Friday, 31 May 2013


On Monday I am hoping on a plane with my family (minus my brother who is too old for these things now apparently) to Washington DC. After five days in Washington we are getting the bus to New York for a couple of days before flying home. I AM EXCITED (obviously). It's America. They have art galleries and museums. They have the best food. AND, best of all, I get to spend nearly two weeks with my family.

Now, I hate planes. I like to be on the ground with my feet firmly planted on something solid. The flight to Washington is around about eight hours long. Eight hours of jelly legs, sweaty palms and a racing heart. Good times. So to try and assuage the plane journey of impending doom, I am pre-planning my reading material which I will now share with you (I'm almost certain you want to know).

For starters I have the last two issues of the Literary Review which I have yet to read (I've been busy, alright). I am taking my kindle as my main source of words but I am also taking one paperback (the TBR is getting dangerously large and threatening to bury me). That paperback will be (drumroll please)...The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. We all know I'm loving Hemingway and the Fitzgerald's at the moment so this seemed perfectly fitting as a choice.

On my kindle I have quite the selection. I do like to have a fair bit of choice and my kindle is very well stocked (meaning I buy just as much for my kindle as I do physical books, I just don't admit to it).

The choices:

The Cleaner of Chartres by Sally Vickers **

At Least You're in Tuscany by Jennifer Criswell 
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell **
Where D'You Go Bernadette by Marie Semple **
The Universe Verses Alex Woods by Gavin Extence **
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald **
Petit Mort by Beatrice Hitchman
Y by Majorie Celona **
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
Londoners: The Days and Nights of London as Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Long For It, Have Left It and Everything In Between by Craig Taylor
The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford (yes, still reading this...)

** these are the ones I am likely to head to first.

So, I've quite the hefty pile (of electronic books...). Anyone fancy recommending one to read first? I suspect I'm being a bit ambitious in my hope to read as many, if not all, of the starred books as I can but I am nothing if not ambitious. Let's do this.

Things may be a bit quiet over here for the next couple of weeks (I can imagine you all heaving a huge sigh of relief) but I'll be back in full force from the middle of June. Don't miss me too much guys.


Thursday, 30 May 2013

Translation Challenge: If I Close My Eyes Now

If I Close My Eyes Now
Edney Silvestre
Translated from the Brazilian Portuguese by Nick Caistor

Well this was an interesting one. I went into it expecting a murder mystery told through the perspective of two kids and came out of it suddenly knowing a lot more about the political system (and corruption level) in Brazil. This is one of those novels that subtly teaches you something whilst still maintaining a fast-paced and intriguing plot. Basically, it's a winner.

Eduardo and Paulo are skipping school for the afternoon when they (literally) stumble across the murdered body of a young woman. It is a gruesome discovery and one which they cannot forget. Thinking the police have arrested the wrong man for the murder, the boys start their own search for the killer with the help of an old former communist from a nursing home. Their quest throws them in to the adult world of villainy, sexual violence, corruption and lies with disastrous consequences.

As much as it is a murder mystery, the focus is Brazil's political landscape and the corruption within the political system. I don't know much about Brazil so it was really quite interesting learning about the history of the country. One thing I was most surprised by is the racism in Brazilian society. I would not have pegged Brazil as a country that was rife with racism but apparently in the sixties (when the book is set) it was a common issue. I did find some sections quite unsettling. There is a lot of sexual violence in the novel and, whilst I am not adverse to that in a novel, I found it difficult to swallow at times considering the two main characters are young boys.

Silvestre is quite the master storyteller. He weaves an intricate plot full of twists and deception without losing the impact of the language (which is really quite beautiful). The language itself is deceptively simple. It is not a book to nod off to as you read particularly during the extended sections of dialogue which rarely note who is saying what are and so fast paced you could lose yourself. But it's a murder mystery and this pacing is perfect.

It is a murder mystery, and an excellent one at that. But it is definitely the thinking man's mystery. It has got one of the most poignant endings I have read for a long while, one of those that winds you for a moment. I finished it a couple of weeks ago now but it has stayed with me. I think that just goes to show the power of the story. It also has an excellent epigraph...

'The dead don't stay where they're buried.' John Berger

Copy received from the published via Netgalley. Thanks guys!


