Wednesday, 19 September 2018

30 Books Before 30 - Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

I have honestly owned this book for the longest time. Eons and eons of time have passed since I bought it from who knows where, for who knows how much, and for who knows what reason. I thought it might have something to do with Alley from What Red Read because Sedaris seems like her sort of guy, but having just gone to her review of this (from FIVE years ago, nice remembering brain) I have left a comment saying that I already own this so that is super mysterious. I also said that I should probably read it... 5 years ago... Yeah. Best not to dwell.

I have read it now! It's very very funny. VERY funny. I read most of it on a couple of train journeys and I think I may have giggled out loud a few times (in public) because it is very very funny. This is probably a good thing, because it's a collection of comedic essays, and they're pretty much separated into two sections- the first is general essays about funny things that have happened in Sedaris's life, his madcap family etc etc, and the second is about his life in France as a non-language speaker and some of the hilarious things that have happened with that. I was actually super charmed by the title essay, which outlines his experiences in french class (not great) (but funny) and me talk pretty one day is essentially the level of grammar he and his classmates could achieve in the language, but trying to comfort each other about it all the same.

Funny as I think Sedaris is, though, it's his sister Amy who was the real star of this book for me. I always forget that I know who Amy Sedaris is (she had a small role in Sex and the City and Elf and you've probably seen her in lots of other things but those are the two for me), I guess mainly because she has such tiny roles, but she sounds ridiculously funny. Sedaris describes her exploits and I just want to be her, because it sounds like she doesn't have those useless feelings of self-consciousness and, I don't know, shame, which is what I try to embody in life (I don't have a filter, like at all) but even I'm not shameless enough to imply my brother is a rapist on public transport and then hop off and leave him to it. Although maybe if I had a brother...

New (and probably terrible) role model aside, this book is fab. If you too, for some mysterious reason, have left this sitting on your bookshelves for years and years and years, you won't regret picking it up and reading it - and if you do then just stop reading it, nobody's going to force you! Life is good and also funny, and don't you forget it!

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

30 Books Before 30 - My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (The Neopolitan Novels)

Ah, the Neopolitan Novels. They only really came onto my radar this year when my friend sent me a link to an article Elena Ferrante had written in The Guardian (which I can't find but was very good and feminist), and since I was planning on going to Naples at the time, I was all about finding and reading them. Not long after that, I found the first two novels in a charity shop, which felt weirdly fortuitous, and made the mistake of reading the first two before I owned the last two, which meant that I had to (HAD to) buy the others full price, something which I've hardly done all year! They are just that good.

Since reading them, I've tried to work out exactly why they are so good. On the surface, there is nothing too remarkable about them - they are essentially just a woman's story of her life since childhood, growing up poor in Naples and trying to figure out how to live and who to love and all of those other good things that make up a life. The writing is excellent, which doesn't hurt, but I think its crowning glory might be the fact that it isn't the story of just one woman (Elena, our narrator) but that of her best friend Lila, too, and their childhood and adult lives and their different paths and did you hear the part about their friendship? Because, that.

Because how often do we see that? A friendship, described from beginning to end, with none of the uncomfortable emotions sometimes associated with it left out? Friendships in fiction, especially fiction about women, are so often relegated to the sidelines as the main character finds and then marries some guy, when sometimes in life, friendships can be as important, and sometimes more complex than romantic relationships. I have a best friend who I've known for nearly 11 years (AGH) and I've known my boyfriend for less than 2, and whilst our friendship would make a really boring book (we're not so dramatic) she hasn't lost her importance in my life because I now have a romantic interest - and I think that's true for so many other women too.*

And so, back to these books. Elena and Lila take completely different paths in life- both very intelligent children, Elena is nurtured and given opportunities that Lila is not, but a crucial part of the books is that this doesn't really matter - their relative statuses switch throughout the novels as one becomes richer and the other poorer, but they are always there for each other, seeing each other through crises and each providing what she can when she is able. I don't mean to sugarcoat their friendship because they are both complex and wildly interesting characters, which means that they are not always the best of friends at all, but even their disagreements and fallings out come alive on the page. You care about them both, even when you don't really want to.

You may or may not know that Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym and no one knows exactly who she is. I'm not by any means desperate to unmask her, but I so want the characters in the Neopolitan Novels to be real that I have pretty much made her the fictional Elena, given her Lila as her best friend, and given her this truly captivating life that, well shit, I want to believe someone has lived. Childish of me, perhaps, but that's the level to which I loved these books, which I think might always hold a special place in my heart.

*And, I'm sure I don't need to tell you this, but if your friends automatically lose importance when you get a boyfriend, guuuurl what are you doing?

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Sunday Sundries: MINITHON Recap!

