Monday, 31 March 2014

Devouring Books: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

"But why, why, why can't people just say what they mean?"

This post might not be a review so much as a load of confessions about The Rosie Project as I experienced it. I HAVE CONFESSIONS AND YOU PROBABLY WON'T LIKE ALL OF THEM.
But enough with the ominous gifs and onto The Rosie Project.

Confession 1: I sort of didn't like The Rosie Project to begin with. I had all these expectations and all this hype to deal with, since about eleventy billion of you read and loved it beyond all reasonable... reason, and hey, I trust you guys. Hopes were the HIGHEST EVER, and reality was slightly not that. It was probably all the Sheldon Cooper comparisons flying around reviews of The Rosie Project, so I got confused and thought that maybe I didn't like Professor Don Tillman, because I fucking hate The Big Bang Theory.

Confession 2: Then I cried on the bus. I didn't mean to cry on the bus, especially since I'd already decided not to like Don, but then there's the bit with Daphne. Which I'm NOT going to tell you about because it's the saddest and the sweetest and you deserve to discover it for yourself, but guys who have read it- DAPHNE, right? She made my heart hurt. And made me cry real tears of crying. And then I had a whole new perspective on Don, even if he wouldn't have had a clue why I was crying.

Confession 3: I wish I knew more about Psychology (I know SOME stuff. Like, I have an A Level in it. But I wish I knew MORE) because I really want to know what Don's deal is. It's definitely implied that he has, or has something close to Asperger Syndrome, but... I don't know. The point, though, is that Don has a really different way of looking at and interacting with the world, which is sometimes hilarious, sometimes frustrating (both to him and the reader) and sometimes creates unexpected results. We see the world through Don's eyes, which means we get a limited view of the emotions involved in the story- pretty odd for a love story, but it just means you work harder to figure out what's going on, which is always good. Go, subtext!

Confession 4: But sometimes... I kind of just wanted to see the story from Rosie's perspective. Or someone else's perspective. Someone who did bring emotion into things instead of either ignoring it or not really experiencing it. People are falling in love in this book (am I going to say who? I am not.) only it takes quite a bit of effort to get that and I'm not sure that's something I really appreciated? But this might just be because I kind of want A LOT OF EMOTION ALL THE TIME and I am not ashamed of that.

Confession 5: A lot of Don's organisational behaviour made a lot of sense to me, which reminds me that there are a few behaviours and things that I have that make me think I'm maybe higher on the autism spectrum than other people*. Just going to leave that information here.

Confession 6: I'm now wondering if the reason I love New York City is because its layout makes so much sense. It is ONE of the reasons. But probably not the main one. Also people go to New York in this book and it's absolutely the best part. And there are a lot of good parts.

Confession 7: I ended up really liking this book. So much that I read the last 100 pages or so in one go, outside in the cold without even realising it was really cold, and I finished the last FEW pages during my work break and I never read then because it's only 15 minutes long and girls gots to gossip (I can't even believe I typed that. Please let it be struck from the record). It definitely challenged me in a few ways, and there were times when I got incredibly frustrated with Don, but in the end... It's sweet. It's genuinely funny, and genuinely touching. I'm glad I read it, and I hope you do too- with slightly lower expectations than the ones I had, but still with hope in your heart and a song at your lips. Or something.

Actual Reviews
What Red Read
As The Crowe Flies And Reads
Sarah Says Read

*I just took this test and didn't score high enough for actually being autistic, but did score higher than the average, which feels about right.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Devouring Books: The Keep by Jennifer Egan

"What are they giving you, the machines? Shadows, disembodied voices. Typed words and pictures if you're online. That's it, Danny. If you think you're surrounded by people, you're making them up."

Ah, Jennifer Egan. You read one of the greatest books you've read for a long time (maybe ever) and all of a sudden you're all obsessed with reading all her books. I'm referring of course to A Visit From The Goon Squad, and the fact that I now can't get enough Egan (since she's only written 4 novels, there's a cut off point to this, and it's after I've read Look At Me. But shh, that hasn't happened yet). And so, that brings us to The Keep.

I didn't enjoy The Keep as much as A Visit From The Goon Squad. That should probably go without saying, but I'm saying it anyway, and now you know the terrifying (understandable) truth. This doesn't mean that The Keep is a bad book, because it isn't, by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm not sure if I really enjoyed it as much as I wanted to. This is why you don't read an author's best book (so far) before you read the others, and consider my lesson LEARNED. Until I approach Look At Me with the same optimism, that is.

But The Keep. It's a story within a story (within a story, technically) so there are levels of narration and some complex things going on that you don't necessarily fully understand until towards the end of the book, where all is revealed and you kind of go 'ohhhh... I see that,' and everything slots together nicely in what I would like to describe as an Eganitarian way. Only... I wasn't sure I really cared about the revelation at that point because I wasn't hugely into the story? And I'm still not sure that I really care about it now? And I feel sort of bad about it and that's why I'm asking instead of telling you all this?

