Monday, 9 December 2013

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Despite being nearly 33 I had never read or seen The Wizard of Oz -my Mum protests that this is a lie, but as my brother and sister haven't seen it either I think I'm the one who is right. Of course I know parts of the story - the Yellow Brick Road, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the red shoes (which weren't red in the book!), so much of the story was familiar but undiscovered.

I've been trying to get back into my reading and as my biggest issue is time I'm trying to utilise those empty pockets of time. In the morning I can wait between 5 to 20 minutes extra for my housemate to be ready to leave for work with me, but It by Stephen King, certainly isn't a pick it up and read a few pages kind of book so I was looking for something easy, light (weight and topic), cheap (I've been eating breakfast, cleaning my teeth etc. whilst reading this week so I need a book which I'm not too precious about) and that could be read in small chunks. I week of little dribs and drabs of The Wizard of Oz and I wasn fnished.

This book had a lot more to it than I knew so despite being a cultural reference point I was surprised to find the monkeys, the Emerald City, the Lion and many other sections which I'm sure are well known to most of the world.

I really enjoyed the story and I will be looking out for the film on Christmas TV. Now I need to go in search for my next morning read.

Century of Books: Published in 1900.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce

 I read this book a few weeks ago but wanted to wait until after I had been to my book group meeting before I posted about it.
Harold Fry is old, retired and stuck in a rut. His marriage is a strain, his relationship with his son is non existent and his life barely extends beyond the boundaries of his back garden. Everything changes when he receives a letter from an old friend who is dieing, she was the woman who once saved him from a disaster, he let her take the blame knowing she would have to move away and sacrifice her life for him.
Harold writes her a letter and pops out to post it, but when he gets to the post box he finds he wants to go a bit further,and at the next one he goes a bit further and there starts his pilgrimage from the south of England up to Scotland.
The beautiful thing about this book was the people Harold met along his journey, everyone had a story to share, their own deep secret. The book is also a love story to the British countryside, in these segments the prose - which is fairly simple - becomes almost poetic. I also really loved the journey his wife takes whilst she stays home waiting to hear from him each day.
When I went  to the book group it was the first time we had ever met, everyone was lovely and with the exception of one person everyone gave this book 8 or 9 stars out of 10.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

A Century of Books

All of my other challenges that I'm partcipating are in one post here, but I thought this one would need its own post as it'll form a big list.
This challenge, held over at Stuck in a Book is ongoing, it doesn't need to be completed within a year. The aim is to read one book for each year of the 20th century. This is perfect, but as I read quite a lot of older books, and I'm going to also keep note of what I read in the 19th century and see if I can make that a personal goal. (P.S I'm starting straight away, I'm only a month and a week early)
These are my possibilities taken from my TBR stacks, I will place read books in bold and link to my reviews
1999 The Great Ideas/Girl with a Pearl Earring
1998 The Notebook of Don Rigoberto/Girlfriend in a Coma
1997 Enduring Love/Seven Years in Tibet
1996 Salt/Hunger
1995 In the Cut/The Unconsoled
1994 East, West
1993 A River Sutra/The Matisse Stories
1992 Wildreness Tips/The Troublesome Offspring...
1991 Senor Vivo and the Coco Lord/The Virgin in the Garden
1990 Haroun and the Sea of Stories
1989 Foucault's Pendulum/Canal Dreams
1988 Bonfire of Vanities/Satanic Verses
1987 Strangers/A Sport of Nature
1986 It
1985 Hardboiled Wonderland.../Tobo
1984 The Riddle of the Wren
1983 Rise Up O Young.../Blood Brothers
1982 Schindler's List/A Boy's Own Story
1981 Rabbit is Rich/Tar Baby
1979 The Sea, The Sea
1978 The World According to Garp
1977 Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams
1976 Meridian/Fiesta
1975 The Autumn of the Patriarch
1973 Crash/Rainbow's Gravity
1970 Losing Battles
1969 Dora Flor and her Two Husbands
1968 The Iron Man/Slouching Towards Bethlehem
1967 The Third Policeman/The Master and Margarita
1963 V/The Collector
1962 Pale Fire/ The Golden Notebook
1961 A House for Mr Biswas/Hertzog
1960 The Child Buyer
1959 Titus Alone/Billiards at Half-Past Nine
1958 Borstal Boy
1957 Devil By the Sea/Kokoro
1956 Everything that Rises Must Converge
1955 Lolita
1954 The Story of O/ Lord of the Rings
1953 Golden Apples of the Sun
1952 Invisible Man
1951 Secret Tribe/Day of the Trifids
1950 Gormenghast
1949 A Rage to Live/The Second Sex
1948 The Pearl
1946 Titus Groan/All Men are Mortal
1945 Cannery Row
1942 Embers
1941 Frenchman's Creek
1939 Grapes of Wrath
1937 Nightwood
1936 Eyeless in Gaza
1934 Now in November
1933 Over the River (Forsyte)
1932 Flowering Wilderness (Forsyte)/The Radetzy March
1931 Maid in Waiting (Forsyte)
1929 Steppenwolf
1928 Swan Song (Forsyte)/Orlando
1927 Seven Pillars of Wisdom/Tarka the Otter
1926 The Silverspoon (Forsyte)
1925 Shen of the Sea
1924 White Monkey (Forsyte)
1923 Kirstin Lavransdattar
1921 To Let (Forsyte)
1920 In Chancery (Forsyte)
1915 The 39 Steps
1913 Pollyanna
1910 Howard's End
1908 A Room With a View/Anne of Green Gables
1906 Man of Property (Forsyte)
1905 Jungle
1902 Just So Stories
1900 Lord Jim/ The Wizard of Oz