Oh hai, and happy Sunday! I'm a little sleepy this morning because I stayed up late reading (is there a better reason?) for yesterday we had a minithon. I'm in a slightly incompatible timezone for 8 shared hours of reading (4pm-midnight), mainly just because I'm old now and can't stay up late reading like I used to in the olden days/that one time in 2011 (WHEN I WAS 22 WEEPS OVER THE CRUEL PASSAGE OF TIME).

Ahem. Anyway. Yes. I decided not to blog the minithon because it's a super chill 'thon and also my computer was dead and because it's old too (seriously) it took too long to start back up and anyway, what are you doing if you're not following me on instagram and twitter? Exactly, nothing. The minithon happened to fall on a weekend between jobs (I'm being seconded into a new team in the place I currently work, starting Monday) which felt like a nice time to do a load of reading and eat a shitload of snacks.

And so, to recap, I had a tiny diet coke and read some Stephen King,

 I ate a disturbing amount of beige food,

I switched to some teeny weeny books when it got dark and late and I got too scared to read Stephen King anymore,

and, of course, I ate some (mini!) cakes. Also YES that is a moomin puzzle and it was the bane of my life for at least 2 weeks - are puzzles meant to be relaxing or something? It now lives on our dining table because we can't bear to break up our greatest achievement.
It was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon and evening, and I can thoroughly recommend it - minithon or no, read some books, eat some cake, lay back and enjoy life. It's pretty good.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

RIP XIII - Oooooh, Extra Spooky

Here it is - the reading event we've all* been waiting for - and this year, since it's the 13th one, it's spoooooookier than ever.

I've been feeling ready for RIP ever since the temperature dropped, and even more so since I started waking up in the dark this week. Now that it's September, predictably, it feels like summer's back again, but nonetheless it's time for some spooky spooky reading. 

If you've never heard of RIP before, firstly where have you been every September and October (because it is clearly not here) and secondly, you're welcome. RIP stands for Readers Imbibing Peril, and it's basically a two month event where book bloggers, and more generally people, dedicate their autumns to reading scary or perilous or crime (you get the idea) books. I have been in love with this event ever since I found out about it during my first blogging autumn (...7 years ago? Oh my) and my joy only increases with each passing year. 

Now. Tradition demands that I choose a peril, and, as ever, I am choosing Peril the First - Read 4 books that fit the (very broad) definitions of RIP literature. This is, I have just realised, my first RIP without also doing my Stephen King challenge, but looking back on it, I've also realised that I used to read Stephen King books PLUS RIP books, and still managed to hit 4, so... ok then! But still, *heart laments for Stephen King*

Do you want to see a big pile of books, though? Course you do.
What was that thing I said about Stephen King again? Oh yeah, nothing...

Let's just highlight a few books on my stack then...
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell I have owned for the longest time and really really really do want to have read it but LOOK HOW LARGE IT IS. Please tell me things about it that will make me want to read it. Please.
  • I promised myself I could re-read It again this year, and so it shall be done. See also: The Handmaid's Tale.
  • I really enjoyed The Talented Mr Ripley last year, so Strangers on a Train has made it onto my pile this year.
  • It amuses me to have father and son on the same pile, so hiiiii Strange Weather. I also genuinely love Joe Hill so expect me to definitely read this book at the very least!
Basically, yaaaaay spooky books. The weather will, hopefully be poor, the sofa duvet will come out of hiding and I am ready for an autumn of creepy reading, as ever.

What will you be reading?


Saturday, 1 September 2018

Things I Read In August

Aaaaaand it's September now. I'm not sure how that happened, but here we are and it's basically autumn and just this last week I've been waking up before sunrise, and frankly, I am just not ready for this yet! August was pretty good- it started (more or less) with my sister's wedding, and ended (more or less) with my auntie's hen do because, you know, that's how my life is going this year. In between, I had a couple of Fridays off, one to go and visit my friends in Bristol (the best!) and one to make the most of the bank holiday and to actually see my boyfriend during it because of the aforementioned hen do, and whilst August felt like it was dragging in parts, I think mostly it was just long and full.

I also read some things, because of course I did. Observe:
Firstly, I just want to pat myself on the back for the spine colour complementing this month - it was completely unintentional but also looks really good, so go me. BUT ANYWAY, let's talk books!

French Milk by Lucy Knisley - I seem to be going through a little Knisley revival stage at the moment, or just, you know, I've been re-reading her comics a lot while I'm waiting for her next one (early next year!) This is her earliest (published) book and while I love it a lot, I miss the colour that's in her later stuff. This is still good good book though.