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Top Ten Books I'm Dying to Read

The Broke and Bookish
Top Ten Books I'm Dying to Read

Ok, so, this week's Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie so I'm doing the books I'm most excited to read. You all know I am excitable and these are the books that are pushing me over the edge of excitable into slightly crazy girl territory. Most of them I've gone on about for a while or have madly commented on blogs who have reviewed them so...nothing new here really. Just me, doing my usual, going mad for books. Cracking on...

1. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
This needs no explanation. It sounds awesome. And it's about a girl called Eleanor situation going on here.

2. Z:A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
I am still in love with this entire generation of writers and I'm having a mini love affair with Zelda so it's a no-brainer.

3. The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne
Books, memoir, books...Amazing.

4. Havisham by Ronald Frame
Great Expectations will always be my favourite Dickens (simply because of Joe Gargery) and this just sounds like it could be a wonderfully nerdy read.

5. Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
It's epistolary, it's on the Women's Prize shortlist and it's in Antarctica: need I say more?

6. The End of Your Life Bookclub by Will Schwalbe
Books, memoir, books...yet again.

7. The Pre-War House by Alison Moore
The Lighthouse was one of the best books I read last year so I have high hopes for this new release.

8. The Silver Dark Sea by Susan Fletcher
Susan Fletcher is just a literary babe. Her writing has me in goosebumps. This is her latest and I'm very excited.

9. Magda by Meike Ziervogel
War, motherhood and Hitler from the founder of the Peirene Press...interesting.

10. Wave: A Memoir of Life After the Tsunami by Sonali Deraniyagala
Token tear-jerker on the list. It looks like it will be an inspiring/life-affirming read.


Monday, 27 May 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'm currently reading...Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I started this at the end of bout of books but, again, life (and other books) got in the way. I hit the point yesterday when I no longer want to put it down so I'm sure I'll finish it in the next couple of days. It is so good. Atkinson strikes again! Although, I am getting my usual deep-thoughts headache with all the time/changing your history themes going on. Thankfully it is not so deep that it ruins my enjoyment. I'm loving the whole war aspect, particularly as it spans both wars and I think it is clever how Atkinson has weaved Ursula into the lives of Hilter and Eva Braun. I am hoping this one will win the Women's Prize for Fiction just because I have a literary girl crush on Kate Atkinson and have done since I was about 15. Go Kate Atkinson (yes, I'm fangirling).

Keeping with the Atkinson spirit, Case Histories is back on the BBC and is just as good as last time. Jason Isaacs (need I say more?!) is just as rugged and dark as you expect Jackson Brodie to be.

Happy bank holiday (for those in the UK)!


Saturday, 25 May 2013

Classics Club: Save Me the Waltz

Save Me the Waltz
Zelda Fitzgerald

'"You're as good as a book."
"I am a book. Pure fiction."'

In the last few months there has been quite the hoo-hah about The Great Gatsby and F.Scott Fitzgerald in general. For that, we have Baz Luhrmann to thank. We can also thank good old Baz for doing such a spectacular job with the film. I mean, that soundtrack?! But before I get carried away with the Fitzgerald of the F. Scott variety, I want to draw your attention to the other Fitzgerald, Zelda. Zelda has kind of slipped under the radar a bit and is in most circles only known for being Scott’s slightly mad wife but in fact she was a writer, painter and dancer. Recently, Zelda is having a bit of resurgence in popularity with fictional books like Z and Call Me Zelda jumping into the limelight. Her life is evidently a point of interest but her work is still largely forgotten. So here I am, taking one for the team, becoming a loving (if slightly flabbergasted) advocate of her work.

Save Me the Waltz, Zelda's first and only novel, is very loosely based on her life with F.Scott Fitzgerald. The first draft was considerably less loose and more a blatant portrait of a famously turbulent (potentially an understatement; he was an alcoholic and she suffered from Bipolar disorder) marriage. It follows the courtship and marriage of Alabama Beggs and David Knight from their life in America, their move to Paris and finally, Alabama's solo move to Naples. A few things happen along the way but really there is very little in the way of plot. The novel is best described as a snapshot of the lives of Alabama and David, but it is a blurry, frustrated and melancholy snapshot. Even without a traditional plot it does keep you engaged. I for one was just interested to see how their relationship would pan out (basically, I'm just nosy) - which one would cheat first/ give in to addiction first/ have the most success. It's the sort of relationship that you find ever so intriguing but would hate to be in.

