Sunday, 31 January 2010

My Thoughts: Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai

Having sat on mount tbr for a good six months this ovel had to come top of the pile for my reads for the GLBT challenge.
Set in Sri Lanka this coming of age novel tells Anjie's story. At seven he loves playing with the girls, always the lead role in Bride-Bride their fantasy game. He loves dressing up in Saris and being made much of, until the da that he is revealed to the adults in all his glory. His father quickly blames his mother and declares if he turns out a 'funny boy' it will be all her doing.

We then follow Anjie through his childhood, much of which is dominated by the Tamil/Sinhalese conflicts. He watches family friends torn from lovers, beaten for their race, and the riots spill out. He also faces being Tamil, in school and at home, but only speaking Sinhalese as his parents desperately try to give their children a chance to make something of themselves in this country of seperation.
The politics and his identity, both sexual and social and mingled side by side in the novel which deals with serious issues but is a great read. As Anjie grows older the tone of the novel becomes more serious as he begins to understand the world around him.
I'll certainly be checking out more of Selvadurai's novels in the future.

GLBT: The Challenge the Dare Not Speak its Name
Twenty Ten (Who are you, again?)

Other reviews:
Book Nook

The Sunday Salon: January's Reads

A freezing but super bright day today. I'll be at the gym, marking, baking and getting a stack of reading in.
January hasn't been the best reading month to start the year although it may be ending on a high point as I'm hopefully going to finish Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai later this afternoon. My reading list of the month is below, only 6 books finished :( My favourite was The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters closely followed by The Forset of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.
What is your faourite read of this month?

2010 Reads:
1. Doctor Zhivargo
2. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
3. Alice in Wonderland by CS Lewis
4. Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
5. After the Dance by Edwidge Danticat (Non Fict)
6. Sorrow Mountain by Ani Prachen (Non Fict)

visited 5 states (2.22%)
Create your own visited map of The World

After the Dance by Edwidge Danticat
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Dr Zhivargo by Boris Pasternik
Sorrow Mountain by Ani Prachen
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Alice in Wonderland by C.S Lewis

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Sorrow Mountain by Ani Pachen and Adelaide Donnelley

I must be on a roll today finishing two part read books in one afternoon :D

I read Sorrow Mountain for the Social Justice challenge, this month was focused on Religious Freedom. This memoir is written by Ani Pachen a Tibetan nun. Growing up the only child in the family Ani is expected to follow the conventions of a woman and also be ready to take over from her fathers estate. Early on we realise her determination and strength when she refuses an arrange marriage and runsaway from the family until her parents bend to her will. She then spends 6 months in a monastry with her mother, a place that she feels she belongs, until her father insists on her return.
Soon after her return Tibet is engulfed by the Chinese. Life changes as the Chinese try to take control of the country enforcing laws and new ways of life. The Tibetans fight back. Ani is taken along with her fathers people to fight the Chinese. Saying the she loves Tibet so much she will kill for it she is given a gun and travels through the Tibetan landscape trying to escape from the hands of the Chinese.
As the years pass Ani's father is killed and she spends 21 years in prison. Despite all of her suffering, the butality and starvation she sees and experiences in the prison one thing remains stable and that is her faith. This faith pulls her through and allows her to help others, even if all she can do is keep them alive for a few days longer.
I found that this book also fit in perfectly for the Woman Unbound challenge as Ani Prachen not only fights and overcomes the limits placed on women but also fights to save and help others.

Social Justice Challenge
Twenty Ten Challenge
Woman Unbound

After the Dance by Edwidge Danticat

I felt particularly poignant reading After the Dance: A Walk through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti after the recent atrocities in the country. But I already had it out from the library before the earthquake had struck and thought this may give me a better picture of a place that I know little of other than the images which filled our newspapers for days.

