We owe it to each other to tell stories - Neil Gaiman

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Monthly Roundup: July, the saddest month of the year

July has not been a very good month, and it is definitely not a month that I would like to live over again. Whilst the month started off with very good intentions, it went bad early in, and got worse towards the end. I don't really want to say too much here, I'll leave that for another post to help me deal, but July is a month that has left me sad, and I don't know how long the sadness is going to stay for.

July saw me losing a sister, and whilst I know that it is better for her, because she is no longer suffering, I still feel immense sadness in the face of the loss of my beautiful 22 year old sister - Melissa. Cancer invaded her body 8 years ago, and she fought against it for so long, but it kept coming back and on Wednesday 25 July, it claimed her. That is all I want to say about that for now, but I just want you to understand, that if my posts, thoughts and reviews seem more melancholy and more morbid - this is why.

July also saw an increase in crime in town, which I already wrote about. I only hope that August will be better. And ofcourse the arrival of August brings some consolation: it is the last month of winter.

The Olympic opening Ceremony on Friday night did manage to lift my spirits, it was just so phenomenal, so amazing, so brilliant!!!! But I think this deserves a post dedicated entirely to it, because of the complexity encapsulated in the brilliance.

And now for something completely bookish...

I stopped reading in the middle of the month - things just became a bit too much for me, with everything going on, life just became too real, and pulled me out of the world that I have created for myself in my room with all my books, and all the worlds that they have released. I got readers block, and I just have not been able to get back to my bookish utopia. It saddens me, but I am trying to get back there.

July saw me adding 24 new and 4 second hand books to my already burgeoning collection. July even saw me reading 9 books, imagine how many I would have read had I not stopped half way through the month? I even read the infamous 50 Shades trilogy. I am still debating whether or not to write about it, I probably will, but it will be a psycho-analysis of sorts of the books.

I'll do a book loot post later in the week showcasing the books I got after all of those sale books. I have more than 20 books next to my bed waiting to be read, my short term TBR pile is  becoming out of
control - especially with my lack of reading in the latter half of July, hopefully August will remedy that.

In anticipating the passing of my sister, I ordered Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, as I believe that reading the experiences of others will help you get through the similar situation in your own life. It is odd how the universe works, the book was due to arrive on the 1st of August, but instead arrived on Thursday, the day after my sister died. It is odd, how the universe tries  to provide us with some comfort in trying times. 

Today also marks the end of A Victorian Celebration over at Allie's A Literary Odyssey. I managed to read 3 Victorian Novels, well 2 of them were children's stories, but I am glad that I participated, it made me really look at my Classics Club list, and helped me to see just how many Victorians are on my list.

Plans for August:

Whilst I would love to spend the first weekend of August trying to get back into my reading properly, I won't be able to do much, as it is my sister's funeral on Saturday. I am going to try in earnest this week, to get back  into  my reading after work. And ofcourse, it is also Austen in August this month - hosted by Adam over at Roofbeam Reader, and I really would like to read Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility, so I really hope I can pull myself back into where I should be.

I would like to try and read 5 books this month. I hope to read more, but I think it is better to have a small goal. I ordered a different edition of Anna Karenina and it also arrived on Thursday, so I would like to start reading Anna Karenina, but I am not going to rush my read. I find that with the lengthier tomes, it is better to take it in smaller pieces, instead of trying to cram in the whole book. Aside from helping you to enjoy it more, you also retain more of it.

How was July for you? What are your plans for August?

Sunday, 22 July 2012

#6 Book 67 - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

 The road to the City of Emeralds is paved with yellow brick

Title: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Author: L. Frank Baum

Publisher: Fontana

Pages: 160

First Published: 1900

The Synopsis

Dorothy and her dog Toto are swept up in their house by a cyclone and are deposited in Munchkin Country in the Land of Oz. Dorothy's house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East and saves the Munchkins from her. The story recounts Dorothy's time in the Land of Oz following the yellow brick road till she finally gets to go back home to Kansas.

The Review

This book is for me once again a reminder that you have to read the book before watching the movie. But, with The Wizard of Oz being a beloved movie in most households this is not always possible. And I fear that this may be bad for the book, as the book and the movie are so vastly different. I will say, and you may consider this blasphemy, but it is what I feel that in this case the movie is better than the book. In comparison to the book, the movie seems rather superfluous. I had hoped that this would never be my verdict, but I am sad to say that I did not enjoy this book. I appreciate the movie so much more now, for synthesising this story into something that I truly enjoyed.

from Pinterest
I don't really want to go into why the movie and the book are different and why the movie is better for me than the book, as that is a topic and post genre for another day. I just want to say that I am disappointed that I could not enjoy this book. I skimmed over the last 40 or so pages, not reading them fully, as I just was not enjoying this book, but did not want to cast it aside as unfinished.