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Book Haul and Update

Today I left the house with a stack of books and authors who I wanted to check out at the local secondhand bookshop - I can't afford to buy lots of new books, nor jusify it with a 500+ unread TBR pile - but the bookshop was shut! :( I wasn't too happy, but as I live in one of those trendy little coffee shop villages there are a lot of charity shops and generally their book selections are better than you'd find in the average town. I also had a stack of reservations to pick up from the library so I ended up with quite a haul.

From the library I got:
The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefevre and Frederic Lemercier - this book is a mix of real life photographs and graphic novel. Lefevre is a photographer who travelled to Afgahnistan during the war with doctors and nurses from the Doctor's Without Borders programme. It looks amazing but harrowing.
Epileptic by David B. another graphic novel which is an autobiography about growing up with an epileptic brother. Both of these were found on an amazon search and then reserved at the library.
Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata a Japanese book I know nothing about, except it's tiny, ordered because it is the International Reads goodreads group books for December.
Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov because in January the Bookish group, also on goodreads, are doing a joint reading of a memoir by Nabokov called Speak. Memory alongside Pale Fire, so I thought I would like to read his most famous work first.

From the chrity shop I brought the following for less than £12
Eve was Framed by Helena Kennedy - for my flatmate but I'm planning on reading it too, (although she doesn't know that yet)
America by Stephen Fry- I love Stephen Fry, I've met him several times too when he would shop in a quirky shop I worked in whilst at university, and I'm planning on reading more non-fiction next year.
A Rage to Live - John O'Hara - never heard of this or his other novels but this is a Vintage classic and I love that series.
Losing Battles by Eudora Welty - I saw this for 50p and knew she was a Southern author and I think their is a Southern reading month this January on Brooke's youtube channel/blog.
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon- I actually went into this charity shop because last weekend they had The Amazing Adventure's of Kavalier and Klay (which I keep hearing great things about) but I didn't have any cash on me and the shop was about to close, unfortunately someone else had snapped it up but this was still there.
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel - I read Wolf Hall and loved it, despite knowing nothing about history and getting a bit mixed up with the names. I've been meaning to buy this for ages.

This is a big book haul for my, normally I'm fairly conservative as there isn't any space left to store books in the house, I think it maybe a reaction to signing up for the final TBR Triple Dog Dare where I can only read from my shelves for three months from January 1st till April 1st.

I'm off to spend the next hour finishing The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which I have a feeling is going to make me cry, this is a bookclub read for a brand new RL bookgroup, in a trendy delicatessans/coffee shop/location of many wine and cheese nights, live jazz nights, poetry reading nights etc. I'm really looking forward to the group meet, but will certainly be doing some research as I'm not sure what other type of people will be there - not sure my Literature degree and MA in Literature will hide my w/c accent in a room full of plumming accented, shiny-never-seen-a-speck-of-mud Land Rover driving stay-at-home Mums. But maybe I'm the one being the snob!

Oh, and I am now addicted to booktube. I blame Estella's Revenge, I watched one of her videos and it's now become an obsessesion. Some favourites are MercysBookishMusings, From the Shelf and chboskyy. I swear if I had used the video watching time this week to read I would have fininshed my next read It by Stephen King.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Slynx - Tatyana Tolstaya

The SlynxThe Slynx is a Russian dystopian novels written by a relative of Tolstoys. I had never heard of this book before and only became aware of it because of the International Reads group formed on goodreads and book tube.
Set hundreds of years in the future life has regressed. People spend their days catching mice to eat and sell to be made into clothes, they live in primative buildings and the society is ruled over by one man. The dictator is praised for the things he brings them such as fire and the written word. There are three sets of people the Oldeners, who remember the time before, those with Consequences - some type of mutation like claws for feet and the regular people.
The main character starts off as a fairly poor man constantly hungry and searching for food, until he marries a richer woman and is welcomed to novels and fiction.