Edwidge Danticat lived in Haiti as a child with her religious uncle whilst her parents had emigrated to America in search of a better life for them and their child. Throughout her childhood she was warned of the dangers of carnival and never allowed to attend. As as adult she returns to her home town to experience the carnival which fills the street.
As well as looking at the carnival, which she seems to experience as an outsider with inside knowlegde, we also are give a wealth of other information. Danticat talks to various locals, threading their talk of the carnival and her sights with a brief histroy of the town. History, politics, legend and myth are layered between the glimpses of the preperation for and eventually the actuall day of the carnival.
A great little read at only 152 pages, yet one which gives a lot. I saw this on one of Eva's great challenge lists and grabbed a copy for myself.

Read for the Twenty Ten Challenge (Bad Bloggers category)

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

My Thoughts: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

I picked up The Little Stranger with trepidation on Saturday, I had seen bad reviews in blogland and a friend had told me that she thought it was awful (she normally love Sarah Waters). After 50 pages I was pleasantly surprised that I was enjoying it.

The Little Stranger is set in post-war England in the small village of Lidcote. The novel starts with a childs visit to a grand house where his mother had previously worked as a nursery nurse. In awe of the house he breaks part of a display down. I didn't realise that our narrator was a boy for many pages.

30 odd years later the boy visits the house again but this time as a doctor. The house is not as he remembered, not as big and grand, many of its rooms are shut up and old age and a lack of finances are clearly seen in the decoration and condition of the place. Living there is just the mother and a son and daughter, plus a young helpless maid. Gradually the doctor builds up a friendship with the members of the household, and visits them as both a doctor and a friend on a regular basis. Thats when things become strange.

The son, damaged by the war, keeps hearing noises and injuring himself, fires start and a placid dog attacks. Suddenly we are unsure if there is a spirit in the house or if one of the members of the household is out to cause havoc.

I enjoyed this read, and raced through the 500 pages in just two reading session. However, I would certainly not say this was Sarah Waters best, no Victorian underworlds splayed out in my imagination, no fancy narrative structure, no loveable illicit lesbians or crooks. This was just a ghost story, not highly original, and probably in need of a good editing. Don't get me wrong, it was good, but if I was writing her a school style report I would have scrawled 'Could do better' on the page.

There is a great discussion of the book here, the 'ghost' and Caroline's sexuality are discussed amongst other things.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Salon Sunday: Finally found my book mojo and Reading in Colour

It's been a strange old beginning to the year. Snow. Ofsted. Disappointment (I'm not going to China, and the boy I like didn't ask me on a date, grrrr!). And I've also lost my reading and studying mojo.
So far this year I've finished just three books (1 was YA and one children's fction) and we are 24 days into the year, (I normall average 2 books a week). I'm wasting time on the net, watching dvd's and tv and generally feeling under the weather.
But, last night I finally found a book I could curl up with. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters had me hooked. I'm 200 pages in and could quite happily have picked it up as soon as I got up and spent all day reading it. As it is I had marking to do, all complete, and the next section of A Suitable Boy to read for my read-a-long, which is what I'm off to do next. I'm then off to the cinema and out for Indian food. But, I'm looking forward to curling back up with my book before I go to sleep.

Oh, and so I don't double post today here is my Reading in Colour pledge. Eva, over at A Striped Armchair blogged a wonderful post about white priviledge and our reading habbits, checking it out is a must. I do read quite a few authors from other countries but I'm nowhere near as diverse in my reading habbits as I'd like to be. I've decided to try to make at least a third of my fiction reads by POC. And half of my non-fiction reads by POC.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Crafty Corner: Felt Flowers

I vowed that I would try and learn something new every week or so this year, mainly focusing on crafty goodness. So last weekend I made my first felt flowers, in fact the orange one in the picture above. I've since made a few more. At the moment I'm sticking to using them on ATCs, but I have a plan to make a few cushions with them on (well buy the cushions and attach the handmade flowers) for a friends birthday.
Today I mastered paper flowers, and used them to make my own gift wrap, as shown above.