This really is not much of a review, but rather an expression of regret. As always, this is a lesson on why we should read the book before watching the movie. Movies taint the book, but sometimes movies can redeem  the story. In this case,  the movie has tainted the book for me, and it makes me quite sad.

"All you have to do is knock the heels together three times and command the shoes to carry you wherever you wish to go" P158

 The movie truly took the best elements of the book and turned it into something magical that has allowed The Wizard of Oz to stand the test of time.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Xoc - Matt Dembiki

Title: Xoc: The Journey of a Great White
Author: Matt Dembiki
Publisher: Oni Press
Pages: 128
Release date: 25 July 2012
Source: NetGalley
The Synopsis
Explore the ocean's wonders through the eyes of a greatwhite as it treks from the Farallon Islands off the coast of California tothe warm waters of Hawaii some 2,300 miles away. Along its journey, the17-foot shark encounters natural prey and predators-from skittish sealsto brazen orcas-as well as man-made impediments that threaten notonly the giant fish, but the balance of ocean's ecology.
The Review
This book does not have an intense story line, but it touches so many important aspects like the damage that man does to the environment - mainly the oceans and animals. The graphics are AMAZING - my favourite is a full page of a shark catching a seal. This book will go over well with younger readers.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Leave me alone, I'm lonely

I am a loner. I have times when I am very sociable, but when that time is over - I am still a loner. I get why J.D. Salinger became a recluse - sometimes the world is just a bit too much. Sometimes people are just too consumed by the wrong things. Sometimes people just don't see the important things. Sometimes people don't see what they are doing to others. When  you can see this and they don't - what can you do but pull away so that you don't have to see it anymore? It's a measure of self preservation, and maybe it's not healthy, but it's better than driving yourself crazy seeing things that you can do nothing about.

This is not going to be a happy post. In fact it may be a touch morbid, but I need to express what I want to say.  Perhaps then I'll feel a bit better.

Life has been a bit too out of control of late. So many bad things have happened. Not to me personally, but to people that I know. I hate feeling helpless. I hate that there is often nothing that you can do to stop bad things from happening. If you follow me on the twittersphere, you will have a bit of an idea of what I am talking about. If not, allow me to enlighten you.

The South African government decided to cut all prisoners' sentences by a number of months - 18 if I remember correctly - as such a multitude of prisoners have been released in one go. Whether or not you have a humanities brain, you know that there are implications to this. And  the implications of this were felt quite heavily in my town. You must understand, I live in a small town - everyone knows everyone. So if someone you know has been attacked, it is much the same as being attacked yourself. Whilst there had been a small spike in crime shortly after the release, the major onslaught happened the Thursday preceding last weekend, and stopped on Sunday night. Many houses were broken into, including that of my doctor. They waved a gun at him from the other side of his sliding door at his home. Fortunately he could press his panic button and the felons ran off. Quite a few houses in my part of town were broken into. But what had me most shaken up was that my neighbour - who lives across the street from me - was not only robbed, but quite badly assaulted by these criminals on Saturday night last weekend. He had to be transferred to a hospital in Port Elizabeth, he was so severely attacked. I shall not go into the details of what they did to him or his house, as I do not wish to share the gory details. I could not sleep for days, I still struggle to sleep right through - I am still panic stricken. I am not the only one - the whole town is still living in the shadow of fear.

Fortunately last week they apprehended 7 of the 12 criminals. Now I cannot tell you the relief that I feel that these brutes have been captured, but I am still very afraid because there are still 5 criminals on the loose. I cannot tell how how scared I still am, because what is stopping criminals from other parts of the country from coming here and doing the same thing? It is a very tiring thing being so afraid all the time. The government that is supposed to look out for the best interests of its people - those who are law abiding and pay the taxes to keep the country running are not seen as important. If they were, well no criminals would be offered any leniency. But I don't want to go into this, I have said what I want to say on Facebook.

