Thursday, 29 October 2015

Six Inspiring Movies

Talking of staying focused on reading schedules, here is a perfectly fair distraction. Almost as much as I love reading I love movies. I've always enjoyed films and love going to the cinema or snuggling up to watch an old favourite on VHS! I thought it would be a good idea to combine my two loves with a list of movies that inspire me to read some more.

Pride and Prejudice
Top of the list, front and centre is the brilliant Pride and Prejudice. I'm cheating a little here because I'm actually talking about the 1992 BBC TV series, so it's not technically a film, but I've never watched it in episodes and have only devoured it as a single mammoth film. While the emphasis on books is not as obvious there is a subtle current all the way through that we should all be broadening our minds "with extensive reading."  Cue swooning and picking up a book to flash at the boy you fancy. See this? I'm broadening my mind. If reading can land Lizzie Bennett a husband that's good enough for me. The whole film has shots of the sisters reading and their father spends most of his time locked up in his library wish a book in hand.

One of the most beautiful films in the world that never fails to make me cry. Author Iris Murdoch died of alzheimers and the film shows the process. I've never read any of her books, but I have just added one or two to my wish list for Christmas. It combines a few things that are dear to my heart. Biopics, Authors, Books, Kate Winslet and Judie Dench, Alzheimers. I was blown away by the film and it always makes me desperate to read, live, and love. It's based on her husband's book about the situation, Elegy For Iris.

Ink Heart
How to explain Ink Heart. It's about a man who when he reads aloud, his characters come to life, which means he could read out a villain and read IN people from the real world. Which is just what happens. HE and his daughter, who has a similar gift, travel the country looking for another copy of the book that his wife was read into. It is fantastical, it has Paul Bettany in it and is a bit of a whirlwind movie. It's good fun certainly and is all about books and reading and oral traditions and writing.

Becoming Jane
Another favourite that comes to mind is Becoming Jane. Partly for Anne Hathaway and James MacAvoy, arguably the best looking couple in cinema. Still they talk about books, and writing and definitely inspires reading to me. Its a fictional depiction of Jane Austin's life where we see the inspiration for several of her novels peppered through the story. I love the film and will instantly transport me into the kind of dreamy reverie that Jane Austin always delivers. I might even pick up one of her novels after watching it.

Dead Poets Society
It wouldn't be a movie list without Robin Williams featuring. One of the most fun films about teaching enthusiasm and joy for reading. If you're not reading poetry by the end of it your heart must be made of stone. It's such a powerful and sad film and is full of fun. I always want to pick up a book after I watch it so it's perfect for this list.

The History Boys
Definitely worthy of the title of inspiring. If only to put your nose into your books and love them. It's also so well crafted in terms of script, the way that they all talk is just fabulous and might make you a bit of a difficult person to be around for a few hours as you try to emulate them. See what I mean? Anyway, there is love of films, poetry, books and culture all wrapped up in this film and if you're not inspired to read anything they suggest, it inspires me to do what I love, which is to read.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Little Free Library

This idea has been around for a while now, I remember seeing it online a few years ago and I think it's a great idea. These Little Free Libraries are springing up in residential areas. I know of two within walking distance of my house! They are little boxes with books inside which are free to take and exchange.

I think this is a brilliant way to get people interested in reading, particularly children. If I were a parent and I were to stumble upon a miniature library I would be letting my children rifle through the books for something they wanted. Most of the books are for children or teens, and I think that's probably the best thing.

It's such an intriguing thing to see, these little glass fronted boxes perched on the front garden wall full of books. As with all book exchanges, the quality of the books varies and I think it pays to go back and revisit one of the less promising ones a few weeks later because the books change. To combat the problem of the quality of the books, the only thing to do is donate your own better quality paperbacks, even though that doesn't solve the problem from your end if everyone has a similar philosophy, the whole community ends up with the occasional gem.

Talking of quality, charity shops won't include damaged or soiled goods, they've got to be resellable, I think the same has got to go for Little Free Libraries, A tea stain or a wrinkled bottom from the bath is probably alright but some of the donations I've seen are falling apart to such an extent that it would be impossible to get through without losing a chunk of the pages. It's something to bare in mind if you're thinking of donating a book.

Since finding that there is a community of book swapping going on in my area has given me yet another outlet to clear off my shelves. I am in the process of disposing of some teen books left over from my previous job and as soon as they are all accounted for I will have a few left over which could potentially go to both of these Little Free Libraries. (I might include a little card that recommends the website) If I'm not able to donate those then I will just start collecting books I think would be good to donate. Who knows I might even find something for me to read!

You can find out about setting up your own Free Little Library here and find out a little bit more about the whole thing!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Actual Man Booker WINNER 2015

Marlon James, has won the 2015 Man Booker prize with his novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings. Congratulations to his achievement.

The judges accept that some people might struggle to read the book because it's hard work and hard going. But it is a testament to the power of this prize that if you type 'Brief' into google right now, it auto fills with the rest of the book title.

It's an exciting time of year for me because there are so many prizes to follow, and my favourite is always Man Booker because I love original fiction.

