Sunday, 20 May 2018

Sunday Sundries: Where Have I Been?

Happy Sunday, everyone!

I guess the more usual title for this post would be 'where I have been' but honestly, I'm not even sure I could tell you. CONFUSING but there it is, May has gotten away from me somewhat- I have hardly read anything or, it seems, done anything, but it is nearly at its end now so like literally
what is happening.

Today is my dad's 60th birthday which is a BIG DEAL (Happy birthday papa!) so I at least I know where I'll be today- eating cake and hopefully sunning myself in my parents' back garden. As for the rest of it, let's do a little 'I have been' to try and work out where my damn month has gone (ok, fine, at least the first 19 days of it...)

Lately I have been...

Writing: OMG literally nothing. It's a little bit sad after my burst of creativity (or just... writing some words) at the start of the year, but I always knew this year was going to be weird and busy and weirdly busy so I'm pretty much just going with it at the moment. As you have seen, I apparently don't even have time to write a blog post (debatable) so any other extraneous writing has not been happening. HOWEVER I wrote to my friend the other day cause she was feeling down and needed a present, so I at least get good friend points I THINK.

Reading: Ok so also this month something weird is happening and I am just not finishing books! I feel as though I'm reading as much as ever (although I suspect I am not) but I have only read 3 books so far this month - hardly a crisis, but for me it's like wtf is happening?! I suspect the main problem here was my reading a Jonathan Safran Foer book that was deceptively long (I feel like I had an edition with really thin pages cause it has like 571 of the fuckers but looks the same length as like a 330 pager that I also managed to finish this month?) and expect to get back onto some kind of track soon, or something.

Listening: My answer to this is always pretty much the same cause I literally just listen to three podcasts. The other day I did listen to some music (Carole King - Tapestry) whilst walking home from my parents and it reminded me how nice it is just to zone out and walk and think about things, which I don't really do enough of these days.

Watching: Ok, so remember how I haven't been writing or reading much? I have watched 4 films in the last week, which may explain something about how I've been spending my time (see also: Kimmy Schmidt, which has made me understand something about me and Tina Fey, which I may share at some point or maybe also not). Quick rundown: Manchester by the Sea- completely heartbreaking and SO GOOD; Tully- very interesting and raises some pertinent points about motherhood; I, Daniel Blake- also VERY HEARTBREAKING; in a closer to home way than Manchester by the Sea; The Intern- not very good, but really could have been a lot better with some small changes? I was rooting for it, anyway. YAY for movies, and I feel as though I'm making the most of Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions at the moment.

Also, ask me this tomorrow and The Handmaid's Tale will be my everything again cause it's back tonight. CAN I EVEN COPE, not really!

Looking: At movies, I guess! I'm also looking at some creative things I want to do with myself and I will say no more about that because it is too revelatory and this is top secret stuff. HOW CRYPTIC, but not from you, dear internet.

Learning: How to schedule my time when there are a bajillion things to do. It turns out, planning ahead really helps! I basically have the next two weeks of my life fully planned out because there are quite a few things to fit in there so yes, this is going to be interesting!

Feeling: I'm feeling alright, you know? I feel like I've been kind of dreading wedding season because SO MUCH TO DO, and whilst that is true, it is also the case that I am my own worst enemy and tend to think things are going to be much worse than they actually are when I am living them. Case in point- yesterday I went somewhere that involved a bus and a train and a walk to get to, and in my brain that sounded like far too much effort but in practice it was actually fine and I had a great day.

In summary, shut up brain. Also I guess this could have easily gone in the learning section, huh?

Anticipating: Please see above: wedding season! I guess I've finally gotten to the point where it's more exciting than it is a chore- Hooray! I have a lot to look forward to the next few months, and I'm happy that that is the case.

Wishing: Oh I can't tell you about this one or it won't come true. But I am, more generally, wishing for good things for all because that is a cop out and a half.

Loving: This damn beautiful May weather we've been having! Maybe it is the movies that have stopped me from reading and blogging, or maybe, just maybe, it's all the beautiful May walks I've been going on because it's been so warm and lovely and just YES. I am basically a flower- I need the sun to LIVE.

So that is kind of me. In summary, been busy, not much time for internet. Except for Harry Potter game, which I am obviously obsessed with (even though it takes about a year to get anything done) and Pokemon Go because I am a child of the 90s, dammit.

How about you, my pretties? What have you been doing? Where have YOU been?

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Things I Read In April

Oh hai, May! Is it just me, or is this year being ridiculous? Like January was the longest month ever but that was basically yesterday and now suddenly it's May? It's probably just me, but, you know... Go home, 2018, you're drunk.