Last week I also learnt that one of  the girls I taught last year was raped. What is wrong with this world that someone would do such a vile thing to a  10 year old? It is sickening. I am so angry that I want to punch someone in the face. Of course justice does not really exist in South Africa for victims of rape. Again, I do not want to dwell on this, because I'll just end up releasing a string of profanities. This just helps to show me that the world is an ugly place, a horrible place. And I don't understand why anyone would want to have children to subject them to the horrors that so many face.

But to get back to what I said before, I completely understand why J.D. Salinger was a recluse. I started writing this post well before all these awful things started happening. This was in no way started by the fear that I feel. What has happened, has wrenched me out of my safe place that I have created for myself in the books that I read. I want to go back to that safe place. I want to be as oblivious as I was before. I don't want to be afraid. But there is no going back, is there?

I wish that Azkaban and the dementors were real. I wish the Queen of Hearts was in charge. I wish Dorothy's house could land on some of the baddies. I wish I had Helen Hamilton's thunderbolts. I wish I had my own Damon Salvatore or Rhett Butler to look out for me. I wish that time turners were real and that you could Avada Kadavra the bad guys. But none of these wishes can come true. I can only try to get back into my own Wonderland where none of the bad things happening in the world can happen to me.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

#5 Book 92 - Rebecca

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again...

Title: Rebecca

Author: Daphne du Maurier

Publisher: Pan Books

Pages: 397

First Published: 1938

Source: borrowed, but I am definitely going to get a copy soon.

The Synopsis

With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house's current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim's first wife the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.


The Review

I do believe that I enjoyed Rebecca more on this second read than I did  the first time I read it in January 2011. Whilst I do not mean to insult this wonderful book, the first time I read it it was sort of humdrum, you learn a great deal about Rebecca and Manderley, and you are sort of just coasting along waiting for the action to happen. And that something only happens in the second half of the book. Because of this a first time reader may give up on Rebecca. But, if you keep on reading, you are rewarded with fast paced action, that really has you holding on to your seat.

A reread however is an entirely different experience. Because you know the general way in which the story unfolds, you are able to enjoy the beautiful writing, instead of reading and asking yourself when is something going to happen? During this reread I found that I  have a greater appreciation for du Maurier's writing style, the way she weaves the scenery, the way she has you curious about things. You can see Manderley ever so vividly in your mind's eye.

The only thing that bothered me sooner this time, was that I was just so anxious to learn our narrator's name. Ofcourse we never do, because that is the beauty of the book, and the whole issue of being Mrs de Winter. But I felt myself needing to know!

I really think that Rebecca is more enjoyable the second time around, because you can appreciate the craft of Daphne du Maurier's writing so much more. And I don't think I could have laughed at this part the first time around, when our narrator finally stands up to the dreadful Mrs Danvers:

"I'm afraid it does not concern me what Mrs de Winter used to do,' I said. 'I am Mrs de Winter now, you know. And if I choose to send a message by Robert I shall do so.' p.303

 I love how our narrator takes us on her journey from her obsession with Rebecca to her eventual loathing of all that Rebecca did to poor Maxim, how she transformed from a young single girl to Mrs de Winter. This is a wonderful book, and a great story told with such precision and skill, that this book is definitely a book for all to read, regardless of the genre you prefer.

I found myself sitting up through the night to finish Rebecca this time too, much like the first time - being familiar with it does not make it any less enchanting. I find that I actually would like to see the BBC serial of Rebecca, as no one does it better than the BBC.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Book Loot - Penguin English Library

This is by no means new news to anyone in the know, but for the sake of those who are still in the dark, Penguin Books has embarked on a new cover endeavour for the Penguin English Library collection. I have long admired the Penguin Clothbound Editions, and I have managed to acquire one, but they are still a bit too expensive for me to be able to to buy an armful at a time.

So it was fantastic news when I saw the new Penguin English Library with their gorgeous covers that are so much like the Clothbounds, but much more affordable. Penguin is going to be releasing 100 books, 10 a month till December. You also get a leaflet in the book telling you which books are going to be released in which month.

This is my first order, and they really are beautiful! I cannot wait to have a shelf full of these beauties!


Monday, 9 July 2012

A Victorian Celebration: An Update

There are 3 weeks left of A Victorian Celebration hosted by Allie over at A Literary Odyssey. I have several Victorian books on my Classics Club List, and I had hoped that by now I'd have read a fair few. But you know how it goes when you plan to read certain books they lose their appeal. This has largely happened to me. I do still want to read those books, but I am not going to force myself to read them in  a certain period, I am going to read them as the inspiration strikes.