I won't be picking up this year's winner. It's not my kind of book, and I think that Man Booker is becoming something different from what it was when I first got excited about it four years ago. What I would consider winning fiction, is no longer what the judges look for. BUT they came to a unanimous decision in two hours, so Marlon James has pulled off something incredible.

Congratulations again, and to all of the shortlist that didn't make it as well!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The Underground Bookclub - September Reviews

I've talked about Books on the Underground before on my blog because I love the idea so much. Imagine my DELIGHT when I found out about the Underground bookclub which runs on Mondays once a month. I have been swamped recently with preparing for dance championships in Cardiff and then Hong Kong and have had to make my excuses for two book clubs so far. I am so desperate to join one though! I hope that the Books on the Underground team won't ostracise me quite yet for failing to attend.

The start of  September kicked off with two incredible crime novels both of which I received from Books on the Underground. They always use recycled envelopes to send their books and I once got a little note saying: "We're saving the planet one envelope at a time" I was sold, what a brilliant company.

So, how can you join the Underground bookclub? Visit their website here and follow the instructions. I can't tell you more, it is meant to be Underground after all... #mystery.

The Life I Left Behind
Colette McBeth
Headline 1/1/15 Paperback
Books On The Underground

It gave me a particular thrill to leave behind, The Life I Left Behind on the tube once I'd finished it for someone else to enjoy. The story was very well written from the perspective of a victim of attempted murder and the voice of the victim of a successful murder. The story follows the historical attempted murder through the investigation of the successful one. I have to say, the pace was absolutely spot on. This was a real page turner, and rather than petering out at the end it got really exciting right up until the final pages. McBeth certainly has a real talent for crime. I'd read another of her books and would recommend reading TLILB. There are some who won't enjoy the 'lovely bones' style ghostly narrator, but I thought it was well done and definitely a gripping yarn.

There were a few problems I had with it: one was that I thought that all of the men were demonized pretty badly. While the female characters were nuanced and well thought out the men seemed extremely simple in contrast. Perhaps the depth of the female characters just completely dominated them. Initially I found the original victim to be a simpering and tiresome character, one review on amazon has called her 'Moaning Melody' which could not be more apt...As the story developed however, her history and her reactions changed and I absolutely fell in love by the end. Another thing I didn't like was that when the murder victim is discovered and its all public the original victim looks at her picture and instantly decides she likes her, and imagines them both as friends. I thought that was a bit obvious and made Eve seem a bit like the innocent angel, which no one is. I thought it was very well done.

Burnt Paper Sky
Gilly Macmillan
Piatkus 27/8/15 Paperback
Books On The Underground

If you like Gone might be disappointed with this one. Burnt Paper Sky is an excellent read, that much is certain, I didn't see the ending coming, I kept turning pages and I liked the different view points from the mother and within the police department. The story follows a mother after her son is taken from the woods without a trace. Dealing with the press and projecting the wrong image (reminiscent of Nick in Gone Girl...) was an interesting thing as from the readers perspective you feel on the mothers side, to show the public opinion the story is also peppered with blog posts and news items and police bulletins with comments.

I felt that the book was very good, I had particular interest in it as I was around at the literary agent when the manuscript was sold so I felt very excited about reading it. It WAS perhaps too reminiscent of Gone Girl with a different spin and unfortunately I thought it was a shame that the two were so similar as it detracted from BPS' own style. I do think it is worth a read for crime fans, particularly parents I think would relate more with the story as it involves child abductions. I also found the inclusion of statistics to do with missing children to be very interesting. The family history down the sister's storyline was a bit of a bum note for me, I thought it was unnecessary, as did many other reviewers. Overall I enjoyed it, but it was not as memorable as I wanted it to be, maybe my expectations were too high.

The Chimes
Anna Smaill
Sceptre 12/2/15 Kindle
Amazon Kindle

Ambitious is what I would say about Chimes. I thought it would be a brilliant change to spice up the Man Booker list this year which was looking a bit dower. It didn't make it to the shortlist and now, having read it, I can see why. It was an incredible idea which really ought to be a series. I thought the second half seemed rushed to cram the story in and it got a bit lost after that. The move from London to Oxford in a re imagined world was a bit too close to the Northern Lights and The Bone Season ideas and unfortunately isn't nearly done as well. I will now deal with a minor spoiler. For those in the know: the relationship between Simon and Lucien which takes a turn...was an utterly unnecessary plot point that adds nothing and appears to be there to do something to make the two characters more of a team, which honestly was pointless. It was also done with a rather blunt style and painted a rather ridiculous relationship.

It definitely was a beautiful read to begin with, although the history eventually began to come out I honestly wasn't that interested. It was difficult. On the one hand it's a mamoth story with a mamoth style to go with it and was rushed into a single narrative and it suits it to stay within that style and just keep getting more mad. I thought the idea could have been handled more simply and been a smaller story beautifully written and nuanced but I think Smaill just had to run with what she had. It's a shame; I think she has incredible potential as a writer but the narrative was rushed and not thought out well enough to build a single good book.

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