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

Sunday, 28 October 2012

#9 Book - Of Mice and Men

"Uh-uh. Jus' a dead mouse, George. I didn' kill it. Honest! I found it. I found it dead."

Title: Of Mice and Men

Author: John Steinbeck

Pages: 106

Publisher: Penguin

Source: own

The Synopsis

George and his large, simple-minded friend Lennie are drifters, with nothing in the world except each other - and a dream. A dream that one day they will have some land of their own, somewhere to settle and live in peace. Finding work on a ranch in California's Salinas Valley, they hope to stay long enough to get some money together. But kind-hearted, childlike Lennie is prone to getting into trouble - unable to control either his emotions or his enormous strength, he is a target for the casual cruelty of others. And when disaster strikes again, it seems that this time George may not be able to save his friend...

The Review

Of Mice and Men gave me what I like to call a Seymour Glass moment at the end. I saw it coming in the last 10 or so pages, but I didn't think it would end the way that it did.

I have not been so saddened or felt so scarred by a book since I read Wuthering Heights. Of Mice and Men just helps to highlight how unfair life is. You do realise that in using a similar scenario twice in the book that what George did at the end was really best for Lennie.

I do feel that a comparison can be drawn between George and Seymour Glass in their actions and rationalisation. George and  Lennie are both in very unfair situations. I am actually just overwhelmed by this book. It starts and moves along steadily, and you don't expect it to end the way that it does. It does make you wonder though, who is to blame? Can anyone really be blamed? What would you have done? And come to the conclusion that life is just really unfair.

I would not recommend this book for sensitive readers as it will scar you, but I do believe that this is a book everyone should read at least once in their lives. 

Friday, 26 October 2012

Hello Goodbye

Well we're at that time of the year again when things get super busy and that is saying a lot because this year has been pretty busy, which you can tell by great periods of my absence. There is a lot happening at work for me right now and just in life in general, so I have even less time than usual for Bibliophilia. It makes me sad, but that's life. So I just came on to write this post, to say Hello, I am still alive, but also to say Goodbye for a little while whilst life is so crazy.

I have noticed all your comments, and I promise to visit your blogs to say hi when my time becomes my own again. So thank you all for reading and interacting on my posts, I am really sorry that I have not had the chance to interact with you all back. I do have some posts scheduled, so you will still see some flickerings of life around here, but I do promise that when life gets a little less crazy and I have time to really get back into my blogging groove, I will do a post to let you all know.

So for now I'll leave you with this, and wish you all happy reading for the next 2 to 3 weeks.

Do note, I love having a job as it enables me to buy the hundreds of books that I own, I just wish there was mandatory reading time in the work day!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Survival Training for Lonely Hearts - Elana Bregin

Title: Survival Training for Lonely Hearts

Author: Elana Bregin

Pages: 331

Publisher: Macmillan

Source: Review Copy from Pan Macmillan South Africa

The Synopsis

Kate is a burnt-out editor at the busy Centaur Press publishing house. Over forty and lonely, she is driven to searching for love on the Internet. There she encounters not a few daunting challenges - chief among them the realisation of impassable gulfs between the mindsets of the men who cross her inbox and her own personal non-negotiables.

When a small Nguni dog enters her life Kate is forced to acknowledge some painful home truths, and in order to find the intimacy she longs for she first has to let go of her own destructive patterns.

Part wry romance, part social commentary, Survival Training for Lonely Hearts tracks the personal and political complexities that characterise present-day South Africa, a wounded society caught between the collateral damage of the old and the emerging vibrancy of the new. Along the way, Kate loses her heart, finds her mojo and, as in all good quest journeys, discovers that the map is not the territory.

The Review

I was a bit skeptical when I read one of the reviews of this book that said you would skip work so that you could finish reading this book. I readily admit my skepticism, because if you are skeptical, I want you to rest assured... they weren't lying. I started this book on a Friday evening, and I finished it that very Friday night. I could not put it down. I would have finished sooner, but my sister kept coming to my room to chat, which was rather annoying as I just wanted to read this book!