Let's talk more about the story/stories. The inner level of story concerns Danny, a thirty something who doesn't really know where his life has gone wrong, or where his really successful cousin's has gone right. Danny flies out to help his cousin set up his business-in-a-castle (I know) and finds it difficult to give up the technology to which he has become accustomed. This was possibly the most interesting part of the book to me- the idea that modern people have sacrificed imagination for technology, and that living through technology is not necessarily the way to go.

I find this interesting maybe because I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, a lot of good things have happened to me because of the internet, and I wouldn't be without this blog or without those of you who I really really feel like I know now and I wouldn't have that without the internet. But, at the same time, when I'm refreshing twitter or tumblr for the millionth time that day, I sometimes wonder, you know, what else could I be doing with my life? While I get the impression that Egan is fairly anti-technology (or anti-too much technology. Or something) and that's her stand on it, I still appreciate the moment to take a step back and go 'hmm, how do I really feel about this?' So that's cool.

The outer story in The Keep is about the guy who's writing the inner story. I don't know how much I should tell you about him, but his existence is interesting because you then assume that hey, this other story seems like it might be fictional, so maybe I should pay more attention to this story, even though you know that this story is also fictional, since Jennifer Egan is not, as far as I know, a fortyish (?) male in a secure facility. I found it really strange though that I suddenly assumed, because of this book's structure, that this outer narrative was somehow 'truer' than the inner, and I thought hey, that's a pretty neat trick. So maybe I'm a little more impressed with this book than I am in love with it.

I don't know whether I think you need to read this or not. As a bit of an author completist (I'm more inclined to go by author than any other factor when choosing books) I'm tempted to say that of COURSE you should read all of Egan's books, but now that I've finished this one, I feel like I might think it's relatively skippable. AND NOW I FEEL BAD. Just, go and read A Visit From The Goon Squad. That definitely won't disappoint you.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Devouring Books: Chicken With Plums by Marjane Satrapi

I always feel like I'm really unqualified to talk about graphic novels, because I don't really know how to talk about art. With graphic novels, the art is at least as important as the words, and while I feel fine writing about words, I feel completely out of my depth talking about drawings. So, I guess I'll just do what I always do, and talk about my feelings.
Marjane Satrapi is probably more famous as the author of Persepolis, which I read last year and LOVED, so when I found myself in a new-to-me library with time to spare and some Satrapi I hadn't read, what else was I to do but read Chicken With Plums in about an hour (and come away with Embroideries)? Nothing, that's what. In a similar way to Persepolis, Chicken With Plums is somewhat memoir-esque, only it's the story of her uncle* and his death. And it's kind of magnificent.

So, Satrapi's uncle, Nasser Ali Khan was a famous Tar** player in Iran, unhappily married with 4 children, and one day, after his wife broke his favourite Tar and probably because of, you know, underlying mental illness, he decided to lay down in his bed and just die. This book documents the eight days he stayed in bed before he died.

And, it's pretty great. It's heartbreaking without being emotionally manipulative, with just the right amounts of sadness and frustration (PLEASE just get out of bed, man!) and empathy for his poor family, and in the end, for him too. Since Nasser Ali Khan died 11 years before Satrapi was born, there were definitely points where I questioned how much of this was actually true, BUT (crucially) in the end I don't think it really mattered- I believed in the story completely as it was, and I didn't really mind whether all of these things actually happened to Khan or not. They happen in the book, and that's good enough for me.

As I've said, I don't have a clue how to analyse the drawing side of things, but... I liked the drawings? So there's that, and I also liked the way the past and present were distinguished between by having a dark background for the flashbacks, the things that Khan recalls as he lays dying, and a lighter background for the present. In a way, I almost want it to be the other way round, in that Khan's mood and state of mind in the present are clearly darker than in most of his past, but at the same time, the darkness of the past shows how what we remember is never perfect, always a little bit shaded.

Chicken With Plums was moving and upsetting and very very well done. Whilst it didn't challenge me, or make me think as much as Persepolis did, I was still completely engaged with it for the whole hour or so it took to read, and that's pretty much good enough for me. As long as I enjoy a graphic novel, I'm pretty much always inclined to recommend it, because, you know, they take like an hour to read, but I really think this one is more than worth your time. As long as you don't mind being a tiny bit sad, that is.

*Satrapi calls him her uncle, but he seems to actually be her mum's uncle... So her great uncle, I guess.
**A tar seems to be like a kind of violin rather than having anything to do with a guitar. But the name fooled me, too.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Devouring Books: NOS4R2 by Joe Hill

"He had long accepted that everyone had his own world inside, each as real as the communal world shared by all but impossible for others to access."