I liked many aspects of this book, but I thought much of it was a political message that went straight over my head as I know nothing of Russia. Many parts of the book seemed silly, and I think that within a week I will have forgotten the majority of this novel.

Book 3 of 5 for The Dystopian Challenge

The Classics Club Spin

The Classics Club are having a spin this Monday, I have to pick 20 books, number them 1-20 and then they will pick the number and I have to read that book by the end of the month. I'm only picking books on my TBR as I'm on a buying ban this month. I've put them in the suggested categories but them muddled the numbers up.

Twelve Months of Classic Literature5 I am dreading:
5. Dombey and Son - Charles Dickens
3. Moby  Dick - Meilville
17. The Brothers Karamakov
15. The Master and Margarita
11. The Lord of the Rings

5 I can't wait to read
7. Invisible Man - Ellison
6. Hunger
4. The Namesake
12. Gilead
19. Snow Country

5 I'm feeling neutral about
1. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
10. North and South - Gaskell the choosen book
13. Gulliver's Travels
14. Crime and Punishment
9. Don Quixote

5 Free Choices
8. Howard's End
2. Orlando
16. The Princess Bride
20. Dora Flora and her Two Husbands
18. The Sea, The Sea

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Classics Club

I'm heading on down and joining The Classics Club. The idea is that you create your own list of classics you would like to read and set yourself a 5 year goal to tick these read off of your list. As someone with an English Literature degree, masters and a teacher of Literature I have read a lot of classics but I still have a stack to go and I do find myself distracted by new and shiny covers.
I was supposed to have a list of 50 but that slipped away and I ended up with 100! The list has serious classics, and modern classics plus classics from particular countries and genres.
This is the 100 books I plan to tackle by 12/11/2018:
1. Finnegan's Wake - James Joyce
2. Domby and Don - Charles Dickens
3. Canary Row - John Steinbeck
4. Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates
5. Kristin Lavransdattar - Sigrid Undset
6. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
7. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
8. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
9. Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
10. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
11. Sister Carrie - Theodore Dresier
12. Native Son - Richard Wright
13. For Whom the Bell Tolls - Earnest Hemmingway
14. The Ideal Husband - Oscar Wilde
15. North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell
16. The Warden - Anthony Trollope
17. Beowulf
18. Adam Bede - George Elliot
19. The Old Curiosity Shop - Charles Dickens
20. The Life and Opinions of Tristian Dhandy, Gentlemen - Laurence Sterne
21. Gulliver's Travels
22. The Importance of Being Earnest - Oscar Wilde
23. Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton
24. My Heart is a Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers
25. Howard's End - EM Foster
26. Eugene Onegin - Alexander Pushkin
27. Crime and Punishment - Fydor Dostoyevsky
28. The Brothers Karakov - Dostoyevsky
29. The Master and Margarita - Mikail Bulgakov
30. Dead Souls - Nokoli Gogol
31. Lolita - Vladamir Nabokov
32. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
33. The River Between - Ngugi wa Thiongo
34. Houseboy - Ferdinand Oyono
35. House of Leaves
36. This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
37. The Street of Crocodiles, Bruno Schulz
38. The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass
40. The Leopard
41. The Odyssey, Homer
42. Don Quixote
43. The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco
44. The Magic Mountain - Thomas Mann
45. Orlando - Virginia Woolf
46. The Waves - Virginia Woolf
48. Candide - Voltaire
49. Fathers and Sons - Ivan Turganev
50. The Black Book - Pamuk
51. And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie
52. Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead - Tom Stoppard
53. Hunger - Knut Hamsum
54. Chronicle of a Death Foretold - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
55. The Good Earth - Pearl S Buck
56. The Lord of the Rings - Tolkein
57. The Princess Bride - Goldman
58. Sula - Toni Morrison
59. A Prayer for Owen Meaney
60. Red Sorghum - Mo Yan
61. Waiting - Ha Jin
62. The Arabian Nights
63. The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahari
64. Shantram
65. Red Earth and Pouring Rain
66. A River Sutra - Gita Mehta
67. Gilead
68. The War at the End of the World - Llosa
69. Ines of my Soul - Isabel Allende
70. Eva Luna - Iabel Allende
71. Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands - Jorge Amado
72. The House on Mango Street - Sandra Cisneros
73. Norweigan - Murakami
74. The Bloody Chamber - Angela Carter
75. Kokoro - Soseki
76. Snow Country - Kawabata
77. The Tale of Gneji
78. The House Keeper and The Professor - Yoko Owaga
79. Thousand Cranes- Kawabata
80. Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace
81. Seize the Day - Saul Bellow
82. Pere Goriot - Balzac
83. The Three Maskateers - Dumas
84. Out of Africa - Karen Blixen/Isak Dineson
85. The Sorrows of Young Werther - Goethe
86. The Wings of the Dove - Henry James
87. The Sea, The Sea - Iris Murdoch
88. A Severed Head - Iris Murdoch
89. Divisadero - Ondaatje
90. Everything that Rises Must Converge - Flannery O'Connor
91. Confederates - Thomas Keneally
92. When We Were Orphans - Ishiguro
93. The Satanic Verses - Rushdie
94. Reading in the Dark -Seamus Deane
95. Fasting, Feasting - Anita Desai
96. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
97. Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
98. The Cider House Rules, John Irving
99. The Jungle - Upton Sinclair
100. The 39 Steps - John Buchan