The ATC above is for my sister's birthday, on the reverse side her birthday message is stiched on. Unfortunatley my camera has run out of batteries so this is taken on my camera phone and has come out a far brighter orange and white than the real thing, which is far more mellow. I hope that she likes it as she is the arty one in the family. Along with this she is getting a copy of The Arrival by Shaun Tan, and I'm in the process of making her a scrapbooking kit as I think her artistic skills and eye, plus her photography skills would work wonderfully together in a scrapbook. She'll be recieving this late though as January is turning out to be an expensive month.

Tomorrow I'll go to my mums to see her and have dinner with the family. Monday I find out if school are going to let me go to Southern China over Easter with as part of the school trip. My fingers are crossed and double crossed.

Hope you all have a lovely weekend x

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Today was the first time I picked up a book since Sunday! I don't think that has ever happened before. Our school was told early Monday morning Ofsted (evil school inspectors) were coming to visit for 2 days. I planned, marked, prepared and pretty much lost my brain in the last few days, and I ended up only being watched once! Thankfully that is now over, and also my class got there exam results today and everyone did well, so now I get to rest for a few days.

As soon as I was home I curled up with The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which I had started on Sunday. And I've polished it off this evening. When this first came out I quickly dismissed it when I saw the word zombie attached to it, luckily I came to my senses and waited in the library reservation list (40 odd people before me) for it.

The book is set is a small enclosed village, run by the Sisterhood. Beyond the fence lie the Unconsecrated, zombies waiting to attack. The village practice drills, teach cildren how to kill, and teach you to think of number one. As with all utopian worlds life is supposedly perfect, yet below the surface danger and secrets lie.

Mary has been brought up with her mother's stories, stories of the ocean, of tall buildings, of a world that exists beyond the forest. She longs to escape. Orphaned and abandoned by her mother she is taken into the Sisterhood, a place which soon confirms that there are secrets and knowledge which are hidden by the villagers, and that it is those who are supposed to protect who are actually deciving the village. When she is forced into marriage her world seems to be falling apart but she has seen nothing yet. She is soon fighting for her existance.

The novel, although far from original in its storyline - deceptive authority, a world beyond the castle walls, kept me engaged and entertained. If you want something simple a bit of a break from literature this one could be a good book to get lost in.

The picture above is of the American cover as I have a huge issue with the English cover which replicates the style of the Twilight books.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Sunday Salon: Reading a well known classic

I have managed very little reading this week, especially as I had a day and a half off of work due to the snow. I finished Doctor Zhivago, if you had seen my post during the week you will know that I wasn't very impressed with it. Now I have three bookrings which I need to get read, Serena by Ron Rash, The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters and Summertime by J.M Coetzee. Normally I would be rushing to read these books but at the moment they hold little appeal, so they sit looking at me making me feel guilty and therefore making me want to read them even less :(

I decided mid-week that a distraction from these was necessary and I also needed that gratification of finishing a book. I decided to pick up Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by C.S Lewis. I have a beautiful boxset of Adventures and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There which my mum brought me for Christmas whilst I was at university, its been sitting around unread for 8 years plus.

I'm sure as a child I was probably read this, but all I can remember is the film. I settled down to this on Wednesday afternoon, the snow was falling heavily outside and I was already in my pjs after a couple of hours walk in the snow. Curling up with a blanket to get sucked into Alice's world was bliss. The story was very familiar, the childlike simplicity was a godsend after the politics of Russia, and I was easily pleased. This is one of those books which pull you back into your childhood in a rush. The Mervyn Peake illustrations are simple and stunning and added to the effect. I'll be reading Through the Looking Glass in the next week or so.

As well as knocking this off mount tbr this is also my first novel for the wonderful Our Mutural Reads Challenge. When reading this I did think about the childrens books that we have today. Alice is such a simple tale, she is stuck in an imaginary world with talking animals and characters, who generally accept her into their world unless she does something to distress them. Children's books now-a-days seem so much more 'clever', but it makes you wonder if this is needed, surely all kids regardless of the generation they belong to want a bit of silliness, somewhere they can imagine dreaming themselves into.
Have you read any well known classics which you feel you know like the back of your hand without having read them before?