I'm having a really hard time even knowing where to begin writing about NOS4R2 (or, NOS4A2, if you're an American) because I liked it very very much, even though it took me about 4 months to read (or, I at least read it over 4 months), and that's always difficult to write about; but ALSO I want to go through the whole review without mentioning the Stephen King connection but how is that going to be possible? HAVE WE MET?*

In fact, I'm going to bring up the Stephen King thing now so we get it out of the way and no one feels awkward. SO- in case you didn't know, Joe Hill is Stephen King's son (SURPRISE! Time to leave that rock, kids). Also in case you didn't know, I kind of have a vague interest in Stephen King's work, and that meant that, at least to begin with, it was almost impossible for me to read this without comparing it to King. I hated myself for doing it, and I constantly reminded myself that THEY ARE NOT THE SAME PERSON and also SHHHH, brain. 

But then something weird happened, and my brain stopped going 'Stephen King is his DAD!' every 5 minutes, and the entire credit for that goes to the book itself. It's just so. Good. Literally, the better it got, the less I thought of anything in the outside world and just got completely sucked into the world of Vic and Lou and Charles Manx, where bad things often happen, and sometimes the demons win, however much you don't want them to. But we'll get to that.**

So, NOS4R2. There's a LOT of story here, as you might expect for a book with nearly 700 pages, and it's definitely impossible to sum up in a paragraph or two. But here goes: It's basically the story of Vic McQueen and her ability to find lost things, about the way she grows up and the challenges she faces as an adult. It's also the story of Charles Manx, a genuinely chilling villain who genuinely believes that he's doing the right thing when he kidnaps children and forces lets them live in a place where it's eternally Christmas. Only, really really scary Christmas.

That's kind of what the book's about, but it's also about having amazing action sequences, combined with just the right amount of emotion and character development and genuinely scary stuff. In Hanna's review, she says that it's probably better to read in the summer rather than actually AT Christmas (in spite of Waterstones trying to trick us by putting a sticker on the front that says 'A Christmas horror story!') because the whole point of the Christmas thing is that it's REALLY unnerving to hear Christmas songs when it isn't Christmas, and that's even more apparent when you're reading it and it's March all of a sudden (Seriously. Four months. Entirely my fault.)

This book though. I definitely have a few tiny issues with it, but they're pretty much engulfed by how much I just purely enjoyed it. I feel like I sometimes miss out on books that are a lot of fun (even if it's scary fun) because I read a lot of 'Literary Fiction' because I can't quite bear reading books that aren't well written. But THIS! This is both well written and completely absorbing, and this is my favourite combination of book, I think. *Whispers* It's why I like Stephen King so much... But anyway, this. So much action, combined with so much good writing makes it so much my kind of book.

And and, as Alley said in her review (because apparently, the way to write posts that are difficult to write is to steal borrow some inspiration!) the secondary characters are SO. GOOD. I don't know how a person could read this and not love Maggie, and the Gas Mask Man is extremely creepy, and there's this one character who's in it extremely peripherally, but who still managed to make me cry with a note and that is kind of an amazing thing. Even though this book has nearly 700 pages, it never loses its way, and doesn't include any characters that don't feel like living, breathing people, and that's pretty much the best compliment I can pay a book.

In case it doesn't go without saying, I highly recommend that you read this book, RIGHT NOW if not sooner. Just to wrap things up, I want to bring up Stephen King again, but in a non-comparing manner. In NOS4R2, there are a few tiny moments where SK books are referenced*** and every time it was SO EXCITING to me. I just... I can't even explain how pleasing it is to me when I know things that aren't necessarily made explicit, and even more pleasing when they're Stephen King related and yes. BUT NOS4R2 is definitely worth reading even without an encyclopaedic knowledge of the author's father's work.

*I know the answer is technically no, but we've met on the internet and that's basically the same thing. 
**Or not, because it seems to spoilery. We'll see.
***In a similar way to what King does in his own books

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Sunday Sundries: Reading like a Crazy Reading MACHINE

Happy Sunday, one and all!
Nothing excessively exciting has happened to me this week, but I feel like it's been a pretty ok one nonetheless. Oh wait, one exciting thing- I got to work a morning this week! I realise this isn't that amazing (after all, it's still work) but as a reluctant part-time worker (reluctant as in, I'd rather work full time, rather than I'm a reluctant worker) I have to tell you that the time of day you work makes a big difference. For me, working afternoons means that I completely spunk my day away because I do this:
Mornings: I don't have enough time to do this thing so I'm just going to dick around on the internet and do nothing.
Afternoons: Work
Evenings: I am tired from working. I sleep now. No things are more important than sleep.

Working in the morning does this for me:
Morning: Work
Afternoon and Evening: I don't even remember working this morning so I can now be a well functioning member of society. Yay!

I have to admit that I didn't exactly make the most of my first free afternoon for a million years, but I did feel totally well rested and just more friendly towards having to go to work again the next day, so that's a bonus in itself. And this week I resolve to do more with my afternoon. *nods definitively*.