Having said that, I am quite proud of myself for having read 2 books for the challenge so far. I read Wuthering Heights, and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I would like to read Bohemian Girl by Willa Cather still for this Victorian Celebration, but I am not going to stress too much if I don't manage it.

What the Victorian Celebration has made me realise is that so many of the books that I want to read or have heard about and want to explore are Victorian. It is quite interesting when you look at books based on the period from which they come, it really is something different.

Promo Post: The Agony Chef

 Who and what is the Agony Chef?

The Agony Chef by Kate Sidley has tried and tested recipes in it, but it isn't a cookbook. It's made up, but it isn't a novel. Agony Chef, the mysterious Delilah, is a witty advice giver, food-lover and a bit of a know-it-all who seems rather like the alter ego of author Kate Sidley, but isn't her, actually.

There's no problem, big or small, that sardonic advice, a good pun and a well chosen recipe won't solve. Whether you've run over the neighbour's cat or you've just smoked your last cigarette, Agony Chef Delilah is the go-to girl for the vexing situations of modern life.

Join Delilah as she shares her wit and wisdom, her opinions and recipes and her touching belief that food and good humour can mend fences and hearts in The Agony Chef, a unique concept in cookery books that puts hilarious, fictitious agony aunt columns alongside delicious, real recipes.

  • Learn how to control an errant husband with passive-aggressive cooking
  • Discover the mysterious etiquette that applies to the newly face lifted
  • Indulge in the marvellous magic of make-up ceps
  • Make a pasta dish so delicious that your guests weep and beg for your hand in marriage

About the Author:

Kate Sidley writes a weekly column on books for Sunday Times and a monthly humour column for Shape magazine. Previously a magazine editor, she now writes features and columns for many magazines and newspapers. The Agony Chef is her first book. Kate loves to cook, but lays no claim to 'chefiness'.

Due August 2012. 

Sunday, 8 July 2012

#4 Book 37 - Alice's adventures in Wonderland

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice  had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.

My edition
Title: Alice's adventures in Wonderland

Author: Lewis Carroll

Publisher: Puffin Classics

Pages: 141

First published:1865

Source: own

The Synopsis

On an ordinary summer's afternoon, Alice tumbles down a hole and an extraordinary adventure begins. In a strange world with even stranger characters, she meets a grinning cat and a rabbit with a pocket-watch, joins a mad tea-party and plays croquet with the Queen! Lost in this fantasy land, Alice finds herself growing more and more curious by the minute...

Before I begin the review...

Since this read of Alice in Wonderland has been not only for the Classics Club, but also for A Victorian Celebration, I thought it would be fun to give a little Victorian anecdote about Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and it truly is Victorian:

When Queen Victoria read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland she enjoyed it so much that she told Lewis Carroll she wanted to read more of his work. To her astonishment she received a copy of his latest book on mathematics. 

The Review

from pinterest
from pinterest
For much of my life I have known the story of Alice in Wonderland. I got a copy when I was 5 years old, but I never really read it, and only rarely looked through it because I found the illustrations rather scary.

I loved seeing Alice in Wonderland on TV when I was younger, and some years ago they aired a miniseries on Aliice in wonderland on Sunday nights here in South Africa so I became more familiar with it then. We have this really cool biscuit tin with Alice in Wonderland on it, and I suppose that intensified my interest in the story. In 2009 for the first time I watched the Disney animated Alice in Wonderland, and I quite enjoyed it. I have yet to watch the Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter Alice in Wonderland, but now that I have read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland again, I feel no qualms about seeing the movie.

This read of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has only been my second ever read of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Now whilst you may shout sacrilege I think I should explain why this is so.

Whilst I find the idea of Alice in Wonderland - with the Cheshire Cat, the flamingos and cards charming I don't very much like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I appreciate the word play and the ridiculousness of this world, but I do not like reading it. I will give it the praise that it is due, because it truly is a remarkable story for the time in which it was written, but it is just not my kind of story. Perhaps in time my opinion will change, but I just don't much care for this book.

 I have been thinking about why it is that I don't like Alice's adventures in wonderland, and I just can't put my finger on it, so until I can, let's just keep this as

                              To be continued... 

Saturday, 7 July 2012

What prominent people have thought about books

I found this online, and thought I should share, you will all agree with so much of this I am sure.