April was a bit of a dud month blogging wise which means, as it often does, that it was a FAB month, life-wise. I only had 11 days at work all month, and they were beautifully spread out, and consequently this is my first full week at work since (the week of) 19th March which is making it hard (and, as I write this, it's only Monday!) April though... it was filled with wonderful things and a whole new-to-me country, and HAMILTON and so much not-working (don't underestimate the sheer joy of not-working!) and ugh yes. JOY! It was a really good month, ya know?

The blogging may have been lacklustre (or just... lacking), but the reading was pretty good! There was definitely a gap in the middle where I was just doing All The Things except reading, but the readathon reaaaally boosted my numbers up and I ended up reading 10 books. Not too shabby, right?! Let's look at 'em:
Boooooks! I love 'em (duh)

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
In case you haven't been around here at all, I have a tiny (huge) obsession with the movie Call Me By Your Name. It's been in my life for less than 2 months but it's pretty much my first and last and everything right now. I am, at this moment, trying to decide if I have enough time to watch it tonight (answer: yes, but only if I finish this quickly) and that's pretty much just my life now. I held off from reading the book because there were some things about it that made me feel a bit uneasy, but realistically I held off for literally less than a month before reading it so, you know, obsession time is weird. The book is pretty good- the film is faithful to much of it- but I couldn't help but feel like I was just experiencing a much lesser version of the film. I actually wrote a blog post about this but became too lazy to type it (yup) so perhaps one day you will know all of my thoughts, or perhaps I will keep my overthinking obsessive mind to myself, who can say.

N-W by Zadie Smith
Oh Zadie, Zadie, Zadie. I know that this book was good, I just can't remember all that much about it. Its split into 4 parts (I remember that much), each focusing on a different character living in N-W London. One of the sections is set up really interestingly with a character's life story told in tiny snippets, and I just really enjoyed the level of introspection that was happening. Basically, this is definitely Zadie Smith-good... I'm just going to have to read it again to work out exactly how!

Relish by Lucy Knisley 
I love Lucy Knisley. Have I ever mentioned that before? (Yes) This was my very first re-read of the year, basically just because it was nearly my birthday and this was exactly what I wanted to read? So I did. It remains as wonderful as ever, and I intend, as ever, to make all of the recipes included in it, someday. MOST EXCITINGLY Knisley put the cover of her new book on Instagram today, and February 2019 can't come soon enough!

The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami
Hmmm... This book was strange. I mean, it's Japanese fiction so of course it's strange, but as well as being just regular strange, this was kind of strange in terms of storytelling. It's supposed to be a love story, and it is, kind of, but it felt to me that everything hung together really weirdly, which is to say, it didn't at all, really. I think I did like it as I was reading it, which is something, but I also don't think it was that great now? All of this makes complete sense, right?

Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
I chose to read this book as my holiday read because I'm a super fun chick BUT ALSO because I bought it not long before and couldn't bear to not be reading it anymore. This book is fabulous, but more than fabulous, it felt like I was reading something that was really important. Something that I, as a white person, definitely needed to read, and something that other white people, but also just other people need to read. Eddo-Lodge is incredibly honest and doesn't pull any punches while talking about the way race is perceived and treated by a variety of groups and in a variety of mediums. I really can't overemphasise how much I want everyone to read this, but more than that, how important I think it is that they do. DO IT.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
This is a book that, given too much time to think about it, I'm not going to think is very good. It's not a masterpiece, it's a bestseller - but what that means is that it's immensely readable and entertaining and omg so upsetting, I'm not going to lie. I read the majority of this on the flight back from Naples, and it made it go SO QUICKLY, so there's that for a start. Eleanor Oliphant is an outsider of epic proportions, and after growing up in care is literally incapable of forming relationships with other people. After she finds the love of her life (who she has never spoken to), she undergoes a journey of great changes that eventually lead her to see the parts of her that really need changing. You know what? This is entertaining as hell, and how else do you make a flight go super quick? Bestsellers are it, ya know?

The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield-Fisher
THIS BOOK WAS AWESOME and I'm going to write something fuller about it if I can. For now, though, this is a book about how stupid gender roles are, and how difficult they are to overcome (especially in the 1920s, when it was written). Although this was written in the 20s, there were parts that felt incredibly relevant to now, even, and it made me wonder how far we've really come in terms of thinking beyond gender (answer: not very) and AGH it just made me think about so much, it is so good. Persephone Books, you guys- they're always great!