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante - I finally finished the Neopolitan novels and things did not go at all the way I expected, which I guess is kind of the way of life. THESE BOOKS ARE SO GOOD and I still don't know why and I still mean to write whole post about them, you know, some day or something *mumbles non-specifically*

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro - I have had this book on my shelves for the longest time, without any real inclination to read it for whatever reason (I think I didn't like the cover?) I've been having a bit of an Ishiguro revival over the last year or so, and in fact I now don't own any unread Ishiguros. This was good, too - a kind of a mystery, along with a dollop of self delusion, and the now to be expected thing where so much is unsaid that you have to fill in the gaps yourself. I think I've said before that this doesn't always work for me within his writing, but in this book, it really really did. Nice one, Kazuo.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff - OMG this book was so good. I do want to review this one because I've got it into my mad head that I'll review all of the 30 before 30 books I read (we'll see), but I will just say that I read Arcadia and liked it plenty, but THIS I loved and was engrossed by and transported and all those other good things you want from a book. 

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris - Another 30 before 30 book so 'I'll review it later' but this is a very very funny series of essays, even though I did at times sort of wish I was reading Amy Sedaris's essays instead because my GOD she sounds like a character. Very very funny stuff though, and I am here for it.

Paper Girls Vol 3 & 4 by Brian K Vaughan et al - I found these in the library which was very exciting because I remembered really enjoying the first two volumes when I read them last year. Unfortunately I didn't remember much about them, so jumping into volume 3 I was like 'o...kay?' but that didn't really detract from my enjoyment - it's just so nice to read comics where a group of girls are the main focus and even the people they encounter on their accidental time travelling adventures are, usually, women. Also, they're just fun and exciting and perilous and totally reminded me that I need to read the next instalment of Bitch Planet that's just been sitting around my house for ages (no one knows why, really). GOOD STUFF SMASH THAT PATRIARCHY (all male writers and artists...)

And that was August! I supplemented my reading with some yoga (at the start of the month at least, whoops) and the entire new season of Orange is the New Black, plus some Studio Ghibli films. I've also just started watching Sharp Objects and I am TENSE af, so that's obviously super fun!

What have you been reading/watching/enjoying this month?

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

30 Books You Should (Apparently) Read Before You Turn 30

As mentioned in my Sunday post, I have an aim and a goal and a purpose for life (ok maybe not that last bit) which is to read all of the books on the abovementioned list before I'm 30, which, I hate to admit, is less than 8 months away ahahaha how did I get so old please someone stop me.

I don't know exactly how I feel about such lists because AS IF there are even 30 books that all people need to read before they reach a certain age, but I'm always up for trying to complete a list of books even though I never knowingly have. This particular list, also, seems a little less high-minded than some of the '30 before 30' lists I've seen (am I actually ever going to read Siddharta or Ulysses? I am probably not) and so more achievable, you know, maybe.

Also I've already read nearly half and some of the other books I already own, so totally achievable! Yes!

Let's look at the list, shall we? You can find it here, in its original form, and also below with my commentary...

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams - I own this! I haven't read it to my complete SHAME. I agree with the list, it is time.

2. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - IT IS AMAZING and I am completely not against reading it again before I'm 30, if my friend ever gives me my copy back...

3. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin - I haven't read any Ursula K Le Guin but this sounds GREAT so I'm here for it

4. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai - I am 100% here for Malala's book

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - I also would read this again any time. Obviously.

6. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou - Done and done.

7. The Mothers by Brit Bennett - Another one I haven't heard of but I am also here for. There's a reason I want to complete this list, and it's because everything sounds GREAT

8. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris - I am ashamed to say that I haven't read any David Sedaris, but pleased to say that I do own this so yeah, I'm gonna read this for sure (and at last!) (read 28th August 2018)

9. Wild by Cheryl Strayed - I mean, duh. I love it, you should also read it before you're 30, or after.

10. Bossypants by Tina Fey - Yup.

11. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi - This sounds so tragic that I almost can't even, but I do want to so yeah.

12. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Very pleased that this made the list because it's excellent. I do have a couple of other books by her, so perhaps I shall read one of those instead of this one.

13. The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir - I own this already so I know how dense and challenging this is, so maybe this will turn into 29 before 30, but I want to give it another try!

14. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller - I have been meaning to re-read this for a long time since I read it when I was about 15 and didn't really understand things and stuff, so yeah.

15. The Rules do not Apply by Ariel Levy - I feel like I've heard about this and don't know much about it, but ONCE AGAIN, the description sounds great so I am also here for it.

16. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff - I own this! Hooray! I feel like I read something good about it and in a fit of passion (ooer) put it on my amazon wishlist where I believe Bex bought it for me, so thing I read that I can't remember, you'd better be right! *stern face* (Read 25th August 2018)

17. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas - I also own this! What could go wrong?!

