Thursday, 8 November 2018

Staying up to date

I review every book that I read. 

This is something that I have stuck to since I started a blog. However, there have been times where I have fallen behind in my reviews. Like now. Four months behind, 8 or 9 books to write up and the end of the year is fast approaching. 

I tend to do reviews in monthly round ups. But occasionally I get a month with a dud book. Not achingly bad, but not a favourite either. Or it takes me ages to read because suddenly keeping up with my podcast schedule on the tube seems more important. In these months, I carry these undigested books around. They are literal weight in my bag and serve as a constant reminder of my failure to read them and, often, the fact that I haven't made a post here in a while. 

The domino of this is that in my lack of enthusiasm to read that month, my desire to share the news of this dumb weight of a tomb is dampened. In the case of a particularly bad book, for example one I cannot bring my self to finish (a rare thing!), I may be excited by the prospect of writing a scathing review, which is "fun to write and to read". But mostly it only makes me sad. 

Then the good pick me up book that I read next gets stuck behind the queue of boring OK books and the pile of reviews "to do" piles up to a scary number. By the time I go back to (JUNE!) I have half forgotten the book. Half forgotten the discussion I had about it at the time. Half forgotten what was going on in my life. All of this makes for some strained little paragraphs in my reviews. 

I have decided to change things. I will continue to read every book that I read. BUT. I am going to stop chronological order. I'm going to review when I feel like it for the good ones and try and catch up with writing the ones I'm less excited about. My joy vs my duty reviews. I hope that this will light a fire under me to keep my blog alive. I am so proud of it, I wouldn't want it to fail because I'd set myself rules for how I run it. It's not working so we have to change the process. 

I won't make any promises that this will work. I hope it does though and I hope it leads to more reading and more writing. 

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Man Booker 2018 Short list

WOW here we are again with the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize. 

Milkman - Anna Burns

Washington Black - Esi Edugyan

Everything under - Daisy Johnson

The Mars Room - Rachel Kushner

The Overstory - Richard Powers

The Long Take - Robin Robertson

I am actually thrilled with this year's short list and 4/5 were ones I was interested in reading. The only one I am sorry didn't make the list is The Water Cure. The Long Take took it's place in the official list. 

Congratulations to all of the shortlisted authors and good luck in the next stage!

Thursday, 13 September 2018

May Reviews

Stephen Fry
Michael Joseph Hardback November 2017
Birthday present from Alan.

As always my Birthday present from Alan was a beautiful edition of Mythos, shiny, embossed hardback. It just doesn't get much better than that. Oh wait, it can because it's by Stephen Fry and there are Gods. Having grown up on the more popular stories of: Athena, Arachne, Echo, Narcissus and Diana, to name a few; it was great to get to grips with the foundations of the creation story.
The Greek myths do not really have a time line, which results in some confusing bits when you try to think of the gods as a family house. They jumble together and all happen at roughly the same time "eons ago".
Stephan Fry gives voice to all of the characters and conjures up depth from the two dimensional originals. and gives them the texture of real people. It's given a more narrative time line and the story unspools without the: x begat x begat y begat z which can sometimes come with pseudo historic texts. I really enjoyed this book and it was a delight to read. I wish it had existed in my teens, I'd have felt much more knowledgeable.

The Cows
Dawn O'Porter
Harper Collins Kindle / April 2017
Recommended on the Guilty Feminist

I really enjoyed reading the cows, I thought it was well written with a solid voice and style differentiation as the author moved between characters. I liked that each of the female characters had varying motives and levels of sanity and although things drifted into the extreme, it seemed to happen so gradually that the believably wasn't lost.
It was great to read a book about the varying roles of women in society and how that is changing or not as the case may be. However, although my experience of reading The Cows was very positive and I was engrossed and then immediately advised others to read it. I now cannot remember much of what happens. The actual plot has not stuck with me as I expect it to and I think that is the mark of a good book. I would still suggest people read it, but I think I might have to revisit with a more critical mind next time.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

April Reviews

C.J. Sansom
Pan Macmillan Sept 2015 Paperback
Borrowed from work

I think it is the mark of a good author is the ability to write a series but each book is able to stand alone. C.J. Sansom has absolutely nailed this with the Shardlake series. I was lent Lamentation by someone at work and even though it is quite far along in the series at no point was I lost in the mire of a back story. It was clear that the characters had history, but this was addressed and referenced in a way that did not detract from the narrative.
If historical crime is your thing, these are a brilliant set of books to pick up. Also if you're interested in any aspect of lawyering, as that is the occupation of the main character.
I've always enjoyed this time period, the Tudors are a huge part of history and lends its self to stories. As well as political and courtly drama, it's a well documented time. This means that historians have a lot to work with, and C.J, Sansom is actually a historian, which means he has really done his research!
Although I really enjoyed the fast paced story line and the subject matter, as well as the historical period it was set in, I do not feel the need to read the whole series. Its great as a stand alone, but it isn't really the genre for me. Plus, they're all really long!