Zelda’s writing is unbelievably energetic. Words jump off the page and drag you right into the world of 1920's Paris and right into their relationship. You feel Alabama’s determination to dance and her pain as she goes through the process of learning (the blisters sound positively agonising). The language is flowery and dense which usually makes me put aside a book in disgust but I actually quite like it here. I think to read Save Me the Waltz and enjoy it, it is necessary to just go with it. Be pulled along by it. Be completely drawn into the destructive relationship of the Knight(Fitzgerald)'s. Be convinced that you want to be a dancer too just because of the way she talks about it. Be in the 1920's. Be in America, Paris and Naples. Be IN the novel. Yes, it will suck you in, shake you about a bit and then spit you out with a slightly different (more energetic, definitely) take on the world.

I will freely put my hands up and admit that Zelda lost me occasionally but that doesn’t change how I feel about the book at a whole. I rather enjoyed the whirlwind trip to America, Paris and Naples. The best bit? Having a conversation with ‘Zelda’ over twitter. Yes, you heard me. There is someone on twitter (@FirstFlapper) masquerading as Zelda Fitzgerald. Shortly after announcing to the world of twitter that I had finished Save Me the Waltz I received this reply ‘Tell me you loved it? My writing style is unique, vivacious, sensual…kinda like me’. So starts a love affair with Zelda Fitzgerald.

'"Is it so hard to love me?"
"Do you think you are easy, my illusive possession?"'

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Friday, 24 May 2013

Review: The Marlowe Papers

The Marlowe Papers
Ros Barber

                         'Oh this thorn, regret.

I catch my eye on it every time.'

On May 30th 1593 a celebrated and talented playwright was stabbed through the eye in a bar brawl. The playwright was Christopher Marlowe. Or so the official version goes. The Marlowe Papers tells the 'true' story through the eyes of Christopher himself who was not actually killed but faked his death to avoid persecution for heresy and promptly scuttled off to Europe in exile.

The Marlowe Papers fits in to a whole scholarly debate over the true author of Shakespeare's plays and this novel was actually the result of Barber's PhD. Whenever I think of the whole subject -  who was Shakespeare, was he real or just a cover - it makes me think of Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair and the Marvolians and Baconians who go around trying to convince the world that Shakespeare was a sham. Considering all that it was most interesting to read a more serious novel (in verse) that addresses the same question.

'Will I am. Will. I'm Will. And Will is me.'

Not to inflate her ego or anything but Ros Barber is hella brainy. She wrote a novel in verse. I mean, how many people could do that?  And there are constant allusions to the plays of Willy Shakes which is just amazing for someone like me (a Willy Shakes nerd). I thought the verse form was entertaining and I think Barber captured the Elizabethan spirit (although she did modernise terms which doesn't bother me in the slightest). 

One thing this novel is full of is love. Marlowe did not limit himself to a particular gender and he seemed to fall in and out of love pretty quick. I'm not even kidding, this dude was frisky. Most of the novel is addressed to 'You' who I assume to mean his main love, Thomas Walsingham*. I think it was his friskiness that gets in the way of me and him having a good textual relationship. He's just a tad to loose with the term love. But maybe that's a sign of the times. I just don't know. Still, I found him a bit moany at times. Nonetheless, his character didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of the novel as a whole at all. The plot, which is full of intrigue, comedy, lyricism and violence, kept me engaged throughout and I was not bored for a second. 

'...How should words

presume themselves as bandages or slings
when the world limps onward, and you've darkened it.
And words be damned, for if we're 'gentle men'
then what hope does the world have? Words are lost.'

This book was a challenge but one I'm glad I conquered. I adore Shakespeare, I always have and hopefully always will. For me, it was the allusions and subtle links to the plays that really made the novel an exciting one to read. And for that reason I would definitely recommend it to lovers of the famous Shakey-P. I got really excited at this allusion to Titus Andronicus:

'I take my driest paper, mix the ink,
and open where the daughter stumbles in
with bleeding stumps for hands, a bloody chin,
and blood ballooning  as she tries to speak;
each word a victim of her absent tongue
translated to an empty sphere of air;
anguished to tell some caring heart who wreaked
this violent silence over their guilty deed.
But speechlessness has rendered her a worm:
no hands to write, no tongue to speak until
she spies the book that spells another's tale - 
the silenced woman turned to nightingale
who sings, and in her singing, is avenged.'