At Home by Bill Bryson
Oh hey, I reviewed this yesterday (aka I just wrote this title and realised that I really had to review it now or never). It's Bill Bryson, what more is there to say? Everything he does is perfect, even if I didn't know I cared about the thing he was writing about until he was writing about it. It's brill, basically. BRILL.

Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown
I bought this book last year at the Oxford Bookshop Crawl, because, I figured, how could a book about Tetris and its history be bad? Bad this wasn't, but great? It also wasn't. I didn't really love the drawing style, just for a start, but for me the problem was really that I didn't actually find the story of the origins of Tetris that... Interesting? There's a lot of Russian government officials and rich white men and deals that I didn't quite get (not, I think, because I'm stupid but because they weren't very well explained). I found the stuff about the science behind why Tetris is so addictive fascinating though, but overall I would probably rather have spent the couple of hours playing Tetris than reading this.

Obama: An Intimate Portrait by Pete Souza
I feel a bit cheeky counting this as a book when it's mainly (fabulous) photos, but hey it's my blog (and I'll cry if I want to). This book is wonderful, and was quite literally 8 years in the making- it's kind of a compilation of the best photos taken by Souza, the official White House photographer, over the entire Obama presidency. It also does what it says on the tin- it provides a very intimate portrait of Obama and his presidency, both photographically, but also through Souza's insight into Obama's life and work. This insight isn't overbearing, but it is there, and brings something a little extra to all of these amazing images that he managed to capture. For reals this is a great coffee table book, and so much more than I was hoping it would be.

And that was the month in reading! I liked it, it was pretty good, although still not as good as the month in life. I just love April so much, you guys.



Monday, 30 April 2018

Devouring Books: At Home by Bill Bryson

I really have to thank blogging for introducing me to Bill Bryson. To be honest, I really have to just thank Alley, without whom Bryson may just have been 'that guy who wrote that good book about Shakespeare that one time' (his Shakespeare biography IS really good, to be fair). I love Bill SO MUCH, and I'm really just trying to slowly work my way through his works for fear of running out of them too fast.

At Home, I have also been putting off because it's SO LARGE. It's too big to carry anywhere, so for pretty much all of April it's been my at home (ha ha) book while I've been whizzing through the smaller books I take on the bus. If I have one complaint (and I'll get it out of the way so I can talk about all of the great things!) it's that there's not all that much Bryson personality in this book. He's not being super grumpy because he's truly fascinated (I think) by everything he's discovering, but also because, I guess, this is typical of his history/science/research-y books as opposed to his travelogues which are about his travels, and ok, I withdraw my complaint.

SO! At Home is a short history of the home throughout the ages. This book is thorough- Bryson pretty much goes from pre-history all the way through to the Victorian times (I think the assumption is that from the 20th Century onwards, we've pretty much been living as we do now, which is both true and not, I guess) and basically how the home became the home. I learnt so much from this book, most of which I've already forgotten, but like for example did you know that comfort wasn't really a thing for people until at least the 1700s and no one had sofas and OMG can you even imagine the horror of a life in the not-now times? Me neither.

This book has a really good mixture of famous architects/furniture designers/politicians (Monticello sounds pretty amazing) and their lives/contributions to the home, as well as the histories of famous buildings, and then just the general social history of how people used to live, and how technological advances made huge differences to peoples lives that we can hardly even envisage. I was just so damn interested by everything in this book, just like I always am about things in Bryson's books, even if I'd never really thought about them before. I mean, I love me a bit of architecture, but did I think I wanted to know about toilets in olden times? I didn't- but I did! I'm pretty sure Bill Bryson could make me interested in pretty much anything, and I hope he wields this power responsibly.

So. If you want to know more about the history of the home, read this. If you don't think you want to know more about the history of the home, but are unable to resist Bill's spell, also read this. Basically, you should probably just read this because Bill Bryson is a master of non-fiction and did you know how damn INTERESTING everything is? Because it is, dammit!

Saturday, 28 April 2018

24 Hour Readathon 2018 - A Rogue Entry!

Update 2: 11:00am-ish, Hour 23 (?)(!)
Hi Readathoners! If you have not yet slept, I am in AWE of you, if you're a part timer like me, then good morning, I hope you had a good rest! After updating last night, I read A WHOLE (comic) BOOK! Go me and whatnot! I went to sleep late-ish, and woke up early-ish, so I have also had time this morning to read some Haruki Murakami short stories from Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, so that's obviously the best. I'm going to shower now, and make lunch for my lovely boyfriend before he has to go back to work after more than two weeks off (the poor kid), which I suspect will leave little to no time for reading, so I will leave you all here. I hope you've had an awesome readathon, and I'm sure I'll see you back here for the autumn one!