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Non-Fiction November

I have loved non-fiction reads across the years and I have a shelf jam-packed with non-fiction books which I desperately want to read but some how I always end up reading fiction. I really need to make it my mission to read more non-fiction. This idea of a month to read non-fiction is a great idea, I'm going to try and squeeze in one non-fiction text around two fictional books I need to read for book clubs, a looming MA essay which I have done no reading for and marking which is stacked up higher than the ceiling!

But I thought I would share three non-fiction books I have read in the past and loved.
 A Human Being Died That Night: Forgivng Apartheid's Cheif Killer by Pumla Gogooo-Madikizela this book was very popular with the book blogging community a few years ago. The author is a psychologist who interviews one of the leaders of South Africa's apartheid, someone who worked on the ground abusing and organising the abuse of black South Africans. I still have really vivid pictures of the scenes from this book and the emotions that it caused in me.  My copy os this book travelled across the world through bookcrossing and then was returned to me to pass on, one of my friends hated it but on the whole many people were angered and very touched by this book. My review can be found here.

A Year in Green Tea and Tuk Tuks by Rory Spowers. This is the type of non-fiction which I prefer, one persons account of their life in another country, culture or community.

I really want to visit Sri Lanka so this book was a great way to find out about the country without reading a dry factual book. Spowers writes about his first year trying to set up a tea-farm in Sri Lanka. I love families, individual successes and failures. My review can be found here.

Normal by Amy Bloom each chapter of this book looks at a different community, transexuals, hemaphrodites, gay men, cross dressing etc. The accounts are touching, shocking and in places humorous. Very insightful and a great step into a world which is normally hidden from view. My review can be found here.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Road - McCarthy

And another 1001 book tackled! I also read this for the Dystopia Challenge so two hits in one :) I've been meaning to read The Road since all of the hype years ago but somehow I failed to get around to it, but I'm glad I kept it so long.
The Road is a post-apocalyptic novel, set in a grey, cold and very bleak America which fitted perfectly with the weather over the few days I was reading, which was wet and windy. The majority of the novel was read when I was woken by a huge storm at 4 in the morning, so I was curled up on the sofa with a book watching the mad dog walkers battling against winds and rains to ensure their pets had been taken out!
I would guess that the majority of books I read have a female protagonist and the view of family life and relationships is from a female perspective so it was interesting to read about a father-son relationship. The two nameless characters rely on each other for everything, they battle the world and their fears together. Other people present figures of danger, with some very grim scenes occurring when the father and son encounter gangs travelling on the road.
This book is bleak, but the relationship between the two characters brings a light to the whole book, regardless of the situation love still shines through. The novel is written in short fragments so is quick to read and highly recommended.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

In the Forest by Edna O'Brien

Another 1001 list book for me. I'd not heard of Edna O'Brien before so it was great to discover a new author who has a big backlist.

In the Forest is a novel based on a real life crime in Ireland in the 1990s. Michen is a young man who has been in and out of Irish correction centres - largely run by the church since the age of 10 when he first started committing crimes. Michen spends his teenage years breaking out and making his way back to his home town, where the locals leave bread and milk outside for him, too scared to invite him into their family home.

The novel is written in fragments each chapter skips from focusing on one character to the next. Whilst I quite enjoy this style at the beginning I felt lost sometimes knowin g which character we were now with, especially as many people from the village are suddenly introduced as the focus of a chapter and then not seen again. Once I got 50 pages into the novel it flitted around less and less, and I became steadier reading this novel.

The novel is a good read and tells a great story but I never became emotionally involved with any of the characters - probably due to the flitting around from character to character.

2014 Reading Challenges

One thing I loved about book blogging was the reading challenges. And I'm already keeping an eye out for reading challenges in 2014. I will keep a list of the challenges, my progress and links on this post here.