Isn't that just awesome?! Mind-blowingly so?!

*there were a lot of characters and I did get lost at points (thank goodness for the dramatis personae at the beginning) so forgive me if it was a different Thomas that he was in love with or not a Thomas at all. If it's not a Thomas at all then I'd best just admit defeat and re-read it because I clearly took nothing in...


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Top Ten Tuesday (the book porn one)

Top Ten Favorite Book Covers Of Books I've Read

We all know that I can't resist a bit of book porn so when I saw the theme for this weeks Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and Bookish) was favourite book covers I was hardly going to say no, was I?! I definitely judge books by their covers and I don't actually see how you could not. An interesting cover is the first thing that grabs me, then the title, then the author.What can I say, I'm a tad shallow when it comes to books. 

1. The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman

2. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers (random one but I do love it for its strangeness)

3. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

4. Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill

5. Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers (an extravaggance but utterly amazing)

6. The Lighthouse by Alison Moore (are you sensing a theme here?)

7. Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid by Virginia Woolf

8. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (can't go wrong with a classic Penguin)

9. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

10. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

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Monday, 20 May 2013

Bout of Books: The Finish Line

So, it's over. My first bout of books, in fact, my first readathon. Goodbye readathon virginity! So long, you served me well. How was my experience? I'd say pretty darn spectacular. I mean, there wasn't all that much reading going on but I had a really good time. I found loads of new blogs to follow (stalk) and I joined in with a twitter chat. I feel like participants of said chat should get a t-shirt with the slogan 'I joined a #boutofbooks twitter chat and survived!' It was mental but so totally AWESOME. 

I'm not even going to list Sunday's progress. I think I read about 70 pages which is terrible considering it was my day off. But I made the mistake of getting a little bit merry (completely trollied) so I ended up spending the day lolling around on sofas/my bed, trying not to vomit, ignoring the spinning sensation and generally feeling very sorry for myself. Alcohol is the devil. I did have a very good night out though with my besties. I'm slightly worried about how my farewell party is going to go now because the feels were already brewing. It was EMOTIONAL. 

Every part of my life has been crazy this week: work, the social life, reading life. You name it, I've done it (or so it feels). All in all, considering all the factors, I'm actually quite pleased with my progress. I didn't meet my reading goals (just a little off) but it was a delightful week and I think I've got my mojo back. If it wasn't for the nausea and spinning I would have spent all day yesterday reading. And that makes me happy. A couple of weeks ago I would have not felt like just reading. 

Books read from: If I Close My Eyes Now, The Marlowe Papers, The Winter of the World (poems), Life After Life

Books finished: The Marlowe Papers
Number of films seen: 2 (Star Trek and Gatsby)
Alcoholic units consumed: undisclosed

Good week? Good week!


Classics Spin #2: And the number is...

Oh heck...the number is 6. Which means I'd better get cracking with Anna Karenina.

Thanks to twitter folk I'm slightly less worried about getting Anna K. because the general consensus seems to be that it is awesome. And if all my favourite bloggers say it is awesome, then awesome it must be.

What did everyone else get??


Sunday, 19 May 2013

Bout of Books: Saturday

Yesterday we had sun. Actual sun. He had his hat on, hip hip hooray. Instead of spending my day off reading like I should have/wanted to, I ended up having a trip down to the beach. I can't say I mind because there was food, there were boats, there was the sea and there were some rays to catch. Somewhat shockingly I did not manage to get sunburnt. I usually turn an unsightly shade of pink the minute those UV's touch my ridiculously sensitive baby skin. Factor 50 is my friend. But I successfully managed to avoid the lobster tinge. Always a good thing.

If I had my way I would have read at the beach all day but, unfortunately, I had to be sociable and actually talk. Most irritating*. I did get some reading done before I went to the gym and when I was at the gym so the day wasn't a total loss on the book front. I'm so happy to have started Life After Life finally.

Saturday's Progress

Books I read from: Life After Life, If I Close My Eyes Now
Pages read: 20, about 15% of kindle
Books finished: 1
Number of book related tweets: 5
Song of the day: Together by The XX (Gatsby soundtrack again...just can't stop listening to it)

*I promise I am not as anti-social as I come across...