NOW. About that subtitle. I have finished THREE books this week. THREE. Admittedly one of those was Bleak House, which I've been working on for, oh, you know, seven weeks, and one of them may have been a graphic novel which I read in about an hour yesterday while I was waiting for my friend, but that is NOT the point because I can't even remember the last time I finished three books in a week. I don't know if it's the weather, or the books I'm choosing, or just that I apparently really want to read at the moment, but I'm feeling especially good about books right now.

I'll bet that's just shocking to everyone...
What I really need to do now is get to blogging like a crazy blogging machine. This hasn't really been my forte this year, for various reasons, and I'm not really upset about it, but I want to make slightly more of an effort than no effort at all. I feel like I've said that before already this year, but hey, maybe this time it'll stick! I wrote a review of NOS4R2 last night anyway, so that's one down, three to go... No biggie.

Let's see, what else... OOH, well I accepted my first ever review copies this week, and I'm very excited about it. I haven't really accepted them in the past, just because they're not usually things I'm interested in, or because I just have ENOUGH DAMN BOOKS already; but there were a couple of emails in the same week for books that both sounded really interesting to me, so I thought, why not indeed?! One of them has arrived already, in a manuscript form, no less, so even if it's not a great book, at the very least I've impressed my housemates with it!
And that... Is pretty much it. I found a new library yesterday while I was waiting for my friend to come and meet me in Richmond (we had cupcakes, it was good!) and managed to check out four books, which is probably not the best thing to do because, you know, READ THE BOOKS YOU OWN, ME, but at the same time, new libraryyyyyy. It was pretty great and they had Marjane Satrapi graphic novels and that basically never happens! I can't even tell how jealous you must be of my life right now. It's SO jealous, right? I knew it.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Spring Reads

So this Tuesday just gone (as in, yes, three days ago) the Top Ten Tuesday topic was spring reads, which I didn't even realise was coming up and I was really sad I missed it because, planning the books I'm going to read next? Kind of my favourite thing. So, I made a pile of books (in fact, I had a pile of 'books I want to read soonish' so I just added to it) and I guess these are the books I'll be reading in the coming months unless, you know, something else comes up. Or I can't be bothered. You know, the usual.

Let's look at the books, shall we?
Shiny, Shiny Books
So, I'm planning on reading:

Lizard by Banana Yoshimoto- I sort of chose this because it's tiny and will fit in my bag well? But also because I read Kitchen last year and it was AMAZING and I'm kind of slowly collecting all the Yoshimoto but apparently not reading it. Changing that, right now.

Torch by Cheryl Strayed- I'm slightly on the fence about this one, because I think it's a semi-autobigraphical novel about a woman who's just lost her mother and I'm like CAN I HANDLE THIS? And the answer is, maybe. I'm not sure. But I love Strayed and I definitely want to give it a go.

The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson- I've been thinking a lot about Jansson recently because there's a new biography about her out that seems awesome (had to pull myself away from it in Waterstones the other day) but when I was talking to Bex about her I realised that I've only read one of the Moomin books, lots of the comic strips and none of her adult fiction. This changes this spring (maybe).

The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro- I've become uncomfortably obsessed with Munro of late, and by obsessed I mean, I've been buying her books and not reading them and this almost definitely needs to change. I figure if I read one and don't like it, then at least I'll know not to buy more. God help us all if I DO like it...

Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs by Jeremy Mercer- This is about Shakespeare and Co, a bookshop in Paris, and Ellie put it on her list this week which reminded me I really want to read it, and THIS Ellie was the original recommender and hearty lover of this book. A book about a bookshop full of books, what could be better?

The Trial by Franz Kafka- Another book, another first- I feel like I've been told I'll like Kafka, and I feel like there isn't a reason for me not to, based on things I've heard about him. So yeah, this'll be fun!

Man Walks Into A Room by Nicole Krauss- I've read both The History of Love and Great House and I love Krauss's writing even if her stories don't necessarily stick in my brain that well. I didn't know this even existed though, so when I found it in a charity shop (about a million years ago, obvs) I had to buy it. No idea what it's about, excited to wallow in the writing.

Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger- I have been obsessed with this book for a long time now, and I don't really know why. I don't know what it's about, but I think I'm just drawn in by the idea that I could like a JD Salinger book, and I've been planning to read this for a loooong time. The time is now (ish. Probably. I don't know.)

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Alborn- I don't remember buying this, or why I bought it, but it's been on my shelves a reaaaally long time now and my housemate-friend keeps telling me it's awesome and I'm like 'ok, I'll try it.' Now I'm actually planning on trying it. Let's see how it goes.

World War Z by Max Brooks- The time for World War Z is now. Alley, take note. This had better be good.

Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski- I bought this because Bukowski was a person I had heard of and I thought, why not? Then I read this one poem he wrote and I'm pretty sure I cried over it and now it's really important I read all his words. This seems like a good place to start, right? 

So yeah. Spring reading. I may read these or I may just ignore that book pile and read whatever. I never can quite tell what I'll do, but I like to have a book pile laying around, always. What are you reading in the nearish future?

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Devouring Books: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

"I can't see my readers faces, so in a sense it's a conceptual type of human relationship, but I've consistently considered this invisible conceptual relationship to be the most important thing in my life."

As I've already mentioned, I've started running recently, and it's kind of opening me up to the idea that actually, even though I might think there are certain things I can't do, I actually might be able to do them (after a lot of hard work and maybe some pain, but still. It's a revelation.) It's still going on, so I shouldn't really say too much about it yet, but at the same time it's kind of all I want to talk about- about how 3 weeks ago I could barely run for 60 seconds, and here I am now, having run for 5 minutes without stopping (and still going). It's kind of amazing to me, and kind of ridiculous, all at the same time.

But enough about me, this is about Murakami. Since my mind is on running a lot these days, I decided to pick up What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, which Bex sent me for one of the Ninja book swaps. This book... Well. If I say it was everything I wanted it to be and then some, would you just think I'm on one of my Murakami rants again? Maybe. But it's definitely true. I think what I wanted from this book (which is sold as a memoir of running) was just some assurances that running gets amazing when you do it a lot, and that it makes you feel amazing and also makes sure you write so well that you're mentioned in relation to the Nobel Prize for Literature every year. 

I kid. I actually didn't want that last bit, but weirdly, I got that a little bit, too. This really is ostensibly a memoir of running, but it's also intensely personal. From the outset, Murakami makes it clear that this isn't a running guide, that he's not guaranteeing running will change your life, that he doesn't even think everyone should run- just that this is his experience. This is something that has been crucial to his life. This is how he does it. That's awesome to begin with- if this was some kind of terrible 'this is how to run and I've done it and you can too!' self help bullshit, then I would not be impressed. But this is Murakami, so of course it's not.

Instead, it's about his experience of being a writer, and a runner; the way those two things are connected, and the way that they've had a profound impact on his life. The emphasis is much more on the running (hence the title), but there's a definite link that Murakami sees and points out. More than that, actually, he sees a connection between running and life, in a number of ways: for example, after completing an ultramarathon (62 miles), he thinks that, even though races and life both have an end point, it doesn't mean that they essentially have meaning, and that people may think that running is a way for people to prolong their lives, when really it's just another way to live one's life. We've all got to do something to fill the hours.

Essentially, you're going to want to read this if one of three things appeals to you:

  • Finding out more about Murakami, his lifestyle and character and really just what makes him tick.
  • Thinking about the kind of philosophy of running and just generally trying to relate to someone who has just kept on trucking all these years, and done a marathon a year since 1982
  • You think maybe you want to be a runner AND a writer and want to be encouraged that these two things are really compatible. Which, it seems like, they are.
And other than that? You should probably just read it anyway. Before I started running (so, like, a few weeks ago) I think reason one would have been the thing, but now my viewpoint has shifted a little bit and two came into play, whereas three has kind of played on my mind after finishing the book. To me, it feels like something I'm going to return to more than once, whereas to you it might just be mildly interesting. But still, it definitely is. Interesting, that is. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

"What happiness was ours that day, what joy, what rest, what hope, what gratitude, what bliss!"

Before I get to talking about this last bit of Bleak House, I just want to take a second to state the incredible fact that I've finished a Dickens book. That I, who had previously sworn off Dickensian things, who had probably said, more than once, I HATE DICKENS, have actually finished one of his novels. And I didn't hate it. In fact, I kind of loved it. Personal growth, I am doing it!
But, of course, credit where credit's due- Alice thank you for making encouraging me to read this by having a readalong because DAMN, you know I can't say no to one of your readalongs. And long may that continue.

Right, now to the book. The nitty and indeed the gritty. Last week we left Lady Dedlock running away from her loving husband because of stupid patriarchal societal values, and that all escalated a bit quickly and suddenly she was dead. If we may just take a second for the massive amounts of mourning that Esther refuses to speak of...
Lady Dedlock may have been a terrible mother, she may have even been a terrible wife in the end, but in my heart of hearts, I just wanted her to come back home to Sir Leicester and see that he loved her desperately and then be reunited with Esther and have her live next door to them and be friends and it all to be lovely. Only, of course, this is Dickens, and ALSO even if Lady Dedlock had come home she would never have been able to publicly acknowledge Esther as her daughter and just, everything is the worst in that situation.