From the very start you are drawn in, because this is a rather unusual book. And I do mean unusual in a good way. I can't say that I am well read in this genre, but I have not ever read a book like this. And the fact that it's a South African book makes it so much easier to relate to. More than that, I am sure we have all been in the same situation as Kate - lonely but not willing to settle for just anyone so you stay alone. What I really loved about this book, is that there are wise characters who tell Kate how silly she is in the aforementioned scenario. And really I think that this is a book that all of us in this situation needs to read so that we can learn and bend a  little so that we don't end up alone for ever. Sometimes you just need a reminder that you have to take a chance to find what you are looking for, and this book is that reminder.

Kate's adventure with online dating will regale you, her insights and aha moments will surprise you, and this book will please you. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to read a stand-alone book for a change!

So if you're in a relationship and want to be reminded of the drama of a singleton, read this book. If you are single, lonely, yet afraid to be hurt again, or are not willing to negotiate on certain qualities, read this book - it may just be what you need to help you get your groove back!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

#8 Book 7 - The Virgin Suicides

Virgin suicide
What was that she cried
No use in stayin'
On this holocaust ride
She gave me her cherry
She's my virgin suicide

Title: The Virgin Suicides

Author: Jeffrey Eugenides

Pages: 249

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Source: own

The Synopsis

In a quiet suburb of Detroit, the five Lisbon sisters- beautiful, eccentric, and obsessively watched by the neighborhood boys-commit suicide one by one over the course of a single year. As the boys observe them from afar, transfixed, they piece together the mystery of the family's fatal melancholy, in this hypnotic and unforgettable novel of adolescent love, disquiet, and death. 

Jeffrey Eugenides evokes the emotions of youth with haunting sensitivity and dark humor and creates a coming-of-age story unlike any of our time. The Virgin Suicides is a modern classic, a lyrical and timeless tale of sex and suicide that transforms and mythologizes suburban middle-American life.

The Review

Like the boys who inhabited the same neighbourhood as the Lisbon sisters, I have long been obsessed with them. Every time I reread this novel, I feel like one of the narrators - reconstructing the story in my mind as I read. Trying to figure out how I could forget certain things. Reading this book is like rehashing a memory, because a spell has been cast on me and I too cannot forget those Lisbon girls, and I too am still looking for answers about why they did what they did. I look at the evidence like the boys did and glean information through their eyes and artifacts and try to theorise why it is that they saw  no other way out, but like the boys I seem to fall short, because like them I don't know what the girls were thinking. I don't know what the girls were feeling, and I certainly don't know what was happening in that house behind those closed doors.

All we know is what is related to us in interviews or personal memories, but the pieces of the puzzle will never come together to show the whole picture because there are large bits missing. I am of the opinion that their overbearing control freak of a mother Mrs Lisbon is to blame, she is distant and controlling and keeps them all on a tight leash, and she is so distant that we never learn her name. That has to say something, doesn't it?

The boys' story of the Lisbon girls starts on the day where Mary took her life. My story of the Lisbon girls starts in 2001 - introduced by a friend who I'll call A. A like me was one of those serious teens, you know we read serious books, we watched serious films and we had serious conversations. It is little wonder that she exposed me to The Virgin Suicides as directed by Sofia Coppola. I was immediately drawn in, and well it was also kind of cool how we had friends that fitted into the age categories as the Lisbon girls. A was Cecilia, I was Lux, L was Bonnie, D was Mary and in the absence of someone the age of Therese, we substituted her with R.

We felt so very cool, liking a film like this, but I think we were also drawn in by the romantic ideas brought about by the Lisbon girls' suicide - the 13 and 14 year old mind is still rather fanciful.

When I found out that it was a book, I hoped that the local library would have it, but alas small town libraries are hardly ever filled with the books you want. I had been keeping it on my radar and finally when I got to Rhodes University I found it in the library and I had to read it. I was blown away, and newly impressed by Sofia Coppola for staying so true to the story, especially with the dialogue. I became obsessed with the Lisbon girls in another way, and of course I had to own the book when I became a serial book shopper not so very long ago.

I have been thinking long and hard about how to right this review after my umpteenth reread. It is so difficult to decide what to say in it, because there is so much that I can say about the Virgin Suicides. Especially since this reread has been different for me. I cannot pinpoint the reason behind it right now, but something has changed. Perhaps it'll come to me soon, or perhaps I have to reread it soon to figure out what it is that has changed, but as with previous reads of this book I still have many unanswered questions.