P.S. I am writing this with the hangover from hell. I swear never to touch alcohol again. Ever.


Saturday, 18 May 2013

Classics Spin #2: The Ambitious/Reckless Spin

I was definitely more than a little pleased when I saw that the Classics Club were running another spin. Last time I ended up reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood which I really enjoyed but had been putting off reading for a long time. This time I am going to pick books that I really have been putting off or avoiding just to give me that kick up the backside I need.

The Spin:

At your blog, by next Monday, May 20, list your choice of any twenty books you’ve left to read from your Classics Club list – in a separate post.
This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these twenty books in May & June. (Details follow.) So, try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, rereads, ancients — whatever you choose.)
Next Monday, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by July 1. (WHICH JUST SO HAPPENS TO BE MY BIRTHDAY AND MOVING DAY) We’ll have a check in post for July, to see who made it the whole way and finished the spin book.

My List

5 books I am dying to read:

1. No Name by Wilkie Collins
2. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
3. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
4. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
5. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

5 books I am NOT dying to read:
6. Anna Karenina by Leo Tostoy
7. Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
8. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
9. The Stranger by Albert Camus
10. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

5 'meh' books:
11. The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
12. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
13. Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
14. Animal Farm by George Orwell
15. The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West

5 books I have put off for way too long:
16. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
17. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
18. Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
19. The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner
20. Sophie's Choice by William Styron

I can't wait to see which number we get. 


Bout of Books: Friday

I'm a bit late updating my progress for yesterday but the sun is out so I've made the most of it by going to the beach. I ate chips, walked along the cobb (yes, I went to Lyme and geeked out over Austen/Fowles), and had a mint choc chip ice cream. YUM.

So yesterday I finally finished a book! AT LAST. I loved The Marlowe Papers, it has been such an entertaining, informative and engaging read. I wasn't convinced about the whole 'novel in verse' concept but I am completely won over by it now. If you love Shakespeare, you will love this.

In other news, I went to see The Great Gastby. It was completely beautiful and dazzling and breathtaking. I adore every film Baz Luhrmann has ever made and this one I think goes to the top of the pile. I saw it in 3D which I usually hate but it works so well in Gatsby. It gives the film layers. Plus the soundtrack is mindblowing. Jay-Z, Beyonce, Florence, The XX, Lana...I could go on.

Friday's progress:

I've been reading: The Marlowe Papers
Pages read: 100 ish
Number of book related tweets: 20ish
Song of the day: Over the Love by Florence and the Machine (Gatsby soundtrack)
Number of books finished: 1

I did have a bit of a rubbish morning and was in the foulest mood so obviously I treated myself to some books on my lunchbreak. Bibliotherapy, you know.


Friday, 17 May 2013

Bout of Books: Thursday (the poor effort edition)

Thursday was a shocking day for reading. I have officially tired myself out so I couldn't get up early enough to read before work. I couldn't read at lunch time because my sister is home for a couple of days and came to meet me (I love you, Liv, but lunch time is reading time). I was hoping to get an hour in after work but I decided to run instead (something to do with the ridiculous amount of food I ate yesterday). Plus the weather was amazing and perfect for a energetic run (although it did nearly kill me). Then to top it all off I went out for a meal with all the old front of house team from the theatre. I was a front of house duty manager before I was unceremoniously made redundant and we were a really close little team so it was brilliant to see everyone again. There was pizza and chocolate fudge cake (which obviously negated the run) so I just couldn't say no. I read briefly before bed though I was interrupted by each member of my family running in to say what they thought of Star Trek (they saw it whilst I was out). There was much squealing and me shouting 'I know, right?!'.

Thursday's shocking progress:

Books I read from: The Marlowe Papers

Number of pages read: 70 (only 100 left!)
Number of book related tweets: 3 (that's progress)
Song of the day: Let Her Go by Passenger


Thursday, 16 May 2013

Bout of Books: Wednesday (the Star Trek edition)

Wednesday has been my least productive reading day so far this week. It started with the massive fail I eluded to in yesterday's update: falling asleep in my book and forgetting to turn on the alarm. BUT (and this is a big but) I went to see STAR TREK. Yes. The Lit Nerd got nerdy. Trust me, it was not pretty. 

