Thursday, 28 September 2017

August Reviews

Bumper crop of reviews this month, I've really got the itch back for reading in bed, that plus a long weekend!

Station Eleven
Emily St.John Mandel
Knopf 2014 Kindle
Amazon Gift Voucher

I have never been a fan of post-apocalyptic stories in books or in films, and have a serious fear of Zombies. When I heard that this book was based on a theoretical pandemic that resets the world to ground zero, I was sceptical. First off, this is a fairly short book and an easy read. Although Mandel jumps around in time a fair amount it is delicately handled and not confusing at all.
the story follows a handful of characters that are all connected to an actor who died of a heart attack on the night that the pandemic broke. How they all fit together is not immediately obvious and the hints and teasing story lines kept me reading into the night. The dangers of developing a new society with new laws and systems without infrastructure or government is very well thought out and the dangers of a new world are certainly very real. It is exciting and thought provoking and interesting and definitely something that I will be recommending to everyone.

Joanne Harris
Penguin 1999 Paperback
Charity Shop

I would rank Joanne Harris among one of my favourite authors. However, I have only read one other book by her: Blackberry Wine. But once again I was enchanted by the writing and the story of Chocolat. There is something comforting and fecund about her writing. food and nature play a huge role in her descriptions which wraps the reader in a cloak of feel-good-ness.
It's literary and beautiful and just a touch on the flowery side it's lovely. It is by no means a 'serious' book, there's no awful story line of tragedy, rape or paedophilia which everything seems to have now. But the story is captivating with interesting and complex characters with solid character arcs and gentle plot twists.
I had the benefit of having seen the film and it is interesting how much MORE I enjoyed the book while able to read it in the narrators soft french lilt. I enjoyed reading this and ripped through it. It's beautiful.

The Power
Naomi Alderman
Penguin 2017 Kindle
Amazon Gift Voucher

Tied winner this month. I read this for a feminist book club at work. But it was also recommended to me by several people. The idea is that one day women discover a power with in them, similar to the electricity of an electric eel. And what they do with that power is explored.
What I found brilliant about this book is that EVERY element of society is explored and with the idea that women hold power rather than men. There is an interesting exploration of sexual power being used for rape or between consenting partners.politics and newly forming nations, rioting and the media. It's incredible.
For anyone who thinks it's too scifi for them, it doesn't feel like science fiction at all. It's a tiny concept. Women have a physical power that they did not have before and everything changes. The world is the same and there it nothing else to suspend your imagination over.
It was an incredible way to get the reader thinking about the structure of society and the arguments that people have regarding the hierarchy of the genders.

Tipping the Velvet
Sarah Waters
Riverheadbooks 2000 Kindle
Amazon Gift Voucher

Recommended by several people and a book that turns up on LGBTQ recommended reading lists. I've read Fingersmith by Sarah Waters before and loved it, so I don't know what I expected but it was definitely more lewd than I was expecting and a step on from Fingersmith. Although I enjoyed reading it, I would have reservations about recommending this to other people. I think it's the prude in me. On the other hand maybe everyone should be confronting their feelings about sexual relationships and sexuality.
But it started beautifully, the writing is glorious throughout, describing Nancy's home life in Kent and her simple cares. Falling in love and heading to London for a host of adventures was exciting to read about and definitely a page turner. I was very interested in the attitudes of society and people of the time, as portrayed in the book. There was an odd mix of terror of being discovered and quiet acceptance from other people of your choices. It's a interesting story and does not go the way that you think it will at all, which is typical Sarah Waters.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

One Word. One Week. One Writer

Last month I mentioned as one of my favourite ways to get myself writing. It reminded me that I had not visited the website for a few years and I've decided to give my self a writing challenge. Every day for 1 week I will write for 60 seconds from a prompt on Oneword and publish the results here! I have recently discovered they only update the website every OTHER day, but I have still done 6!

The gray metal nose of the barrel swung towards him as if sniffing him out of the darkness. Twin holes gleamed with oil. The barn door seemed to creek endlessly as it hung heavily on its hinges. The muscles in his legs jumped and strained along with the sound as he crouched low in the cab of the tractor.

Hakuna Matata or is it the other one?
Beatles hair cuts and barbershop voices in the jungle.
The 'what do you want to do?' conundrum,
that's what friends are for.

Hacking desperately on the tube, and turning away to choke as quietly as possible (impossible) into a sleeve, the girl looked exhausted. She gave a weak smile to a friend as she tried to draw a full breath. Her thumb popped the lid of a water bottle, but before she could raise it to her lips the cough was back.

The man was built from wood and wicker, standing, legs spread in the desert. Ready to burn in the darkness, under endless stars. He is everyone, leaving ash and dust on the winds and hardly a mark on the earth.

The bar of chocolate lay beside her right wrist, unopened. Rebecca imagined that the smell of the peppermint fondant in its milk chocolate shell escaping its vacuum seal. Her mouth watered as she pounded out the words. Another 50 and a bite of the bar would be her prize.

Something in me cracked when we ended things and I feel everything deeply. There's something unlocked in my heart, you taught me how to feel and then broke me. Kintsugi. With a new love, I am mended with gold.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Reading Time

Have you ever felt that there is not enough time? I feel like I am squeezing everything I can into a few daylight hours and craving more and more rest time. One of the reasons I love reading as a hobby is that it is a luxury in time. I have to find those minutes and hours in the day to dedicate to reading and nothing else. It serves the same purpose as meditation for me, turning my brain off and worrying about nothing over my lunch hour and my commute, even though I know I should be doing those little chores like getting shoes re-heeled or going to the bank.

I think people find it difficult to find the time to read because it feels like a decadent activity, suddenly reading becomes wasted time in a busy life. We know that it is not healthy to be so stressed and rushing to the next thing. It is healthy to devote time to doing nothing. Finding time to squeeze in some reading can make me feel so much better about my week. 

If reading is not something that you enjoy then of course, why waste time doing something that you do not enjoy. Luxury should not be arduous or a chore. Everyone has a way to switch off: playing video games, running, exercise, meditation, cooking. This time is where you're not brooding over a problem or on your way somewhere or socialising. This empty beautiful time is so good for our mental health and it is easy to forget how good it makes you feel. Opening a book is like buying time away from my seemingly endless to do list and clearing my mind to disappear into another world. 

If you've slipped out of your reading habits because you "don't have time" I urge you readers to find that time again. In my darkest days I could not read, my depression had taken away my enjoyment of reading, and when I came back to it after turning a corner for the better, the relief and help I got from picking up a book again was so much better than any meditation app. Don't waste time by NOT reading, and make time for that mental luxury. Enjoy. 

"The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time." - Bertrand Russell