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Doctor Zhivago

I've just finished Doctor Zhivago my first book of 2010, and I'm still ummming and ahhing whether to post this post. I thought I'd just say a few quick words.
I read this as part of a librarything group read, I'd voted for it and was quick off the mark to buy it when it looked like it was leading the votes. And I started reading it before the month even started. However I have crawled through this book for the last 10 days.
I found some parts of it wonderful(Lara and Yury living together), some parts okay (his first marriage) and then other bits I was just lost, not concentrating or skim reading (mainly the war section and the epilogue). I know this is a widely loved book, did anyone else have similar problems to me?

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Sunday Salon - Victorian Short Stories

The first Sunday of 2010 is typically going to be spent doing all the things which never got ticked off of my to do list, marking, homework, studying and ironing. Possibly some reading will get done if I'm lucky later on. Then tomorrow its back to work, I'm not looking forward to the early mornings but it will be nice to have a routine back in place.

I thought I would kick off the Our Mutual Reads with a few Victorian short stories to set the scene. I'm going to try and read a real mix of authors for the short story mini challenge, hopefully covering a wide range of authors from the period.

An Imaginative Woman by Thomas Hardy (from Life's Little Ironies).

I've read a far bit of Hardy, several novels and poems but this was my first short story. A young family travel on holiday. They stay at a guesthouse, the wife discovers that the room that she is staying in is the bedroom of a local poet. She immediately feels a link with the poet as she once had a poem of hers published alongside one of his. This interest quickly develops into a fascination with the man, she waits day in day out for him to return to the guesthouse, she is anxious to meet this man whi she has built up in her head as a wonderful person.
This was a good little story, I'm sure we have all at some point created a character inside our heads of a person we have never met, imagining that if met an instant friendship would form. I was surprised at how modern the text felt.

For my second Thomas Hardy story I read The Boy's Veto.

This tells the tale of a young wheelchair bound woman. We learn early of her marriage to an elder man, her boss, who has decided he should take her as his second wife after she ended up wheelchair bound after completing a task for him. The pair get along well enough, but it it more a marriage of conveneyance. The husband strives to improve his wifes cultural knowledge so that she fits as part of his sociaty.
After the husband dies she is courted by a man she knows from her past, a "mere gardener". She desperately wants to marry this man yet is banished from doing so by her son who claims it would destroy his chance of being a gentleman.
The son's behaviour angered me, but it is typical of the society of the time, when your birth, parents and education counted far more than the type of person you actually were.

Amy Foster by Joseph Conrad, read online for free here

This story has changed my mind on Conrad, whose Heart of Darkness I despised. Amy Forster is a young simple girl in the story she falls in love with a migrant who found himself ashore after a shipping accident. Arriving in England he was beaten, thrown stones at and locked up, everyone assumed he was simply a lunatic. Amy was the only person who showed him compassion when she feed him. From that moment on they are in love.
The story, although titled Amy Foster, is more about the man and his experiences of living in England. The language is beautiful, showing the sharp conrast between the man's ways and that of the English folks. Well worth a read.

I sat down on New Years Eve to watch the latest BBC adaptation of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. For some reason the BBC had decided to set the story in 1921 rather than in 1898 when the story was written so it cannot count for this challenge. That being said this reminded me what a great novella it was. It would be perfect for this challenge, especially for anyone new to the Victorian period. I'll have to try and dig it out and have a reread this year. The BBC version is well worth checking out, the setting is beautiful and it is well acted throughout. I'm sure the novella doesn't make everything as clear as this version did, but my memory is fairly hazy.
(Just why is it that scary children in films are nearly always blonde?)