  A New Author Challenge I'm going to aim to read 25 new-to-me authors next year and they will all be discovered on my large TBR stck which really needs tackling. I'm not going to create a list for this one as I have stacks and stacks of choices on my shelves.

This one is a no brainer for me, I generally try to read from my TBR pile but as it is in the 400s I clearly am not to good at sticking to it.I'm going for the maximum level 50+ Married with Children as mount TBR needs some serious slimming.

Long-Awaited Reads Month - January
Over at Things Mean A Lot I spotted a month long challenge (perfect for me as my commitment is useless)for January. You just need to read books which you have been meaning to read for ages. Mine will all be off of my TBR pile. Here are a few potentials which I can think of without having to even get out of my seat.

Kristin Lavransdatter - Sigrid Undset I've had this on my shelf for two years when I brought it to read as part of a read-a-long and never kept up.

The Peacock Throne - Sujit Sarif This is one of the books which has been on mount TBR the longest

Tsotsi - Athol Fugard A 1001 book I've been meaning to read for years

Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy I've owned various copies of this since I was 16 and first read and loved Tess of the d'Urbervilles

TBR Triple Dog Dare is on again, this has became a tradition for me (although I don't think I have ever made it to the end). Spend Jan 1st to April 1st reading only from your book shelf. As I have a TBR pile of over 400 and the last few years have been slow reading years for me (promotion + tackling my masters) I'm hoping to tackle more reads in 2014, especially as I am taking a year study break.

No list, just attacking the shelves and using TBR books for reading challenges.

Southern Literature in January
I know that Brooke is running this in January but I don't think there has been as official post. I'm just using this space to jot down some potentials:
Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
The Sound and the Fury - Willam Faulkner
Meridian - Alice Walker
Everything That Rises Must Converge - Flannery O'Connor

Seasoned Traveller 2014Seasoned Traveller 2014
The Seasoned Traveller doesn’t do anything by half-measures: they go the whole hog and the more obscure the better!
- Read 12 books over the course of the year, each set in a DIFFERENT country
- Books selected should include ones set in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia+New Zealand, North America and South America. The Middle East is a bonus
- You do not need to plan ahead but it might help you keep on track
- No re-reads
- Any genre is okay (including non-fiction) BUT books MUST be set in a specific country or region with a noticeable attention to the location or environment; some genre books won’t be much use for this challenge

I have loads of books for this challenge on my TBR pile, here are some I would like to tackle:
Kristin Lavransdattar - Norway, Europe
The Polish House - Poland, Europe
The Master and Margarita - Russia, Eurasia
The True History of the Kelly Gang, Australia
The Lotus Eaters, Vietnam
Tsotoi, South Africa
The Edible Woman, Canada
Something by Isabel Allende - I have lots to choose from, Peru

2014 Women Challenge This challenge is nice and simple, read books by female authors. I'm going for Wonder Women level which is 20+ books. No lists, I'll read as I please from my stacks.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Shining - Stephen King

A few years ago I popped The Shining by Stephen King on my kindle because it was on the 1001 books to read before you die, and like every other book I buy it stayed there every now it'd give me a nod as I passed it by but it never called out my name so it was missed in the crowd. Then my housemate started reading it and we decided to have a little paired reading (plus I love a competition, she was on 20% so I needed to catch up!)

From page one the novel screams out to you that bad things will happen: the son who 'sees things' and reads emotions, the mother desperately trying to save her marriage, the violent ex-alcoholic husband with his heart set on a writing career moving up to the mountains to stay in a hotel which will be cut off from the world by heavy snow for the whole of winter - hell, even a normal family would have problems in a nice hotel. And, the hotel itself, whilst it sells itself as grand has many hidden tales to tell.

I haven't read horror since I was a teenager when I loved Point Horror but never moved on to adult horror, and I also very rarely watch horror movies, but I do like to be scared. I assumed that this novel would be quick paced but lack any real depth and detail to the description. Also, have picked up and very quickly put down again King's novel Cell I didn't have high hopes. But I was completely wrong King's writing was excellent, the pace was quick but allowed the characters to develop, and the hotel itself became a character.

I plan to read the new Shining book next week - it'll be the holidays, halloween will be fast approaching and I will have a replacement kindle (I stepped on mine this week - but don't tell as it was a present!)
I'm also planning on having a horror movie night for halloween and The Shining is on the top of the pile.

I will never look at topiary in the same way again!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Top Ten Books I was Forced to Read

With a literature degree, postgraduate diploma and masters in the process, plus 8 years of teaching English Language and Literature there are many, many books I have been forced to read. Here is my top ten.

1. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck At 16 I had to read this for my own GCSEs and I fell in love with Georde and Lennie, now 16 years later I teach this book year after year to pupils studying for their GCSEs, and I've yet to find a pupil who hates it. In fact this year I don't have to teach it, but I think I will read it to my top set who will read a 'more difficult' book for their GCSEs.
2. The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje I read this back when I was 21 the first time I attempted my literature Masters degree, and then I read it again as part of the additional reading for my current Masters. I love the romance, poetry and setting of this book. Ondaatje is a god!
3. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie One year I applied to do a degree module which only had 10 places, I wasn't one of the first to apply so I got stuck doing my second choice module. In the space of one week I had to read 5 books before the module started. One of these books was Midnight's Children. Boy did I struggle to read this, and I hated every damn page as I read it. Then when it came the week with all the lectures on this book I read back key scenes, read about it, talked about it and fell in love with it.
4. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens The fist book I read for my A Levels. I loved all the characters but most of all Estella, at 16 I admired that fierceness she had with men (I was 'madly in love' with my bf boyfriend at the time so quite bitter about love), I desired that cold hearted attitude. And for a while I was nicknamed Estella at school, then I fell in love properly and Estella became both a figure of admirationa and pity.
5. A Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood Read for the best module I ever studied in school or university, protest literature was an amazing module that the exam board (the fools!) pulled two years later because they didn't A Level student should have to study 6 (amazing) books for just one module. The book which changed my life path from becoming a legal secretary and studying law to going to university to study and then teach English Literature. At 17 this was the most powerful and shocking book I had read, I quickly read a lot of other Atwood novels and that veered me off in search of other great female writers.
6. Antigone (various authors) Last year for my masters I had to read different versions of Antigone for my first assignment, from Sophocles, to Brecht, to Anouilh and all the others in between I loved this play and its various retelling and recreations. Every time I go up to London for a lecture (I study online mainly) some body says that they wish they could return and study Antigone again.
7. Private Peaceful, Michael Morpurgo A book I teach to my year 7s (11-12yr olds) about two brothers in the war. Every time I have to take a deep breath and read the final pages without shedding a tear. But there is always a few tears from the class.
8. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen Another book from my A Levels, read a just the right age 16/17. I quickly devoured all of Jane Austen.
9. Skellig, David Almond Another book I read to year 7s, they are still at that perfect age for the magical creature discovered in the garage. My older pupils who I taught in year 7 often ask if we can reread it - damn not having enough time on the curriculum to feed this whim!
10. A Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness Two years ago I took a course in Children's literature, some of it I hated but much of it I loved. It 'forced' me to reread A Knife of Never Letting Go and the other books in the series. And my assignment was to write 5000 words about why this book was good enough to win a children's literature prize - no surprise that this was my best mark.

Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

Alice Munro was an author I had heard of but knew nothing about - other than she was Canadian - until last week when she won the Nobel. Despite knowing nothing about her last year I had grabbed one of her books in the local second hand bookshop because I knew she was on the 1001 BTRBYD list, a list I'm gradually working my way through. The book sat on the highest shelf unread until I saw all over twitter her win. Now I'm really glad that I made that random purchase and that I've started on Munro's backlist.

Lives of Girls and Women was first published in 1971, and whilst the setting has aged the concerns of the central character have not. We start the book with Del as a young girl living on a rural farm with little to do other than hang out with her brother and read sensational stories in a neighbour's newspaper. Each chapter in the novel focuses on a different point in Del's life, the arrival of a new women from out of town who refuses to fit the constrains of a wife and mother, her mother's life as an Encyclopoedia saleswoman, dating, friendship issues and changes in her body etc. Whilst it is the story of a fairly average childhood and maturity towards womanhood Munro's style and narrative lifted the character and setting right off of the page.

There is one more Munro on the 1001 list that I'll be searching out, but I will definitely keep an eye out for more of her books in the future.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Maze Runner

I brought The Maze Runner and the two other books in this series over a year ago when they were on special offer in a discount bookshop but like many of the books in my life I just didn't get around to them.
Then I signed up for the Dystopia Challenge and knew that this was the perfect opporunity to tackle this series. A mix between The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies, The Maze Runner features a dystopian land were a group of boys have been sent underground as part of a test. 
Once a month a teenage boy arrives in the box, an elevator controlled by those in charge, with only the memory of his name to The Glade, a teenage community. Surrounding The Glade lies 8 mazes with walls which change day by day.
The book follows Thomas, a new boy named a 'Greenie' who arrives in the box. After his arrival life in The Glade, which had been stable for 2 years, starts to change. New challenges arise, the rules are changed and suspiscion lies firmly at Thomas' feet. 
This book is fast paced and a typical YA dystopia. I was intrigued by what was happening, read quickly and devoured the setting and the action. However, unlike The Hunger Games and The Chaos Walking Trilogy I was not gripped by any of the characters. These books usually rush me back to teenage emotions and turmoil but this failed to do that. In fact, after the usual traumatic ending, I hadn't even managed a sniffle let alone the uncontrollable weeping which ensured with each of Patrick Ness' books. I am however intrigued to read the rest of the series and see how life plays out for Thomas.

