve that.

Fingers crossed that short and creepy will be the answer to my problems and I'll be back in the swing of things in the next few days. This whole reading slump is stressing me out big time. I need the books back in my life.

In other's World Book Night tomorrow! I've treated myself, my sister and her friend to tickets to the event at the Southbank Centre in London. Needless to say I am beside myself with excitement. Books! Authors! More Books!

Happy Monday!


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Review: The Snow Child

The Snow Child
Eowyn Ivey

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart--he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone--but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.*

The Snow Child transforms a Russian folktale, about a childless couple who make a girl out of snow, into a fairytale set in the heart of the 1920's Alaskan landscape. Rather than ignoring the story's obvious roots and inspiration, Ivey weaves the folktale into the narrative. The tale is one of Mabel's favourites and it is through her interaction with the story that the elements of fantasy are brought into the novel. Ivey never makes it clear whether this is fantasy or reality. Although I think the balance between realism and fantasy is quite even and I think the use of the folktale is clever, as I was reading it I found the lack of clarity a tad irritating. I wanted to know whether Faina was real or not. Looking back, I realise that this ambiguity is one of the main strengths of the novel. As a reader we are entranced by the possibilities and I know that my imagination was running completely wild.

I must admit, I felt ever so sad reading The Snow Child. I don't know how Ivey did it but she managed to convey Jack and Mabel's desperation, loneliness and fear of loss even when the story itself perked up. It quite cleverly made me worry constantly, along with Jack and Mabel, about the inevitable day when Faina would not return.

I enjoyed this book with the lush descriptions of the Alaskan landscape and some really lovable characters but, in the end, it fell flat for me. There was quite a gentle hype around it and I was so excited to read it but it just didn't live up to those expectations. But then maybe that is a lesson for me: don't believe the hype, use my own noggin to form opinions and don't just act like a sheep. Don't get me wrong, I'm not wishing I'd never read it, I enjoyed it thoroughly as a book to wile away a couple of hours with each night before bed. I do feel like Ivey has more to give and I look forward to her next novel (if she does one, that is).

'We never know what is going to happen, do we? Life is always throwing us this way and that. That’s where the adventure is. Not knowing where you’ll end up or how you’ll fare. It’s all a mystery, and when we say any different, we’re just lying to ourselves. Tell me, when have you felt most alive?'

* Description from Goodreads


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Library Lovin'

I've had a couple of sneaky library trips over the last week and found some absolute gems. My local library never seem to have the book I'm after but I always find something I want to read when I'm browsing. Mostly, I've been finding books I've wanted to read for, like, yonks but never saw them in a bookstore or they slipped my mind. So, as much as it is a trifle annoying not to come out with the books I intended, I'm loving the somewhat serendipitous finds I have been coming home with.

First up is The Rime of the Modern Mariner, a graphic novel by Nick Hayes. I've been meaning to dip my toes into the whole graphic novel scene for a while now (Maus has been sat on my shelf unread for about six months). I've had a bit of a soft spot for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ever since I studied it in college (and then again at uni). Lines occasionally pop in to my head at the oddest moments and I always give a little squeal of delight whenever it floods and the newspapers use the inevitable 'water, water everywhere' as the headline. I gave an even bigger squeal recently when I heard Bastille's (my favourtist band EVER) song 'The Weight of Living' and there is a line that proves the singer has smarts as well as looks ('there's an albatross around your neck'...he has definitely read the Mariner, surely). Anyway, before I start serenading you all with literary quotes...The images in this are beautiful and I already love how it is a divorcee that is stopped by the Mariner instead of a wedding guest. Moving with the times. Expect gushing reviews.

Next is James Fenton's poetry collection Yellow Tulips. I saw this reviewed somewhere when it was published and have fancied it ever since. Seeing as April is National Poetry Month, I can't imagine a better time to finally get around to reading these.

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene is this month's book club read. I've never read anything by Greene and never felt the need to either so I'll be going into this with no expectations whatsoever.

Finally, a book I was a little too excited to find is Nicola Barker's Burley Cross Postbox Theft. This is another book I added to a list of 'books to buy and read at some point' when it was published. I have a mini obsession with epistolary novels because I really love what the whole style can add to a story and I have a feeling this one will be pretty amusing as it is a take on village life. So I'm thinking it will be full of curtain twitchers, lovable or freaky spinsters, village meetings and a sense that everyone knows everything about everyone. I cannot wait.