Not the worst: Mr Bucket. Even though I was slightly sad that he wasn't sadder that he was mean to Jo, I just love everything else about him. He's so... Detectivey! And hot. He's definitely hot in my brain, which is important to know. And he has got Skimpole's (ah, the completely non-remorseful Skimpole) number:
"Whenever a person proclaims to you 'In worldly matters I'm a child', you consider that that person is only a-crying off from being held accountable and that you have got that person's number, and it's Number One."
And and and he thinks Esther is a pattern and he just accurately perceives all of the people because of his amazing detective skills.
 Oh yeah.
So Esther's pretty awesome.
"I was frightened when I saw them all about me, but I remembered that before I fainted, I tried very hard not to do it; and that was some little comfort."
And so incredibly hot for Ada.
"When they were gone out, I drew my arm round her waist. She put her left hand in mine."
I'm not sure I'll ever forgive this book for not marrying Esther and Ada to each other, but I'm still glad that Esther got her conventional happy ending with a dude (aw, but Woodcourt is lovely, though. Albeit maybe a tiny bit in love with Richard). Just as a slight negating argument to everything I've been saying for... 7 (?) weeks,  when Esther thinks she shouldn't have certain feelings because she doesn't deserve the thing, she talks around them. So, whilst she talks about Ada and how much she loves her A LOT, she talks around the way she feels about Woodcourt, so maybe she thinks she deserves Ada's friendship, but nobody's love.

But, then again,
"I call him my Richard! But he says that he has two mamas, and I am one."
Richard has two mommies? REALLY, DICKENS?!

There's so much more to talk about, I know (was anyone sad when Richard Snr died? Anyone?) but I'm going to rely on all of you to discuss it, because I really just want to talk Dickens for a second. Mainly- how can one person be so good at writing? Like, seriously. It's not just that he puts sentences together really well (but he definitely does) or that he can set scenes so awesomely, but just his characters, man- there isn't one who feels like filler, and even though all of them are created to move the plot along, they each feel like a fully formed person all by themselves. It's AMAZING, and I can't even deal with the fact that Esther wasn't a real life person who lived and breathed at some point in history. Just, wow.

So basically, I'm already plotting which Dickens to read next (and also... WHICH Dickens should I read next?) I'm so happy to have gotten over my irrational fear, and I'm really sad this readalong is over. WHO WILL EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TURVEYDROP AND TULKINGHORN TO ME NOW?! I need you guys. 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Sunday Sundries

Sunday greetings, fellow people of the internet!
How are we all on this (I'm assuming since it's Saturday and I'm getting ahead of myself for once) lovely day? Can you tell I'm stalling for time since I don't really have a clear direction for this post and I'm tired and thinking is hard? You probably can now because I just told you. Duh.

THIS WEEK! I don't even know. I've had the kind of week where it feels like I've been really busy, only I haven't really, but I haven't been at home very much either? Which is fine, but it just makes me feel like I've been really busy, and now it's Saturday and I am the sleepiest. I've done some running, I've done some shopping, I had a lunch with my mum, I had a dinner with my parents, I did extra work... Let's just say, I've done some stuff.

But let's go on and I'll tell you about my Friday because it's basically the busiest day I've had all year and in spite of myself, I totally enjoyed it. So in the morning, I got up early-for-me and went to Richmond for the ultra important meeting up with the lovely Bex. As well as, her lovely husband Rhys, lovely child Benji, and her lovely bump that I hopefully didn't violate too much with all the touching (IT IS A BABY BUMP HOW AM I GOING TO NOT TOUCH IT?!) As is the way of my life, I didn't get any pictures of actual people, BUT I did get a great cake picture and isn't that just as good?
Mmmmm, rainbow cake...
Bex and I shared that piece because their slices are huge and VERY expensive, and we are thrifty mofos. Also neither of us seemed to want the green bit, so Ben got most of that. NOT that it made him hyper for the rest of the morning or anything...
We were. All of us. So much sugar...
And so, flying high on sugar and feeling fancy free, we proceeded to the bookshops of Richmond where of course none of us bought any books for we are restrained and sensible and did I mention we were thrifty earlier? Because that's a thing that's definitely true...

OK, so you want to see what I bought? FINE. It's all Bex's fault anyway. Probably. 
So the top two books I got in this independent bookshop (I KNOW) called The Open Book, my excuse for which is that I've been in there a few times but have never bought anything, so I feel bad about that. Or, I should say felt, because look! I obviously needed a new JCO book to read (and there's a Stephen King recommendation of the cover so everything was just colliding there) and I just finished The Keep and only have Look At Me to go before I've read all the Egan, which is obviously something I need to do. The other three I got in Oxfam (Richmond's Oxfam is reaaaaally good) and I don't really have reasons for them... Other than that Margaret Atwood is an autobuy author for me, so yeah.