Friday, 6 July 2012

The Winter Sale, and the Autumn Sale too

I was up before the sun to get ready to go to the winter sale. You must understand that this is a pretty big deal for me. I live in a town without a book shop. I can hear your gasps, and your silent questions about how I manage in a town without a book shop. And it is only through the use of online book shopping that I manage to stay sane. Add to that the fact that I have to travel for 2 hours to get anywhere with a book shop, it does paint a pretty grim picture. Whilst yesterday morning had its own things that made it feel like Friday the 13th, the scene I encountered made the months of deprivation worth while.

Before yesterday I had not been in a bookshop since December, so it was really a treat to have been in not only one, but two bookshops yesterday. But do allow me to describe to you the scenes that welcomed me...

The Winter Sale
                             Exclusive Books
                                                          Walmer Park

The sale selection in the court was what I first encountered. I saw it from afar, and the adrenaline that was already coursing through my veins intensified, it was book Nirvana seeing so many books in one place. The promise of finding one or two books that would be clutched tightly against my chest made my heart beat faster. What a selection to browse!

Now I had seen the gems that friends and strangers had tweeted about. I couldn't wait to see what the sale had in store for me. And I got a fair few gems that I'll share with you in a little bit. There were so many great books I left behind because I already have them at home. I was hoping to see what others saw, but I must have been too late.

After going through the outside sale stuff, I went inside, and found 3 gems. But what I want to tell you about now was the experience of going into the YA/Children's section of Walmer Park Exclusive Books, it was phenomenal. I went into sensory overload beholding all the books that were on the shelves. I could have just stood there for hours and stared at the expanse of books. It was truly magnificent. I wanted to take all the books home with me so that I could look at them forever. I am sure if I had stayed in there any longer I'd have had a seisure from having to take in so much! It was marvellous! It was such a treat seeing that, and just strengthened my conviction to one day work in a book shop.

My book loving heart was warmed by the sight of all those books. And though I had to leave them all in the shop, I shall be content till I next get to visit a book shop.

The Autumn Sale
                               Bargain Books

No matter the actual season, there is an Autumn Sale at the second bookshop I visited today. I adore Bargain Books, I always manage to get a bargain, and today was no different. There was a very wide selection of books for their 3 books for R99 deal. I walked away with 9 books for just under R300, and I am sure that if I had more time to dig I'd have found more.

So behold my sale loot...

                                             From the Winter Sale

Alexander the Great - Lewis V. Cummings
Rumpelstiltskin and other Grimm Tales - Carol Anne Duffy
Metamorphosis and other stories - Franz Kafka
All the Pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
The Deerslayer - James Fenimore Cooper
Troilus and Cressida - Jeffrey Chaucer
Toorberg - Ettienne van Heerden
Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

                                                                                     From the Autumn Sale

Lord of Misrule - Rachel Caine
Carpe Corpus - Rachel Caine
Feast of Fools - Rachel Caine
Sweet Little Lies - Lauren Conrad
Abandon - Meg Cabot
Captivate - Carrie Jones
Matchless - Gregory Maguire
Divergent - Veronica Roth
                                                         The Amber Spyglass - Phillip Pullman

Whilst I may not get to book shops very often, when I do I get plenty of great titles, and enough of a glow to last me to my next book shop foray and when that glow fades, there's always online shopping..

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Welcome to the second half of 2012, plenty to look forward to

Recap of the first half

I know I am a bit late, but it is only the third so, belatedly, welcome to the second half of 2012. It is hard to believe that 6 months have already passed. And they have passed by so quickly! I am going to do a quick recap of the first half of 2012, and then mention some plans for the second half of the year.

As at 30 June 2012, I have read a total of 35 books. I am quite proud of this amount, that I managed to read 35 books with all that has been happening this year. It would be really great to read another 35 books in the latter half of the year, but I am not going to push myself trying because a lot of the books (most really) have been YA, and I am trying to read more Classics and serious books. So here is the breakdown of the 35 books I have read to date:

10 male authors : 25 female authors
18 YA : 4 Classics : 3 Mystery : 3 contemporary: 4 children's: 3 biography

As you can see the balance has been very off, I am going to try and read some more classics in the second half, so I hope I can accomplish all I want to.  I have purchased far too many books, just under 70 for the first half, and that isn't even all I've acquired. I won several books too, and have gotten some for review purposes, so I am quite certain that my first half of the year tally is near to 100 books. It is quite ridiculous really, but it cannot be helped. I am a bibliophile, books call me.

I have also had 2 reviews published over at Women24, which I am quite proud of, just goes to show, I can write well when I really focus. 