Friday, 1 January 2010

52 in 10

2009 was the year I discovered scrapping and mini book making, plus a stack of other crafts like collage, knitting and crochet (all of which I'm completely incompetent at at the moment - but will be working on). I've bravely decided to join a class to scrap about me in 2010. The class seems to be about scrapping about your life, rather than just the events of this year. The prompts also say that it will include a lot of journalling which is perfect for me.
Now, I'm sure most people doing this project are working on 12"x12" or 8"x8" sheets. Being different, I of course wanted to do things differently. I'm making mine ATC size (the size of a playing card). Each prompt will cover a double page in the book. As for the prompts I will try and complete all of them, however if they don't fit my mood that week I'll do something else, I may then come back to that prompt later in the year. The small size, hopefully, will mean its less daunting and can be completed fairly quickly. It's also good as unlike others I won't have many photos to add in. And, when I get to Cambodia and Vietnam in July/August I will be able to take a few of the pages with me to complete on my travels.
Here is a glimpse at my introduction page. Explaining pretty much what I said above. And, oh yes, for those of you with good eyesight I will be turning 30 this year (actually in the final days of the year), and although I'm dreading it already, it would be nice to have something as a momento of my final year in my twenties.

If your interested in participating its free and held here each sunday.

2010 Reading Resolutions

As well as making a bunch of personal resolutions - the old favs regarding money, health,being creative, weight and happiness. Oh, and to get myself to Cambodia and Vietnam this summer! I also set a few Reading Resolutions which I thought I'd set out here so I can come back to them.

Firstly I'm going to tackle the tbr pile: I'm aiming to have read 50 books off my tbr piles. The stacks are huge, I buy books and barely even look at them before stuffing them on the pile. Some of the books have been lurking since I started my A Levels (12 years ago). I'm not going to make a list however of the ones I want to tackle first, I've done this before and for some twisted reason it makes me avoid them even more!

I'm also going to cut down on buying books, I'm constantly buying books for challenges a lot of which I then don't read. I want to try and stick to this at least until the summer. It may even help me save for my trip.

In terms of what I'm actually going to read I'm trying to be a bit more selective. I've only joined a few challenges and bookrings this year so that I can have more freedom and control over my reading.

I want to read lots of classics - these could be the real classics, like The Divine Comedy but also those must read books which are more contemporary, like The Princess Bride. I'm aiming for at least a quarter of my books to fit in this category. This may also help me with my 1001 Books to Read Before I Die personal challenge. I've only read 18% so far.

I also am trying to read more books from around the world. I already read lots of international fiction, but seem to be stuck in a limbo reading the same countries - China always featured highly until last year - I'm part of the Olympic challenge on Bookcrossing and it is creating much more variety. Early in the new year I have books from Uzbekistan and Combros lined up.

An finally more non-fiction. I'm not sure if I'm just a typical girl but I read lots of fiction and struggle with the non-fiction. As my knowledge of history, politics, religion, science and general knowledge is fairly weak I know that this is an area I must really work on. I want at least every 4th book to be non-fiction and not just memoirs. I have a whole shelf and more of non-fiction which I plan on tackling this year. I've also picked challenges which hopefully will lead me this way.

Have you made any reading resolutions?

2010 Reads:
1. Doctor Zhivargo
2. Alice in Wonderland by CS Lewis
3. Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
4. After the Dance by Edwidge Danticat (Non Fict)
5. Sorrow Mountain by Ani Prachen (Non Fict)


Summertime, J.M Coetzee
The Fire Gospels, Michel Faber
Ruins by Achy Obejas
Whole of a Morning Sky by Grace Nichols
Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Magpie by Jill Dawson
Amok by Stefan Zweig

visited 12 states (5.33%)
Create your own visited map of The World

South Africa
Summertime, JM Coetzee
Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
Ruins by Achy Obejas
Whole of a Morning Sky by Grace Nichols
After the Dance by Edwidge Danticat
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
Dr Zhivargo by Boris Pasternik
Sorrow Mountain by Ani Prachen
Amok by Stefan Zweig
The Netherlands
The Fire Gospels, Michel Faber
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Alice in Wonderland by C.S Lewis
Magpie by Jill Dawson