In case it was in any doubt, I definitely love the library now.  SO MANY BOOKS.


Monday, 15 April 2013

Musing Mondays


Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

I have recently bought myself:

Three wonderful bargains from my local Oxfam. I'm particulalry excited about The Paris Wife since I have recently been having a bit of a love affair with the whole Hemingway circle. I've read some sparkling reviews about it and I think I will read it either before or after reading A Farewell to Arms. Delightful. I also picked up Alexandra Harris's biography of Virginia Woolf (it is slightly less daunting than the Hermione Lee one) and The Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger. It has been a while since I've dipped my toes into the world of the Great War so I am looking forward to reading this classic.

Bit of a short one today, I've just started watching Broadchurch and I'm already hooked. Who killed Danny?! No spoilers please, I'm only on episode 3. Yes, I realise I'm behind, I laugh in the face of convention.


Friday, 12 April 2013

Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn

Oh my days. I feel like I've been on a whirlwind adventure of the most emotional proportions.

So, I'm not going to talk very long about this book because it is like THE hardest task to do so without giving away all the twisty plot points and spoiling the whole revelatory experience for the few out there who haven't read Gone Girl. Plus it has been reviewed to death here, there, and everywhere so I'm pretty certain everyone knows that it is the story of a married couple, Nick and Amy. The deal: Amy goes missing on the morning of their fifth anniversary without a trace. The police roll in and uncover a ton of dodgyness and yada yada yada...I can't tell you anymore.

My favourite bit about the novel is the shifting perspectives (I love a good perspective shift). I'm one of those people who believes the story they hear first which means that I am initially on Nick's side. But then - bombshell - Flynn switches to Amy's perspective and I'm all confused and not sure who to trust or even like. Seriously guys, emotional roller coaster here. I think it is the way Flynn plays with perspective that gives the novel pace. I was continually wanting to read on to the next chapter to see how the other person is interpreting things. But be warned: none of these characters are likable.

Is it predictable? I don't know. It may be to people who read lots of thrillers but, because I only read one or two a year, it isn't to me. The twists were all rather surprising and, I think, cleverly done. In general I really enjoyed this book, it held my attention and the story was just clever enough for it to be brilliant but not too clever that I got lost in all the twists. I do think it is a bit of a marmite book. My sister bought it and only managed about a quarter before getting bored and giving up but she lent it to my Mum who loved it and read it like lightening. I think I'm a bit between love and ambivalence. I'm going to blame that on four years of literature at uni and my inevitable need to analyse and criticise.

I would still recommend it to someone who wants a fast paced, well written thrill ride and I would recommend trying Flynn's other novels. I've read Dark Places which I think I prefer to this one (that may just be because I read it on a plane to Egypt and it is good by association). Is it Women's Prize longlist worthy? The jury's still out on that one but I will be surprised if it appears on the shortlist. I'll pass it on to my Dad now, see what he makes of it...


Thursday, 11 April 2013


Since Cat and Diana have recently brought it to my attention that obsessive book buying as a cure for the general stresses and unhappinesses of life is pretty much an acceptable thing with a technical name - bibliotherapy - I am going to share with you some more recent purchases without feeling even a shred of remorse. It's therapy. Can't say no to that.

Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut
Death in Venice Thomas Mann
A Farewell to Arms Ernest Hemingway
Short Stories Vol. 2 Rudyard Kipling (I have been looking for a book of Kipling stories that includes Mary Postgate and The Gardener for, like, ever. It would be a lie to say I didn't do a happy jig when I found this.)
Maybe This Time Alois Hotschnig (hello, translation challenge)
Books Burn Badly Manuel Rivas
The Lifeboat Charlotte Rogan (I have this on my kindle but I really wanted the paperback too. I did get it from Oxfam so it's not technically like I bought the same book twice. Right? Right?!)
Sophie's Choice William Styron
The Missing Ink Phillip Hensher

I realise I may have taken bibliotherapy to the extreme but I'm not sure anyone would expect anything less from me.