I started the day contemplating the possibility of wearing my Spock ears to the cinema.Firstly, yes, I do have Spock ears. For my 21st I did Star Trek fancy dress. THAT IS HOW COOL I AM. Secondly, I decided that wearing the ears would be a step too far. Good decision, I think. 

So, Star Trek: basically it was one giant nerdgasm from start to finish. I mean, I've always been in love with Spock but Kirk was actually a little bit wonderful and don't even get me started on Sulu or Scotty. And Khan?! Oh, Benedict. *ahem, pulls self together*

If you're a die hard Trekkie there will be so much in there for you to love. I got the most excited (and actually punched my boyfriend) when a Tribble turned up on screen. The Tribble episode is pretty much my favourite EVER. They are so fluffy! 

It was such an emotional roller coaster of a film. I'm not even kidding. There were tears, there was laughter, there was anger and there was a lot of lustiness. PHEW. I was really quite hyper when I left the cinema. Apparently I was talking like I'd drunk a litre of red bull...

I got some reading done on my lunch break and a bit in the gym. I am really enjoying If I Close My Eyes Now although there are a few things about it that I'm a bit unsure of. I did try a few pages before I went to sleep but this was at about 12.30am (so technically Thursday, whoops), and I was still so ridiculously excitable about Star Trek that I couldn't really focus on Marlowe and his cronies. Although I did get to the bit where he chose 'William Shakespeare' as his cover so that was awesome. Still, hopefully I'll do better today...

Wednesday's progress:

I've been reading: The Marlowe Papers, If I Close My Eyes Now

Pages read: I forgot to count...maybe about 30, 25% kindle
Number of book related tweets: 6
Song of the day: 45 by The Gaslight Anthem


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Bout of Books: Tuesday

After the whirlwind of Monday, Tuesday was a fairly chilled out day. Work was manic (I had to act as 'director' for some videos my boss is making - it was basically an excuse to act really professional and be really critical which was brilliant) and then I had circuit training, watched Saturday's Dr Who (AWESOME - cybermen got cool) and finally sat down to read at about 9.30pm. Not quite the reading day I'd hoped for and I know today will be even worse.

On the plus side, this happened:

Tuesday's progress:

I've been reading: The Marlowe papers, If I Close My Eyes Now, The Winter of the World (poems)

Pages read: 94, about 16% of kindle (damn you, not having page numbers), 12 poems
Number of book related tweets: 8
Song of the day: Esmerelda by Ben Howard

I'm very pleased with my reading progress actually. I think I'm doing well though I'm still desperate to get on to Life After Life and I still have 200 pages left of The Marlowe Papers. We shall see...

After all that, I then fell asleep with my face in my book and forgot to set my alarm...excellent effort, Ellie.


Monday, 13 May 2013

ALL THE BOOKS! I mean, Bout of Books 7.0 Updates

Scroll down for updates...go on, get cracking, you know you're dying to.

It's Monday! It's here! Oh the excitement! Seriously, you guys, I know I'm always excited about something or other but it's Bout of Books and I've already got off to an excellent start. Basically, all I'm asking for is for you to bear with me in my week of unbridled book passion (saucy) and pretty much join in. Let's spread the saucy book love. 

So this morning I was up unspeakably early (6am for those who care) because the boy had to go to work. I also have to work so there was no time to roll over and catch some more z's. BUT today that didn't bother me. Instead, I swiftly kicked him out, made myself a coffee and settled back in to bed with The Marlowe Papers (which is awesome, by the way). I was thoroughly spurred on by a virtual high-five from Riv who was also up unspeakably early. I managed about 40 pages before having to get ready and I must say it has been a rather wonderful start to the day.

By the way, I tweet a lot. Like, really rather a lot. If you fancy following me for more general updates and literary excitements my name thingy is @ellielitnerd. 


I've been reading: The Marlowe Papers, If I Close my Eyes Now (kindle), The Winter of the World (poetry)
Pages read: 83 pages, 9% of kindle book, 7 poems
Number of book related tweets: waaaaaay to many to count - twitter chat
Song of the day: Cannonball by Diamond Youth


So it's Tuesday, day 2 of the amazing Bout of Books. Monday was, in a word, AWESOME. I totally loved it. Didn't get a whole lot of reading done but I was generally enjoying the readerly vibes that were going round. The twitter chat was brilliant though my head really hurt afterwards. It moved SO FAST and there were people EVERYWHERE. I can't lie, it was pretty spectacular. I'm feeling pretty good about my goals, though I don't know how productive it will be having two books and one poetry collection on the go and I'm still dying to start Life After Life. Oh the stress. 