I signed up for the Classics Club in March, and have started on my journey towards reading 150 classics in the next 5 years. This means 30 a year. So far I have read 6 of the 30 that I need to read by March 2013. So that leaves 24 that I need to fit in. I just have to stay inspired and motivated, and not feel like I did when I wrote Friday's post.

Hopes and plans for the second half

I challenged myself on Goodreads to read 50 books this year, I am ahead of schedule with my total read at present being 35. So I only really need to read 15 more books to complete my challenge. Whilst I could up the number, I am going to leave it at that, so that I can take my time with some heavier tomes. There has been a Rebecca readalong on the blogosphere, I wanted to participate, but didn't manage to read any of it in June, so I am making my way through Rebecca now. This month there is an Anna Karenina Readalong too, and I really would like to join in, not sure if I'll finish Anna Karenina this month though, but I would like to try. 

Austen in August, and other things Jane

Adam over at Roofbeam Reader is hosting Austen in August, this August and I really would like to join in on that too. I have decided that when it comes to Jane Austen, I am going to read her books in the order she wrote them, not in the order in which they were published. This is why my first Austen was Northanger Abbey. Yes I had attempted Emma before that, but I think I only managed 30 pages before giving up. So since I have all of Jane's books on my Classics Club list, I am going to start Austen in August by rereading Northanger Abbey. I think a reread will help me to see more, especially since I was under the impression that it was a Gothic Novel the first time I read it.

I would like to also read Sense and Sensibility in August, I have been yearning to read my beautiful Penguin Clothbound Edition of Sense and Sensibility, so there is no better time than August, after finishing Northanger Abbey.  I do hope that I'll be so taken with Ms Austen that I'll manage to read Pride and Prejudice in August too. I believe that one has to be ready to read an author so that you can fully enjoy that authors work, and I am ready to read Jane Austen, so I do hope that all will go well. 

Other plans

I am still planning on having a month of Dahl, I may reduce it to a Dahl fortnight, but this year I would like to pay tribute to the man who helped to turn me into an avid reader. I have a stack of about 15 books that I have selected to read for the next while. All are books that I yearn to read, so I have decided to start them all, at various stages and see where the inclination pulls me. I am hoping that this will really get me inspired, and get me to surpass the 50 point, and really get me going as far as the Classics Club goes. 

I need to reread The Great Gatsby before I go and watch the movie, I was not too taken by the Robert Redford film, but the Baz Luhrmann trailer really got me excited, and longing to be transported into the swinging 20s - so I do hope to make much progress on the Fitzgerald titles that are on my list. 

Buying more books...

I have said it before, I do have a problem when it comes to buying books. I can't help myself, and Thursday I'll be heading to the Exclusive Books Winter Sale, I hope I can practice moderation, but I am not holding my breath. All I can hope is that I get enough time to read all the books that I buy. 

In conclusion

The first half of 2012 has been rather good to me, I hope that the second half will be the same. I hope that the second half will be good to you too, and that we manage to read plenty of amazing books, and share the experience!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Life - Keith Richards

I wrote ‘Satisfaction’ in my sleep. I had no idea I had written it, it’s only thank God for the little Philips cassette player … Mick wrote the lyrics by the pool in Clearwater, Florida, four days before we went into the studio and recorded it.

Title: Life

Author: Keith Richards

Pages: 630

Publisher: Phoenix an imprint of Orion

Source: Bought

The Synopsis

A true and towering original, he has always walked his own path, spoken his own mind,and done his own thing.

Reluctant outlaw, rock 'n' roll's unparalleled hellraiser, and one of the greatest guitar gods of all time, Keith Richards has forged a life that most of us can only imagine--and often envy. And amazingly he's lived to tell about it. Now, at last, in his own words, the ultimate rock Icon gives us the definitive rock autobiography.

In Life, in his own raw, fierce voice, the man himself tells about life lived fast and hard in the creative hurricane--from his early days as a young boy growing up in a council estate, listening obsessively to Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters records, to taking the guitar to its absolute limit and joining forces with Mick Jagger to form The Rolling Stones.