Is it actually possible to understand the Lisbon girls? I don't think so, since it is all conjecture on the part of the neighbourhood boys. The only actual response from the girls is in Cecilia's diary. Also, as a reader you are merely a witness to the deterioration of their lives until they leave this world.

What led Cecilia and then the others to take their lives?

Why did no one intervene on the behalf of the girls who became prisoners in their own homes?

Many answers the reader will never know, because we are being told the story of the girls lives by those who have watched and obsessed over them for years. The girls remain silent, and form part of a memory that is the only proof that they were ever really there.

If I ever got to ask Jeffrey Eugenides I would ask Why did they do it? What was it that Cecilia could no longer bare? I just want to be able to understand. But I suppose the point is that you can  never understand and so you can never forget these girls that will be an enigma till the day that you die.

But now onto a more academic point of view. Jeffrey Eugenides said that if it were not for his surname, no one would have linked the narrator in the form of a plural to being part of a Greek chorus. Perhaps that is so, perhaps he had no intention of invoking such a thing. But what strikes me about The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex is that the books begin with enormous revelations. You know what the outcome will be before you really know what the story is or how it will be told. This can also be related to the Greek method, because at that stage of literature there were plays, and the plays often depicted epics or myths that were already popular, so you watch the play, but you know what the outcome is going to be before it starts.

Also, I noticed that Eugenides has a Greek grandmother in both Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides, and Bursa is mentioned in both too. I hope that one day I'll be able to understand his writing a bit more, but that will require numerous rereads and hopefully getting to meet him in person.

Have you read The Virgin Suicides? Are you also obsessed with the Lisbon girls? Let me know what you thought.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness

Title: A Monster Calls

Author: Patrick Ness

Pages: 216

Publisher: Walker Books

Source: Review copy from Pan Macmillan SA

The Synopsis:

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

WARNING: This post will probably contain spoilers, so read at your own risk. I do not want to try and censor myself in this post so I am not going to try very hard to not give too much away. I just need to say what I need to say.

The Review:

I always believe that books will find you when you most need them. This book came to me when I most needed it. Actually, to be completely honest with you, I think that anyone who knows someone who has cancer and is really suffering because of it should read this book.

A Monster Calls does not try to sugar coat what you go through when someone near to you gets cancer. In Conor's case it's his mum, and his whole world gets turned upside down, everything changes - people start treating him differently, because they don't know what to do.

Conor sees his mother's suffering, and he understands and sees as only a few of us really see when someone has been battling cancer for a really long time. He has the mind and heart disconnection when it comes to feelings. He wants his mum to get better, because he needs her. But he wants it all to end because he sees what it is doing to her.

I felt so angry on Conor's behalf at his grandmother for keeping him away from his mum, and at his father for not being a father to Conor but caring more about his new family in America. I suppose that that is just how the world is these days.

Conor's complex struggle dealing with this illness that is taking his mum away from him is so very unfair, and you sort of hate the world for the fact that this is happening to so many people everyday. An unfairness that many people are spared from and that won't fully understand even after reading this book.

A Monster Calls is not a happy book. It is not a fun book. It is a book of truth that teaches many lessons. A book that came from an idea of a woman who was being taken away from cancer. A book that everyone should read, because then maybe, just maybe people would change and learn to care more.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Author: Michelle Hodkin

Pages: 452

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Source: bought

The Synopsis

When Mara Dyer wakes up in hospital with no memory of how she got there, or any explanations as to why the bizarre accident that caused the deaths of her boyfriend and two best friends left her mysteriously unharmed, her doctors suggest she starts over in a new city, at a new school, and just hope her memories gradually come back.

But Mara's new start is anything but comforting. She sees the faces of her dead friends everywhere and now she's started to see other people's deaths before they happen. Is she going crazy? as if dealing with all this isn't enough, Noah Shaw, the most beautiful boy she's ever seen, can't seem to leave her alone. But does he have her best interests at heart, or another agenda altogether?

The Review

I have a very unorthodox method for  choosing new books. I hardly ever read the back cover. I tend to take advice from my twitter bookish clique. Tammy had praised this book, so when I saw it at Van Schaik in Grahamstown I had to have it. I read it not long after purchasing it as I was intrigued - it got bumped right up the TBR pile. And I was definitely not disappointed. Tammy definitely knows a good book when she reads one!