Books Read From: 4
Books Finished: 3
Pages Read: 580 (actually impressed with myself!)
Currently Eating: Nothing, but I did have a bagel for breakfast
Currently Drinking: Also nothing, but I've had some squash this morning
Main Distractions: Sleeping, and now having to do life things SIGH.


Update 1: 9:00pm-ish, Hour... 9? I guess?
Hello and greetings all! I'm sure you're all much more tired than I, for I have leisurely finished two books... that I have been in the middle of for ages. Indecision on a new book has led me here for a brief update, by way of instagram and facebook and... You get the idea.

I have had a dinner of snacks and am now munching on some Percy Pigs, so this is really turning out to be a great afternoon/evening for me, as readathons tend to do. I hope y'all are doing alright, especially those of you in upsetting time zones, and remember to take lots of breaks and please read responsibly. Please recommend me a book to read before I go to sleep cause aghhhhh book indecision, it is killing me!

Books Read From: 2
Books Finished: 2
Pages Read: 262 (not bad eh!)
Currently Eating: Percy Pigs (Percy's Personalities, to be specific)
Currently Drinking: Strawberry and Kiwi Rubicon
Main Distractions: That new Harry Potter game, and just general internet stuffs.

THE START
Happy Saturday, and happy readathon day everyone! This is indeed a rogue entry into the readathon as I have realised (and checked) that I haven't signed up at all (good going, me), I guess because I was planning to do other things with this Saturday but hey, it's cold and threatening rain outside so is there anything better to do than a readathon? I think not.

It is, I realise, 3 hours in to the readathon (I feel SO weird about starting late, I literally never have before!) but I had lunch and a wander with my fella earlier and I'm now ready for bed and laying and reading because PERFECT LIFE, you know? I have a cupcake, I have, for starters, two books that I want to finish, let's get this thing done. I'm planning to pretty much go to bed at normal time and I may or may not read a lot tomorrow, but this afternoon and evening are mine for the reading.

I'll start with the opening survey, shall I?

1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I'm in gloomy Surrey, England, which is generally fine but this time last week I was reading in the sun in Naples so kind of wishing I was back there for this/anything!

2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
I DON'T HAVE A STACK, I know right, this is not how one readathons, but it is when it's a little off the cuff! I have two books that I want to finish, At Home by Bill Bryson (I'm so near the end of this beast!) and The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, and after that who knows! It could go anywhere!

3. Which snack are you most looking forward to?
We got cupcakes on our trip out so, yeah. Mmmm cupcake...

4. Tell us a little something about yourself!
Ummm... I've been playing Pokemon Go all day and CAUGHT A MOLTRES THIS MORNING! Sorry that I am so 2016.

5. If you participated in the last readathon, what is one thing you'll do differently today?
I guess I'll be starting later? I also have less snacks prepared, but still a ton of easter chocolate in the house so that's all good. But other than that, I'll be taking it pretty easy, and mainly reading a lot!

So yeah, that's what's going on with me! I'm not sure how much I'll be updating this to be fair, but I'm planning to instagram a fair bit so please find me there! (I'm @LauraRowsell because my creativity knows no bounds). Happy readathon, everyone, and keep going! You're doing GREAT!

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

30 Before 30, Plus Where I've Been

Hi, howdy, how are you all doing? It's been a while, huh? I hope you've all been having marvellous Aprils, which, now that I mention it, is pretty much the reason I haven't been around these parts too much.

To be completely fair, it's not all because of wonderful things. April started off, not only with Easter (y'know, CHOCOLATE) but also with a really disgusting, lingering cold that refused to go away no matter what I did. For about a week and a half I lived on Vicks Vaporub and Lemsip, and even had a particularly pleasant couple of days where I lost my sense of smell completely. My birthday (which was lovely!) ended with a drink of lemsip rather than wine, and needless to say, I didn't have the inclination, or energy, to blog or think or do anything much except watch Peep Show and feel sorry for myself.

Anyway. Things picked up and I'm now at the end of a gorgeous 12 day holiday from work (blubber) and a wonderful 5 day holiday in Italy (weep) and from seeing HAMILTON and everything has been great, basically. All of these things deserve more detail, and all in good time, my good friends, but lets back up and return, for a moment, to my birthday. I mainly got Euros and Glittery Doc Martens, and my boyfriend also got me GIANT and EXCITING books which was fab and also I want to read them at all times. It has been a tradition, around these parts, to do an X age before X age list for such an occasion because, well, life goals are fun and yay. I have decided (I think) that this list will be my last, not because one should stop having goals after 30, but more because it was enough of a struggle to make a list this long this year, let alone next! I have added an extra goal, for posterity, and although I haven't been the best at even remembering I have such a list in recent years, I really want to work at completing- or getting close to completing- this final one.