Dewey's Read-a-thon round-up

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? I was never overly tired but around hour 7/8 I was finding it really hard to focus for more than a few minutes - too much technology to distract myself with.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? The Maze Runner by Dashner was the best book I chose for this read-a-thon, it had a fast pace and decent sized text. Plus it's a trilogy :)
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? No it was great. Although as a cheerleader I found lots of people signed up and didn't participate, some hadn't posted on their blogs for weeks so maybe a shorter time for sign ups is needed.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? As a cheerleader having the sites you were cheering all on one page was great.
  5. How many books did you read? I read 5 books (well I just finished the last 20 pages of the fifth book a few hours after the challege finished but I'm still going to count it)
  6. What were the names of the books you read? Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro, Waltz with Bashir, The Maze Runner, American Born Chinese, A Single Pebble by John Hersey
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? It's a toss up between Lives of Girls and Women, which was well written, had lots of detail and depth OR The Maze Runner which was a great fast paced YA read.
  8. Which did you enjoy least? A Single Pebble by John Hersey, I was trying to rush to finish it before the readathon ended so maybe that spoiled it for me, but I was just not that fussed.
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? If you are also a reader set aside time when you are going to cheerlead and for how long, I found it easy to get distracted.
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Yes I will definitely participate again as a reader. I loved hosting a mini challenge and cheerleading but I would probably decide to just do one of these next time. I spent around 6 hours doing stuff on the computer (and on Sims freeplay) and quite a bit was just me faffing. I got far more read this morning when I stayed in bed away from my computer and twitter updates. As someone who has little time to read for pleasure at the moment the reading is the most important thing for me. That said I loved seeing new blogs and will be filling up my new reader with some of the great blogs I visited today.
Thanks to the hosts for a great read-a-thon, looking forward to April. And thanks to all the people who stopped by the blog for their comments.

The final few hours

Well I read till 12.30 last night (hour 12) and then set my alarm to wake up at 5.30, being tired I missed the stupid iphone button to turn on the alarm I had just created. So, I got 6 hours of blissfull sleep. Not what I planned, but I am very awake today and fresh which is good because after this I have oursework to mark!
I have just finished my third book, I'm off for a very quick spot of cheering and then will be taking a graphic novel with me into the bath to finish the challenge up.
Good luck to everyone still reading, I could happily read like this every weekend :)

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Through the Tea Leaves - mini challenge

found on google, I was too eager to draw the character to remember to photograph the stain
Hello read-a-thoners I'm really excited to be hosting the Hour 6 mini-challenge Through the Tea Leaves. This activity is something I do at school to bring out the creativity in the kids, to make them think and imagine their characters, build their resilience and also their confidence.

My character, Del Jordan from Lives of Girls and Women
It is a drawing activity where you will draw the face of a character from your current read, now I'm know some of you immediately will want to shrink away, but plaease stay for just a few moments longer and hear me out. The secret of this activity is that you do not need to be able to draw, a picture will form in front of you and you are simply lining that image for everyone to see.

Believe me I cannot draw a thing-in fact I drew a tree on the board at school the other day and the kids thought it was a peacock!
What do you need:
One wet (not too wet) teabag (coffee and ink also work here), a piece of paper, a black pen (a biro will do).

1. Make yourself a cup of tea
2. When the tea is sufficiently stewed for your taste, strain the tea bag and place it upon the piece of paper.
3. Leave it for a moment or two (this will depend on the thickness of your paper) and dispose of the teabag.
4. We are now interested in the stain, move it around, view it from different angles, you are looking for a face, a face of a character from the book you are currently reading. (Whilst my stain was damp, I move the paper around which changed the shape of the stain a little and ended up providing the character's plaits)
5. Enjoy your cup of tea whilst the stain dries (if you are impatient like I was, use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process).
6. Now with a black pen sketch in the face of your character - use as much or as little detail as you like.
7. Take a picture, create a post on your blog or twitter acount and leave the link in the comments or on my twitter page @katrinasreads

I will select, at random, one participant to recieve a band new copy of TEA Obreht's novel The Tiger's Wife plus a few other tea goodies.