All too soon though, I had to say bye to Bex and the husband and the baby (and the bump) and go to work, where I tried valiantly to fight off the biggest sugar low since, I don't know, ice cream. I'm not sure I succeeded, but it was ok since after work I had to rush home, eat something really quickly so I could go out again for drinks with the work people. Which I wasn't massively into because my basic opinion of going out is 'I have to leave the house? At night? To see people?!' but it actually turned out to be a lot of fun and I'm glad I went *files this away as useful information to remember*.

So yeah, that was Friday! And now it's Sunday (WINK) but if it was Saturday, I'd tell you that I'm trying to read King Lear because it's the Ides of March (I've already read Julius Caesar, shut up) which I should have posted about ON Saturday only I didn't because I'm a fool and hadn't read it. But let's ignore that and just go yay! Shakespeare! Or something. HOW IS EVERYONE IS IT SUNNY WHERE YOU ARE YET?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

"When Mr. Bucket and that finger are much in conference, a terrible avenger will be heard of before long."

Guess who's writing their Bleak House on a Monday night? GUESS? I mean, I realise this doesn't have anything to do with the book and, you know, no one really cares, but it's almost like I'm sorting my life out and getting things in order! YES!

I'm also stalling because this week I read the chapters at my parents' house, and didn't have my sticky tabs with me, so I'm having to rely on notes on my phone that are basically just quotes to prove how much Ada and Esther love each other, SECRET MARRIAGES to the contrary.
How could you do that, Ada? How could you?
OK, so. Important things have happened. Mr. George is absolutely in prison for a murder there was no way he committed, although now we know why he had some chapters with Mr Tulkinghorn even though they seemed kind of random. Also important to note: George totally isn't his surname. So why we know him as Mr. George is a mystery to us all, because I don't really care that his mother is the housekeeper at Chesney Wold? But there you go.

Ada and Esther were both harbouring secrets that kept them at a distance from each other, both about their ill advised marriages. It's difficult to say which one I'm more against, since I basically just want Esther and Ada to be together for always, but Mr Jarndyce is at least a decent human being, so there's that. When Ada was all weird that Esther was marrying Mr Jarndyce, I assumed it was because she was sad that SHE couldn't marry Esther, but it turned out that she was just sad because she was married to an idiot. 
SPEAKING OF WHICH: How important was it that they get married, really? Were they that desperate to get laid that it just couldn't wait? Or did Ada just want to get away from Esther sniffing her hair and whatever as she slept? "I lingered for one more look of that precious face, which it seemed to rive my heart to turn from." Of course you did, Esther. Of course you did.

Enough of unworthy husbands, lets talk about Mr Bucket. Who is awesome. Despite scaring poor little Jo nearly to death (Oh! Jo. No.) I liked him the last time he appeared, and this time, I really really liked him. I am so into his amazing crime solving skills, even though everyone apparently knew who'd murdered Mr T immediately last week. I say everyone, when really I mean everyone except me, of course.
But the point is, Mr Bucket you are a master of crime solving and I like you a lot. Even if, in the process of outing the murderer, you totally helped to out Lady Dedlock's hugest secret to her husband, making him upset but still loving, and her run away to... somewhere. We shall see! I don't quite understand why Mr George is still in prison in the chapter after Mr Bucket figures out that Hortense is the murderer, but it's very possible I missed something there.

SPEAKING OF MR GEORGE (see what I did there?) I just have to bring up my favourite part of the whole of this section, namely the bit where, every time Mrs Bagnet is overcome with emotion because she loves Mr George but doesn't know how not to be stern, she pokes him with her umbrella. I just... couldn't get over how adorable it was! I'm still not over it now! Just, yes, Dickens, please keep writing things like this and I will keep coming back to you, I swear!
The end. Except not the end. But IS NEXT WEEK THE END? What the hell, everyone. Nice work letting this happen. *Glares*

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Sunday Sundries: Run, Run, Run

Firstly: My deepest and most sincere apologies for not writing a Sunday Sundries post last week. I don't have a good excuse at all, other than that Sundays are family days that tend to consist of getting up-going to my grandad's house-eating-not having internet til the evening when inevitably I just want to watch TV or whatever. Like I said, not an excuse, but just an inevitable chain of Sunday events.

Probably I should write a weekly update post on a day other than a Sunday*, but ehhhh, no.

So, it's been two weeks. I would say a lot has happened, but it kind of really hasn't. This last week I worked extra hours for no overtime pay and pretty much no thanks, and to say that I'm so over my job is a giant understatement. I know it's not the best idea to be mean about your job on the internet, so, you know, no details, but I'm definitely feeling undervalued and SO ANGRY I WANT TO PUNCH THINGS at the moment. So, you know, if anyone knows of anything... *winks significantly*.

But anyway. Since it's the weekend and I'm trying not to think about it, let's talk about the thing that's probably been on my mind the most recently, and that thing is running. 
Totally what I wear to run.
You might not know how ridiculous it is that I want to talk about running. I mean, you might, considering that I write exclusively about reading books and watching TV and movies, all of which are sedentary activities, and none of which contribute to fitness in any way. But you probably don't know just how much I hate(d) running- just the pure, PE style horror of having to run and then being out of breath and still having to run and feeling like you're dyyyying and just no. No.