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Classics Spin: Dickens and Eliot

Yes, my kindle cover has elephants on it.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Charles Dickens
1870 (left unfinished)
Why did you have to go and die, Dickens, and leave this unfinished? I have so many questions. And not just questions, burning questions. I'd wanted to read this ever since watching the BBC adaptation last year (amazing, by the way, totally worth a watch) so I was really pleased it came up on the spin. I wasn't quite prepared though for how abruptly it ends and how unresolved it all is. Still, as usual the language and characterisation is, well, spectacular and I'm pleased to announce that I loved The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

John Jasper was suitably freaky, Edwin Drood suitably irritating, and Rosa Bud suitably pathetic. The highlight of the novel by far was Rosa's guardian, the lawyer Grewgious (his clerk Mr Bazzard is pretty brill too). In Dickens there is usually one character that sticks in my mind and Grewgious is joining the likes of Joe Gargery and Mr Micawber as one of my favourites. He, a bit like Mr Bucket in Bleak House I think, is one of those outside characters that is able to judge the situation in order for the reader to see it as it is. Smart fellow. Mostly, I just love the way he speaks.

'I am a particularly Angular man, and yet I fancy (if I may use the word, not having a morsel of fancy), that i could draw a picture of a true lover's state of mind, tonight.'

The Lifted VeilGeorge Eliot

'While the heart beats, bruise it - it is your only opportunity'

I felt a bit let down by The Lifted Veil. I've read Middlemarch (loved it) and The Mill on the Floss (also loved it) and I was really quite intrigued by the whole George-Eliot-does-gothic-fiction-in-a-novella deal. It was an interesting read, a typically intellectual read and at times even a bit spooky but there was just something missing. All the way through I was just waiting for something to happen that actually made it gothic fiction. I don't know, maybe I just missed the whole point of it. Maybe I was meant to just take from it some kind of moral about the dangers of knowing the future and how you should just live in the moment and take each day rather than waiting for something you know will eventually happen. I guess the quote I've slipped in above demonstrates things while you still can because, before long, it will be too late.

Ok, maybe I did take more from it than I thought. I think it just was not the sort of enjoyable reading experience I previously attributed to George Eliot. Although, to be fair, I read Middlemarch and The Mill on the Floss way back when I was at school so I could have the old rose tinted nostalgia glasses on...Still, this one may benefit from a re-read in 10 years time.


Monday, 8 April 2013

Musing Mondays


Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
  • Describe one of your reading habits.
    • Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
    • What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it! • Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
    • Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) thatgets your ire up? Share it with us!
    • Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!
I'm currently reading...Honour/Gone Girl

I'm finally getting round to cracking on with the Women's Prize list. I'm going for a bit of a double book approach, though reading these two alongside each other is perhaps not the best idea. I'm already getting hooked on Gone Girl so I think Honour may get left behind in a cloud of dust.

Speaking of clouds of dust...I ran a half marathon yesterday. In 1 hour 54 mins and 41 seconds. Last year I did it in 2 hours 9 mins. Yeh, I got fit. And fast. For the last two months I've been swearing this will be my last, providing I manage it in under two hours. Well, actually, I think I've kind of got the bug for it now. I got to mile seven, realised I had run that in under an hour and that I still felt heck of an energetic and decided right then and there that I am a half marathon runner. For real. I mean, today is a struggle. I'm rocking a very attractive waddle and standing up is kind of a two stage process with a break half-way up BUT I feel awesome. Like, take on the world kinda awesome. And I don't even care if people (i.e the family) get fed up of me talking about it because I basically rock.

And....back to the books. So I started Honour over the weekend but in all the excitement (all my family came home to support me. There was lots of alcohol consumed.) I couldn't really settle to get into it. Enter: Gone Girl. I thought it made sense to pick up a book I know I will get hooked to and read in a couple of days instead of bumbling along barely reading Honour and not giving it the attention I want (because, let's face it, the writing is pretty lush). It has turned out to be a pretty ideal solution. I'm sure you'll know my thoughts on these soon enough.

Now, let's see how long it takes me to get off this chair...


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Modern March: As I Lay Dying

As I Lay Dying
William Faulkner

Oh my poor head. Every time I even think about this book I get crippling stream of consciousness headaches (yes, that is a real thing). Though I must say, finishing As I Lay Dying feels like quite the achievement. Aside from the pain, frustration, confusion and general distress at Vardaman drilling holes into his mother's head (seriously, did that happen?) I am pleased to have read it. But that doesn't mean I think it is a good book.

As I Lay Dying is considered a great American classic. It focuses on the Bundren family shortly before, during, and immediately after the death of the matriarch, Addie. The majority of the novel narrates the family's journey from the Bundren home to Addie's burial site several towns over. Obviously they encounter quite the number of problems along the way and really the journey manages to destroy almost every member of the family. With the exception of Addie's husband, Anse, who seems like a right shady fellow and gets off scott free, Jewel, Cash, Darl, Vardaman and Dewey Dell are all either mentally or physically damaged. Basically, there is some pretty poor parenting going on.