18. The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien -  Eh, this is fine but I'm not sure it really deserves a place on this list. Just put all of Lord of the Rings on it, dammit (or, you know, not...)

19. Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates - I have, once again, not heard of this because I am an ill-educated swine, and once again it sounds pretty great.

20. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden -  This is, without question, one of my favourite ever books and a quick search just told me that I haven't even read it since I started blogging. THIS MUST CHANGE.

21. Slaugherhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut - I'm not overly enamoured with Vonnegut, but I have read this. It's fine.

22. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison - I haven't read any Toni Morrison, to my eternal shame, so this'll be a good way to kick me off and actually read the two books of hers I own as well.

23. One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul - Word.

24. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante - ALL THE PRAISE HANDS

25. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead - OK FINE I'll read an award winning book I guess, are you happy now?

26. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel - This is soooo very good - I can't remember if I ever reviewed it because I think I read it when I was doing my MA (oh wait, yes I did and no I didn't) but dystopia + Shakespeare = Dreamy.

27. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee - I have extra never heard of this, and just as much am convinced that it sounds great.

28. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - It's another one that I read ages ago but that is fabulous. AGH this is making me want to read AND re-read...

29. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion - Heartbreaking, beautiful, incredible writing - do I need to go on?

30. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett - Finishing off the list with another one... I've never heard of. Ann is pretty solid though, as I understand it, so what's the worst that can happen?

ISN'T IT A GOOD LIST?! I've got 8 months and 16 books to go - as long as I remember to read these exact books, what can go wrong? I think I"m going to come back to this page and update it when I've read books from it, and if you'd like you can come back and check my progress - 8th April 2019 is my cut off point, so I'll let y'all know if I've been successful after then!

Are you currently undertaking any book challenges?

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Sunday Sundries: A Coupla Things I'm Gonna Do

Good... ok, Afternoon, wow, and a happy Sunday one and all! I've had an interesting Sunday morning of waking up early and then falling asleep trying to read my book a couple of hours later, and then waking up THE GROGGIEST EVER, so here I am, waking myself up with blogging, and you are so welcome!

Here are some things I have been up to:

My sister's wedding was last Friday which was lovely and exhausting and I pretty much needed the next two days to recover from it, so in spite of my mild irritation that it was on a Friday (but my annual leeeeeave), in the end that turned out to be a good thing!

Workity work work. We're in a really busy phase at the moment which has been fine but also kinda tiring so I'm really glad that the next 3 weeks in a row are 4 day weeks (best feeling!) plus I have a week off (kinda) coming up in September which is obviously the actual best.

Yoga! I have been doing some! I don't even really know what has happened this past week (and it has just been this past week) but I guess that on Monday I got tired of not doing things and decided to... do a thing? This is partly because of one of my 30 before 30 goals to make my evenings more purposeful (and to do some kind of regular exercise!), I guess, but I really don't know where my specific motivation came from on Monday, and I'm pretty happy not to examine it too closely! The point is, yay yoga! I've been doing Yoga with Adrienne and have started off one of her 30 day challenges (if you're interested, I believe it's one from 3 years ago?) and omg I am so sore, but so pleased with myself for the 6 days IN A ROW I have already done (including after drinks with work friends on Wednesday, and before going round my friend's for dinner on Friday!)

Wow, that was a lot of talking about yoga, huh? I'm just REALLY PROUD OF ME OK?!

Moving swiftly onwards, let's talk about BOOK THINGS! I really do have a couple things I'm gonna do, and please allow me to tell you all about them.

Firstly, THE MINITHON is back for its... X number time and after X number of years, ok look it's the minithon so we like to keep things a little loosey goosey when it comes to numbers and stuff ok? The premise of the minithon is to keep things small (short books, short stories, stories with children in... it's pretty much 'make your own adventure' time) and tiny snacks are encouraged and also adorable. It's also mini in that it's 8 hours long, as opposed to the 24 hour readathon, and you can sign up here and why wouldn't you? Exactly.

FINALLY - From the start of this year, all I've been able to do is scream I'M GOING TO BE 30 NEXT YEAR in abject horror
(this, when I was a mere 28 years old). I think that realistically I'm actually ok with it, but it's fun to be dramatic about how ancient I am. What I also think is going to be fun is trying to complete this list  of 30 Books You Should Read Before You Turn 30 that I saw on Book Riot yesterday because yay book lists! I was just gonna whack the whole list in this post and then talk about it, but actually this has gotten pretty unwieldy so I think I'm going to make a whole new post for it I KNOW DON'T GET TOO EXCITED! Or do, I'm not the boss of you.

So yeah. Exciting book things and general life happening. Go me, and go you too! Please tell me about your week/month/year, I'll be thrilled to hear about it.