Things have changed in my mind a little bit over the last year or so- the internet is such a great resource for anything you might be interested in, and there were a few bloggers I already liked and felt an affinity with who started writing posts about running and how amazing it feels, and I was... intrigued. Not intrigued enough to do anything stupid like actually running, but intrigued nonetheless. Enough to put 'attempt to do a couch-to-5k thing' (note the word 'attempt' in there) on my 24 before 25 list, and yes I realise it's March now.

So, last Monday morning, I put on my neglected trainers and left the house early to attempt to do a couch to 5k thing. And I did it. I did 8 minutes more running than I've done since I left school, and I felt incredibly (over) impressed with myself. I ached terribly for three whole days afterwards, but I kept going and, incredibly, it got easier. Which made me feel amazing, and made aching feel like it was a good thing and all sorts of other decent stuff that I never expected to get from running, at all.

Let's be real here. I've just finished week two of the Couch to 5K podcast I've downloaded, which meant running for 90 seconds, recovering for 120 and repeat. I am in no way an experienced runner, and I don't even know how I'm going to feel about the whole thing when I get to stages where I have to run for, you know, longer than 90 seconds at once. 

But here's what I do know. Before last week, I hadn't run IN MY WHOLE LIFE unless someone was making me. After that first run, my ribs hurt more than they ever had, I could barely walk up stairs and, you know, everything hurt. I could have easily given up then, but I didn't and the next time I went, it got easier, and I was suddenly like 'OH! This is how exercise works!' and it was honestly the biggest revelation ever. 

I'm going to stop going on about this now, because there's not a lot more I have to say about it at this point- suffice to say, the basics are: I am running. I don't hate it. It's all good. I will definitely have more to say about this in the future, but I'm happy to leave it here for now. 

*To be fair, I am writing this on Saturday morning, so.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

"'I am not acquainted myself with the names of foreigners in general.'"

It's nearly 10pm on Tuesday evening so I'm going to keep this brief(ish- when have I ever been brief?). And really, REALLY there is only one thing to talk about:

I actually don't know how I feel about the whole Mr-Jarndyce-wants-to-keep-Esther-near-him-so-he-proposes-to-her thing. I mean, mostly I feel REALLY ICKY and like I want to take about ten showers about it, and also Mr Jarndyce, I thought you were cool. I mean, I get it- They're assuming that Ada will get married eventually and Esther with her gross face won't but she can't just stay there with Mr J on their own because People Will Talk. And this is the Victorian times, so that kind of shit really matters.

But. Isn't it waaaay grosser for a REALLY OLD MAN to marry basically a teenager? Isn't it kind of wrong of him to have asked, and just as wrong of Esther to think of accepting? And, most importantly, is this the kind of marriage that involves sex? Because if so, I realllly don't want to think about that.
 Still, at least she'll always have her love of Ada to sustain her: "I saw my beautiful darling, through the open door, lying asleep, and I stole in to kiss her." Of course you did, Esther.

In motherly news, WTF Lady Dedlock just murdered Mr Tulkinghorn?! (Not to be confused with Mr Turveydrop again, who is presumably still alive and well with excellent deportment) Did that seriously just happen or did I nearly drop my CLOTHBOUND CLASSIC in the bath for no good reason? I've got to say- I've read many a Stephen King novel where on the back it says something like 'a storyteller in a class with Dickens' and I've always been like 'I don't get the connection', but... I'm starting to get it? In that, I think Dickens is the better writer (in terms of pure words, not in terms of who I want to read more) they're both really really good at managing a large cast of characters without sidelining too many, and at revealing humanity and also, sometimes, at being kind of shocking (spontaneous combustion? REALLY?!)

They're also both great at tugging on the heartstrings, and I'd like to take a little moment of silence for Jo, here.
Oh, Jo, You were such a good child apart from when you gave Esther smallpox and ruined her face. May you go onto a better place where people treat you right and teach you how to speak properly (I'm only being flippant because my heart is broken).

One final thought of my brain on reading Dickens- This is my first Dickens novel, and I feel like I'm already past being scared of him, somewhere near to loving him, but more than anything, as I read I can already tell that I need to read this again. Not necessarily because it's so awesome (and it is pretty great, which is why I've carried on reading it) but because I know that, as I'm concentrating on the story and the links between characters and all that good stuff, I'm missing out on SO MUCH of the writing. I mean, I can see that it's good, and it sounds nice in my brain, but I'm too busy concentrating on other stuff to really appreciate it, which is what the second reading will be for. But let's just say, you know, Dickens is good at writing words and stuff.

WHO WILL BE MURDERED NEXT WEEK?! I can hardly wait to see.