What can I say about The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer? Quite a lot actually - this book is gripping from the very start. It hooks you immediately - you want to know, you need to know why Mara is in the Witness Protection Programme. I found that I was especially intrigued by the very dramatic way that Mara is in hospital and can't remember anything. It is all so very well laid out that you cannot not wonder what is going on.

I felt very connected to Mara as the book developed. You feel a great sense of empathy, and wish that you could do something to help her cope with the PTSD that is plaguing her. It really is a lot to deal with - a new start, panic, fear, hallucinations, not being able to remember - I cannot imagine staying calm or sane through all that.

If you've read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer I bet you're wondering when I am going to mention the oh so charming and endearing Noah Shaw. I will say he reminds me a lot of St. Claire from Anna and the French Kiss. I wanted to be Mara -drama and all- just to get to be with this Noah Shaw that no real guy could compare with. I will admit to being a bit leery after that incident with Joseph - Noah Shaw is very charming and seems a bit too good to be true, so despite his amazingness, you do wonder about him. Ofcourse after you learn his sad life story - he becomes so much more endeared to you - which obviously does not help with the major crush you are likely to have on him.

Then there is that uncertainty and then the clarity when Noah and Mara reveal their secrets to oneanother - realisin that they are not crazy at all - just different. I won't elaborate more on this - it is a very well placed part of the story line.

The way that this book ends so dramatically on a major cliff hanger that makes it all make sense is fantastic. You will be on the edge of your seat waiting for The Evolution of Mara Dyer to be released next year. This is a really well thought out, written and plotted book. Though there are mixed reviews, it is definitely a book that deserves the attention it has received, and I am certainly a new fan of Michelle Hodkin.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

the times they are a-changin'

I don't quite know what it is that I want to say with this post, so it may ramble on a little bit. I don't know how to articulate the feelings and realisations that I am having - so they may come out a bit funny - but I feel I need to say it, because everything changes. Life changes. People change. The world is changing. You are changing and so am I. At first it was just a subtle nudging in my head saying that I am starting to see things differently, and now it is a real jostling that cannot be ignored.

I don't think it's so much changing as in becoming a different person - it is just a mental awakening to the universal bigger picture. Whilst it is possible to stay stagnant - not really think about things and just be happy - I am not able to do that. My mind is like a catepillar that is emerging as a new butterfly with new insights on life and the world, and I cannot be flippant about it. I can see all the shades of grey, where there should only be black and white. Why have we become complacent in accepting all these shades of grey where there should only be black and white? Why is there only black and white where there should be shades of grey? This might not make sense to you, but it makes perfect sense to me.

I look at Bob Dylan's song the times they are a-changin' and his words ring as true today as when he first sang them. All these different scenarios are emerging, and the question is always are we on the right side of the argument? Are we choosing what is right? Are we compromising ourselves for money or power or what is the reason that we choose the wrong thing for? I could make this a very political post but I won't - I'll leave it open to your interpretation. I just wonder how do we allow ourselves to be grouped into the group that sees what is being done or chosen is wrong but just go along with it anyway. It is easier to just go with it than it is to stop and say this is not right. You may not be popular, but you will have a clear conscience. Regardless of the issue - whether it be gay rights, gay marriage, the death penalty, poaching, climate change, education. What are you deciding? What are you going with? Are you kidding yourself? Are you being honest with yourself? Are you scared to go against the tide? Always speak up even if your voice quivers. Don't allow the wrong things to continue.

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

What I'm trying to say in a way that make vex you greatly, is that we all know what is right and what isn't. We see the shades of grey when there should not be any. We must create the shades of grey where there is only black and white, but grey is needed. We must take action. We must fight for what is good and right, the change must start within. The change must start with you, or we'll be left with nothing. We cannot sit idly by, we have to do more. It is not just somebody's problem - it is everyone's problem. Demand more so that the right thing can be done, don't turn a blind eye  - stand up for  the person who can't. Care more, try to see the bigger picture and the world can be a better place. Listen to Imagine by John Lennon and Dreamer by Ozzy Osbourne and try to see what I want to show you even though I might not be making a lot of sense.