With unflinching honesty, he reveals all the highs and lows of rock 'n' roll, from the meteoric rise to fame and the notorious drug busts to the women, drinking, and heroin addiction that made him infamous. The living legend chronicles how he created the revolutionary, high-octane riffs that defined "Gimme Shelter" and "Honky Tonk Woman," his affair with the equally infamous Anita Pallenberg (the mother of three of his children), and the tragic death of Brian Jones. From falling in love with Patti Hansen to his tumultuous relationship with Mick, we follow Keef on the ultimate road trip we have all longed to know more about--of an unfettered, fearless, on-the-edge life lived to the fullest.
The Review

The synopsis that you find on Goodreads is so inept - when it comes to describing the marvellous book that is Life by Keith Richards. And since there is not one on the book itself, I had to take this synopsis from Keith's website, because there is no way I could have done it better.

I was blown away from page 1. Before reading life I had thought that I am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne was the best memoir/auto biography ever, but boy was I wrong. Not that Ozzy's book isn't amazing, Keith's book is just more amazing. It took me more than a month to read Life, and that is in no way a criticism, there was just sooooooooo much to take in in each chapter, that it would be impossible to read this book quickly, and do it justice at the same time.

LSD: "There’s not much you can say about acid, except God, what a trip!"

Keith's writing is wonderful, and I love that this book, much like Ozzy's shows you that there is more to the musician than just a former drug user and music maker. This book shows you how truly clever Keith Richards is, and how well read he is. But  to have seen all that he has seen and to have lived through all that he has, it is impossible to write a book that would not blow the reader away. To read this book  is to travel through time and see how the world and the music industry has changed. I learnt so much, the start of rock 'n roll, as you see it in your minds eye, the start of the drug trade, the madness that surrounded the Rolling Stones, the way that the Stones have impacted and changed the music industry, the writing duo that is Richards/Jagger, the home life of the Rock Star - this book has taught me more than I could ever hope to learn about these things from academic papers.

I also learnt a lot about other musicians, including John Lennon, who I really adore. And this is an interesting fact, the house that Gatsby lived in in the first Great Gatsby movie with Robert Redford? That was Keith's place! How cool is that?

I will say that one of the highlights of this book for me was seeing Keith's personal library, I just love it when popular people are bookish. Keith also retells of a bookish accident, when some heavy tomes fell down onto him. I guess that shows that books can get violent too.

The Life lessons you get from this book, and the insightful quotes of Keith Richards are not things to be taken lightly, and he is not to be scoffed at, this is an example who has lived mindfully, learning many lessons along the way. I am so glad to have been able to read this book, because it has changed me, and I have really learnt a lot from it. I just hope that one  day I'll be able to meet Keith Richards, and get him to sign my book!

There is not anything that I can say that will do this phenomenal book any justice, all I can do is urge you to get yourself a copy and read, and be blown away by the awesomeness that is Keith Richards, and if you think that this book is a bit much for you, you can always get the audio book which is narrated by Johnny Depp.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

#3 Book 70 - Wuthering Heights

“I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. And this is one: I'm going to tell it - but take care not to smile at any part of it.”

My edition
Title: Wuthering Heights

Author: Emily Brontë

First Published: 1847

Pages: 431

Publisher: Harper Collins

Source: Bought

Some friendly advice:
If you are attempting, have attempted or are planning to attempt a read of Wuthering Heights, you will want to check this out. Joseph's speech is quite difficult to decipher, especially if you are not sure about how to pronounce it, so this will definitely help you. In fact, just make use of the entire site of The Reader's Guide to Wuthering Heights.

The Synopsis

When Catherine and Heathcliff’s childhood friendship grows into something so much more, what ensues is one of the greatest love stories of all time. Even as fate conspires against them and passion consumes them, nothing can keep Catherine and Heathcliff apart. Not even death… for their forbidden love is unlike any other.                                                                                                                                 From Goodreads

If you would like a summary of a different sort, then watch this video by Kate Bush of her hit single Wuthering Heights which as you would guess was inspired by and based on Wuthering Heights. Do be warned though, that it has the tendency to get stuck in your head. 

The Review

I went into reading Wuthering Heights rather blindly, and sometimes that is a good thing. I knoew there was a character called Heathcliff, and that there was a character called Cathy and that some how it was a love story.  In fact, I deliberately did not read anything about Wuthering Heights because I wanted my mind to be a blank slate when it came to making sense of this story.

I think that there are various phases that you go through when reading Wuthering Heights, and these phases greatly impact how you feel about the characters. Please do forgive me if some spoilers do slip in, I just need to be able to explain fully to do this book justice. 