As much as I didn't like this book, it did have its moments. I thought Dewey Dell as a character was really quite interesting and it was completely heartbreaking watching her try to procure an abortion. It made me get a bit ragey when the chemist assistant or whatever he is completely takes advantage of her naivety and ignorance. Vardaman's narration was also one of the highlights as I think Faulkner describes his gradual mental unhinging quite well.  

Overall I can see how this would be quite the meaty book for degree study but I can't see myself heading towards Faulkner for an enjoyable read. I almost wish I had studied it because I do think it would benefit from multiple readings. Nonetheless, I think I may have to alter my reading ambition from wanting to read ALL THE BOOKS to wanting to read ALL THE BOOKS (except Faulkner).

'Sometimes I think it aint none of us pure crazy and aint none of us pure sane until the balance of us talks him that-a-way. It’s like it aint so much what a fellow does, but it’s the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it.'


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Review: Dance the Moon Down

Dance the Moon Down
R. L. Bartram

'In that moment, as she watched him go in the last days of that golden summer, she felt her life change. After this, nothing would ever be quite the same again.'

This is a novel that has all my favourite components: suffragettes, the First World War, war poets and women (are you bored of me yet?).

The novel follows the war-time experiences of Victoria, a product of a Victorian/Edwardian upbringing, who meets and falls in love with Gerald, a young poet, at university. Despite her mother's misgivings, Victoria and Gerald begin quite the clandestine romance that culminates in their marriage shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. Gerald almost immediately signs up for the army but after a few short months has gone missing in France. The rest of the novel documents Victoria's struggle to find out what happened to Gerald in a search which leads her to face countless challenges and, ultimately, destitution.

I really like how this novel starts at the end, with Victoria as an elderly woman observing a young couple who themselves are examining a war memorial on which Gerald Avery is named. Those sorts of beginnings give you enough of a storyline to really absorb you from the start. Although the writing has the occasional tendency to slip into cliche, the historical accuracy and the author's clear passion for the subject made it a very interesting read. I was pleased to read a war novel that decided to focus on life on the home front rather than the front line.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy to review.

Things to do when you own too many books

The situation in my house is getting pretty dire. I have more books than I have space for. And I keep buying more. I have been wracking my brains trying to think of some handy space saving tips that can look pretty (obviously) and open up a slot or two (or three, or four) for new arrivals.

Idea #1: The bookstandmirror

Take one old mirror and a stack of books. Lean mirror against books. Hope it doesn't fall and break. Done.

Anyone else have any genius space saving ideas?


Monday, 1 April 2013

The Classics Spin: Result

So today is April 1st which means it's the end of the Classics Spin and time to own up to whether I completed the challenge or failed miserably.

#14 on my list was The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens and as this post attests, I finished this one well before the deadline. What can I say? I'm competitive. Because I love a good challenge and because I had another one of the potential spin reads on loan from the library, I decided to read a second book. This time The Lifted Veil by George Eliot (I did intend to read Brother Jacob too but that never happened).

I am pleased to have finished both of these short novels (very short, in the case of The Lifted Veil) and I'm very pleased that the Classics Spin gave me the kick I needed to get cracking on my Classics Club List (which, by the way, is slowly growing in length).

I will be posting a double-whammy review of the two spin books later this week. In the meantime, how did everyone else get on? I'm such a Curious George.


Musing Mondays


Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
  • Describe one of your reading habits.
    • Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
    • What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it! • Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
    • Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
    • Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

This week I'm reading...Fifty Shades of Feminism

To all my fellow feminists out there, you need to read this book. It is so good.

This book is 'fifty women exploring what the F-word means to them today, where women have got to, what still needs to be done – socially, politically, sexually, psychologically. And at the same time naming feminism, claiming it, owning to that sometimes reviled "ism", which too often slips into the lexicon as a synonym for man-hating.*'

This is a wonderful collection of essays that was more or less born out of the Fifty Shades phenomenon. I'm about a quarter of the way in and so far it has made me smile, feel angry and feel sad. And it has definitely made me think. I'm particularly looking forward to reaching Natasha Walter's essay as her book Living Dolls was a completely mindblowing read.

*The editor Lisa Appignanesi writing on the Guardian online.
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