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Things you might not know about me

Time for a fun one! I've been watching a lot of friends recently, and I decided to use the structure of the best friend test to share a few things about me.

Fears & Pet peeves
I am afraid of needles!

I hate when men's trousers are too small for them. Too short trousers that they bought before their last growth spurt and then they ride up to half-way up their calves when they sit down. It genuinely makes me a little ill.

Since starting Stories in Books I have read 89 books in total.

I have no problem foxing the pages of my books.

It's all relative
My Grandmother's first name is also one of my middle names.

I have ten first cousins.

Ancient History 
My childhood doll was called Lucy. She only has one eye that works; the other one swings down all the way. She's pretty terrifying and currently lives at the bottom of a wardrobe. :(

My first serious boyfriend played the organ!

What's in my bag right now
Water bottle
2 pens
Book - A Gentleman in Moscow
Eco-sack shopping bag & plastic bag I reuse for vegetables etc.
Umbrella (because you never know)
Zendure Battery pack & cables

Lighting round 
My nick name is G&T
My favourite movie is About Time
I have never been stung by a bee or fallen off a horse
My favourite food is pasta
My childhood friend now lives in America and works for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
I am an Executive Assistant

Thursday, 19 July 2018

March Reviews

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby
Editions Robert Laffont Mar 19917 Hardback
Borrowed from work

It is one of the joys of starting a new job, that is slowly gets around the office that I'm a reader. By my 6th month I had a stack of books on my desk donated from the rest of the office. One of which was this.
I consider this book to be one of those essential reading books it has been on my radar for many years and as communication becomes more and more interesting to me, I was thrilled to have it at my fingertips.
If you haven't heard of it, the story follows  Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers from locked-in syndrome after a stroke. Unable to speak or move he communicates only with movements of one eye and moans.
I really enjoyed the book it was poignant and not at all the disheartening slog it could have been. The authors voice is so readable and as a modern classic, I would definitely suggest it.

Exit West
Mohsin Hamid
Hamish Hamilton Mar 2017 Hard back
Christmas Present

It is always a delight to get Christmas presents from friends. I opened this well before Christmas because I was ill and dived into the hardback copy.
I can definitely see why it was on the shortlist of the booker prize 2017. I enjoyed the eye opening look at how refugees debate the leave and setting up a whole new life with nothing. It's a very interesting look at life and humanity in crisis and how countries interact.
The writing was very 'novelly' it definitely felt like a Booker book. Perfectly suited for a gift to any reader, however it did not give me the wow factor and is the kind of book I might forget about. A good read but not personally impactful to me.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

My Journey with BSL

One of my most exciting projects in the last year or so has been starting to learn BSL (British Sign Language).

After realising that one of my favourite books has a signing character. It has made me think about when I started to be interested in the language and the culture. I was really surprised to find that I had been learning and reading about it for a long time.

The first time I remember actively learning about BSL was at University. I performed in a Student film as a deaf character. I had to learn a few signs for the role and found it really fun. In fact the whole crew and cast went to a mini BSL session together to get a feel for it.

From there I learnt the alphabet but very little else until I moved to London. One friend knew a lot of makaton from working with children, and many others were volunteers with St John Ambulance. Everyone knew a little bit of sign and used it in loud places or across a room, usually "where is so-and-so?", "Toilet". Both very useful phrases to learn early.

Next stage was going along to a free taster session where we learnt the alphabet, numbers, and a few bits of vocabulary for two hours. It was held with St John, which meant I learnt some interesting medical vocab like 1st aid, ambulance, doctor, hay fever and hurt.

From then I started to use signing more and tried to learn a few more bits and pieces from Youtube videos. During a project for a friend's birthday I recorded a sign video. I had to meet up with a friend who knew sign language, who helped me construct a story and taught me the signs. I loved this experience. It was so clear that I loved signing that my sister bought me a basic level BSL course for my birthday!

Suddenly I was in it. Classes were fun and challenging and we raced through the basics in 10 weeks. During the course, I started going to deaf meet ups in pubs and coffee shops, I went to a BSL play, and even a BSL Carol Service for Christmas. I loved meeting people and feeling like I could understand at least some of the conversations and learning new words all the time was fantastic.

I then went on to study BSL Level 1. At the time of writing I am about to do my final exam so we will see how that goes and hopefully I will walk away with the qualification to put on my CV and to go on to Level 2.

I still don't know how BSL will come into my life beyond making some new friends. The dream is to make it part of my career, but I'd have to have a very high level of BSL. Unfortunately, the time and money that I'd need to get to that level is too overwhelming at the moment. Let me know if you have found any deaf characters in books, or books about sign language?