I did get up super early again today and managed a bit of reading before work. It's now lunchtime and work has been CRAZY BUSY so I've not been able to get away with the old kindle-under-the-desk trick. But I am sneakily writing this whilst the receptionist is on lunch so she doesn't think I'm shirking my admin/writing duties...

I've been reading: The Marlowe papers, If I Close My Eyes Now
Pages read: 23, about 3% of kindle (damn you, not having page numbers)
Number of book related tweets: none so far...give me time
Song of the day: Esmerelda by Ben Howard


Saturday, 11 May 2013

Review: Amity and Sorrow

Amity and Sorrow
Peggy Riley

Well this is an absolute corker of a novel that I almost completely missed out on. Had I not heard such good things about this novel the likelihood that I would have read it is pretty much slim to none. Novels which centre around religion, religious cults, polygamy etc. don't really appeal to me all that much and having read The Land of Decoration this year I kinda thought that I'd already had my yearly quota of religion. Really, I have all you bloggers out there who wrote sparkling reviews of Amity and Sorrow to thank for persuading me that this one is worth extending my quota for. And, by Jove, it certainly was worth it. 

Amaranth is the first of Zachariah's fifty wives. In the wake of a suspicious fire in their commune, Amaranth escapes the cult life with her two daughters, Amity and Sorrow. After four days of driving, Amaranth crashes the car somewhere in Oklahoma. There they meet Bradley and Dust and attempt to forge new lives free of Zachariah. Except Sorrow doesn't want a new life, she wants to return to her father and his other forty-nine wives. 

It's not very often that a novel can have me seriously hooked from the first page but from the minute Amity and Sorrow begins, the very first line even, I was sold on it. Powerless to resist. 

'Two sisters sit, side by side, in the backseat of an old car. Amity and Sorrow.
           Their hands are hot and close together. A strip of white fabric loops between them, tying them together, wrist to wrist.'

The writing itself is, frankly, brilliant. It is dark, beautiful, full of euphemisms and ambiguity and ridiculously atmospheric. Seriously, that bit in the bathroom at the beginning with all the blood? Yes, that bit. It is written from two perspectives, Amity's and Amaranth's. I find it interesting that Sorrow wasn't given her own narrative given that she is so central to the story but I think I can see Riley's reasoning behind that one. Whether we are party to her perspective or not, she still remains the central point around which the actions and emotions of the novel revolve. It almost endows her with all this significance whilst simultaneously rejecting any right she has to that significance. Clever, right. It is also a non-linear structure which skips back and forth in time from the present, to their escape, to their life in the Temple and to Amaranth's life before. I do like how it skips and reveals tiny little nuggets of information along the way.

The story itself is fairly elusive. It raises so many questions that I don't think always get answered. At least not always satisfactorily so. But then, I'm not sure it matters. I think the strength of the story is the way it tracks Amity and Amaranth's emotional journey and how they come to grips with the real world. I love when Amity gets new clothes:

'Amity rubs her legs together, each clad in it's own denim tube. She bounces on the rubber soles of her new secondhand sneakers and looks down at her T-shirt covered front, where cartoon fruit sits. Her hair is in two looped braids beneath Dust's kerchief. She wishes he could see her now.'

Surprisingly the religious, polygamous cult aspect of the novel did not put me off or send me to sleep. There was enough in there to keep you engaged without it becoming the only thing the novel is about. Mostly I was drawn in by wanting to know about Amaranth's past and what is was that made her join Zachariah in the first place. I almost feel like I understand polygamy a bit more. Not that I GET it, I don't think I'll ever GET it, more that I sort of understand a fraction of the reasoning behind getting into it. Y'know?!

Basically this novel is awesome. It has the perfect blend of darkness and hope. The writing is, in a word, an absolute delight. The story grabs you and the characters are well-rounded and engaging. Considering this is Riley's debut novel, I am very much looking forward to seeing what she comes out with next.

You get that I liked this book, right?

Copy acquired through NetGalley. Thanks NetGalley, you're awesome.

A version of this review is also available here, for your reading pleasure.

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