Hour 4

I've only managed to read for 1hr and 44 mins so far, but I have been cheerleading and entered two mini challenges so far, plus got two loads of washing done.
Here is my entry for Capricious Reader's spine poetry challenge (I'm no poet, but like a challenge):
Where I belong:
A single pebble,
Rivers of London.
The Maze Runner

I will be back in hour 6 with my own challenge :)

24 Hour read-a-thon starts :) 

I'm reading, hosting a mini challenge and cheering for Team Owl today, this is my starting spot.
 1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? I'm in the grey and gloomy UK.
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Iron Man by Ted Hughes, I read the first chapter months ago and then misplaced it.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? My Curly Wurly, it is in the fridge so that the chocolate and caramel are cold and crisp.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! This is probably my sixth readathon, I took a book blog break which lasted about two years, I'm returning to the fold this week. I'm also studying for an MA in literature so this is a great opportunity to read some lighter books.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today?  Previously I gave myself eye strain so I have an audiobook available if needed. I've also got lots of fruit and healthy snacks so I don't feel bloated or have a sugar crash.
I've added a few
Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women - I'm starting with this as it is short but has small print.
John Green and David Levith, Will Grayson, Will Grayson - two authors I've been meaning to read for a while.
Kendare Blake, Anna Dressed in Blood - I saw this on a suggested reads post so thought I'd addd it to my options.
John Steinbeck, Cannery Row - a book I've been meaning to read forever.
John Hersey, A Single Pebble - highly recommended by someone on my course.
Edna O'Brein, In the Forest - a 1001 book and a bookcrossing book which I've had for way too long.
Ted Hughes, Iron Man - its tiny and has large print for when I am getting tired.
Ben Aaronovitch, Rivers of London - a school friend has been raving about this series.
Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese - a graphic novel for the tired hours, another books which has sat on mount tbr too long.
Ari Folman and David Polonsky, Waltz with Bashir - a graphic novel borrowed from a friend for the tired hours.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Dystopia Challenge 2013

As I have just restarted blogging after a few years out of the mix I thought a good way to meet some new bloggers and find some of the old ones I loved was to join a reading challenge, just one mind as I tend to get carried away.
I noticed I had a button for the 2011 Dystopia challenge so I followed that and discovered to my delight that it is still up and running over at Book Ardour. So I'm plunging in. I have read a few dystopian novels this year, Brave New World and Farenheit 451 but no where near my usual quantity. I'm signing up for ASocial, 5 dystopian novels.

A few potential reads:
The Road by Cormac McCarthy READ
The Trial, Kafka
The Maze Runner, James Dashner (I have the other 2 books in the series if I enjoy this) READ
The Passion of New Eve, Angela Carter
Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
Wool, Hugh Howey

Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi

The perils of amazon shopping (you can buy a book in under 20 seconds, which is never good for a booklover's purse and TBR stacks) meant that I bought this book completely by mistake. I was meant to buy another title, The Impressionist, but my brain got muddled and this arrived on the doorstop.

Than a strange occurance arrived, I read a book I had bought within 2 weeks of it arriving rather than the usual 2 years!

Having a father who left, left again and then left again I was dubious about reading a book about a man leaving his wife and kids. Written for the apparently 'lost generation of men' who refrain from growing up and taking their responsibilities seriously. I read this wanting to stick my two fingers up to it, expecting to be angry, looking forward to criticising it.

Instead, I was presented with beuatifully written prose, a smart quick pace, tender moments of day-to-day family life which appear differently under the lens if you know they will never be experienced again. At 155 pages this snapshot of one evening held many years in its grip. Yes, he was an idiot man-child, but he expressed it beautifully.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Dewey's Read-a-thon

My mini challenge can be found here

It's been years since I posted on this blog but I really wanted to participate in the read-a-thon next weekend so I decided to restart it. I miss blogging my thoughts on books, although I read far less nowdays as I am studying for my MA (strange that I am getting an MA in literature which leads me to read less!) and I have much more responsibility at work. I also miss all of the book blogs that I was still reading until google reader disappeared, I really need to find another reader facility and work out how to use my twitter account!

I haven't figured out which books I will read yet but I like to grab a selection of short books so that I feel I have achieved a lot in the time given - it will be a luxury for me to be able to read for one hour a book of my own choosing, let alone for a whole day.

EDITED: My stack of reads
John Steinbeck, Cannery Row - a book I've been meaning to read forever.
John Hersey, A Single Pebble - highly recommended by someone on my course.
Edna O'Brein, In the Forest - a 1001 book and a bookcrossing book which I've had for way too long.
Ted Hughes, Iron Man - its tiny and has large print for when I am getting tired.
Ben Aaronovitch, Rivers of London - a school friend has been raving about this series.
Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese - a graphic novel for the tired hours, another books which has sat on mount tbr too long.
Ari Folman and David Polonsky, Waltz with Bashir - a graphic novel borrowed from a friend for the tired hours.

Also, I'm now on twitter (I just posted my first tweet!) follow me @katrinasreads