When you first start reading Wuthering Heights, you are confronted with a bevy of unlikeable characters, and it really does take a while to see how it is that they all became so unlikable. The key to it all - well most of them, is Heathcliff. Heathcliff you see as being rather unpleasant, and you wonder why - thinking that he must be that way because of the people that he is surrounded with. But as the story unfolds, and your perspective changes, you see how all this unpleasantness starts with prejudice, and yes, I'll say it - Pride. No this is not Pride and Prejudice, but these are the things that have helped to form the story of Heathcliff, and then there are two other factors - hatred and vengeance.

When first hearing of the story of Heathcliff - his origins and the mixed treatment he got when he first came to Wuthering Heights, you do feel a great deal of sympathy for him. He was adored by Catherine and her father, and despised by Hindley and his mother. Things only get worse for poor Heathcliff after the passing of Mr Earnshaw, and we see the seeds of true vengeance being planted in Heathcliff's heart. Heathcliff is treated no better than a slave by Hindley, and is forbade from being with his playmate Cathy. When one day Heathcliff leaves, after hearing something distressing from his dearest Cathy, we do not see him again for many years. Upon his return he is ready to so the seeds of destruction for his oppressors, and we see how evil Heathcliff really is.

Heathcliff's darling Cathy is married to Edgar Linton, and he calls on her at Thrushcross Grange, much to Edgar's distress. Heathcliff ofcourse has his own plans for revenge, and sows great unrest in the Linton house, running off with Edgar's sister Isabella, marrying her and then treating her quite despicably when they return taking up residence at Wuthering Heights.  Isabella's treatment is so awful, that she runs away, maintaining contact with her brother Edgar. Heathcliff and Edgar had a falling out which had the most terrible effect on Catherine, and she takes to a very long sick bed.

Heathcliff goes to see Catherine one last time, and this is the day that her daughter Catherine is born (2 months early) and it is also the day that Catherine dies. Catherine's death leaves Edgar most distrought, and despite having a daughter - who he calls Cathy, he never fully recovers from the loss. Heathcliff learns that Isabella also had a child, whom she names Linton, and the evil cogs in his mind turn to ensure his revenge.

The final stages of Heathcliff's evil plan come to play when Isabella dies, and sends Linton to live with Edgar, only to have Heathcliff send Joseph for him. Linton Heathcliff is a sickly boy whom his father does not take very good care of, he just needs him to live long enough for his plan  to fall into place. And things do happen as Heathcliff wanted, and he gets his revenge, but it is still not enough for him. I really do not understand how anyone can carry out these vengeful plans as cunningly and consistently as Heathcliff did.

Our narrator Mr Lockwood, who relates to us the story as he hears it from Mrs Dean, leaves with the story at a certain place, he sees now why the inhabitants of Wuthering Heighths are so unhappy and so unpleasant, not knowing that things have changed. Fortunately he learns about this upon a coincidental visit to the nearby Gimmerton, and goes to enquire about Mrs Dean. He goes to Thrushcross Grange to find that Mrs Dean is not there, but at Wuthering Heights. He goes to Wuthering Heights and sees how very different things are. He smells flowers, which he never did upon his previous visit. He remarks how the house seems different, and you do have to wonder what happened? Did Heathcliff finally realise that enough was enough, he got what he wanted, and he could try to be pleasant.

We are informed that Heathcliff has died months previously after what had to be a bout of mental illness. He acted so strangely, and one cannot help but deduce that in his final days he saw his beloved Cathy whom he had cursed to roam the moors for as long as he was alive. Heathcliff's death brings a lovely rainbow into this stormy story, and justice is served for the poor oppressed Hareton Earnshaw and his cousin Cathy Linton - who finally get the happiness that they deserve but were denied by Heathcliff's constant pursuit of revenge.

Wuthering Heights is a book that plays with your emotions. As I write this is I still feel rather distraught about the happenings in Wuthering Heights. I have never felt so much intense emotions for a character before. Heathcliff I went from pitying to loathing and then feeling a sort of pity again. Heathcliff's son Linton you also feel pity for at first, but then because he is such a weak person, more concerned for himself than anyone else, you cannot help but loathe him, even after his death.

Whilst Wuthering Heights is not a bad story, it is not a story that you can enjoy. It is not a love story, well it is, but in a very twisted way. To say that it is purely a  love story is to not have read it properly. It is a story of revenge, of hatred, of pride. I cannot say if I'll ever read it again, and at this moment I cannot understand how it could possibly be someone's favourite, it just has such cruelty in it. But it is not a story to be dismissed, and I am glad to have read it.