Which brings me to the list itself. Observe:

1. Learn how to ride a bike (and end my enduring shame)
2. Dye my hair a silly colour (while I'm still young enough to get away with it!)
3. Leave the country
4. Get another tattoo
5. Start doing some kind of regular exercise
6. Watch all the Studio Ghibli films 
7. Do Veganuary
8. Open a joint account (because, grown up)
9. Read War and Peace
10. Make (at least) 5 pretty things
11. Read 100 books (what better way to spend the last year of my 20s?!)
12. Be the best bridesmaid I can be (twice!)
13. Dedicate more time to writing to people
14. Do NaNoWriMo
15. Start saving some money every month
16. Become a lifetime member of the Prince Charles Cinema
17. Watch all of the Greta Gerwig films
18. Watch Six Feet Under (it's time)
19. Go to the zoo
20. Visit Bristol
21. Visit somewhere new in England
22. Eat at a vegan diner
23. Make (most of) my evenings more purposeful- make the most of my evenings (pretty much: because I haven't been, but I want to)
24. Swim in the sea this summer
25. Add 5 new dishes to my repertoire
26. Get outside lots this summer even though I don't have a garden
27. Get outside lots this winter, even though it's cold!
28. See a dentist (Regularly!)
29. Start donating blood again
30. Enjoy the heck out of the last year of my 20s!

I really think this is maybe the most achievable list I've written, and I've already made plans for parts of it, which is great! I mean, I've already done the leaving the country one, and that's my favourite one!

What are you planning to do this year, and how is your nearly-over April going?

Monday, 2 April 2018

Things I Read In March

March! Twas the month without chocolate, defined mostly by anticipation- anticipation for being able to eat what I want again, but mostly anticipation for the BEST PLANS in April. Picture this: I don't have a full week of work in April, the coming week of 4 days is my longest work week in April. I've got, in date order: a day with my best friend, a Studio Ghibli cinema trip, my birthday, HAMILTON and Naples all to do this month. Is it any wonder that I basically just wanted March to be OVER?

I think March knew that, and made me see it out with a cold. THANKS, MARCH. *coughs and sneezes and uses like 50 tissues an hour*

Reading though! I did a load of it in March, although it feels like I didn't dedicate that much time to it, other than on Good Friday where I basically read all day. March has mainly been spent watching Call Me By Your Name because I have ISSUES, so it should be no surprise that I bought the book on the last day of the month. Expect me to have read it by the end of April, cause I can barely contain myself. In March, though, I read the following:
PLUS another book on my Kindle! Which obviously I needed because 10 wasn't enough...

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
I pretty much wanted to read this because both Lena Dunham and Greta Gerwig cited it as an inspiration for their work, and having read it, I fully get it. The Dud Avocado follows a woman who doesn't follow rules, who barely knows who she is or what the hell she's doing, which is completely a thing in women led narratives today (and I love it) but which must have been fairly revolutionary in the 50s when (I believe) this was written. Basically this is the book version of everything I like in TV and movies at the moment as a 20-something woman who doesn't know what she's doing like, at all, so of course I loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
As already reviewed, I found this book pretty meh. I wanted to love it, and admired its attempts at talking about philosophy and art and other things that I like, but oh man, it could have been so much better.

Jane Austen: The Secret Radical by Helena Kelly
This book was so goooood. I am looking at all of the books I've read this month, and all of them honestly deserve full on reviews, but this one was especially interesting and compelling, especially for literary criticism. The premise of this book is that Jane Austen has hidden various political and sociological issues in each of her novels, and whether or not I believe that's the case (it's a... maybe, from me), Kelly's arguments are airtight, and utterly convincing. This book is worth reading if you're even a little bit interested in lit crit, Austen, or 18th-19th Century social issues (yep, I said it).

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide
I... Don't even remember this book, if I'm honest. I know there was a guy and his wife and a cat and... Honestly, I don't really know. I'm sure it was fine, but in a month so packed with reading, it sort of blended into the background. Side note: I made a real effort to read lots of ladies this month, so the fact that this was forgettable and by a man makes me oddly... gleeful. *feminist cackles*

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
I read this in anticipation of the film, which came out this month (it was only ok), and I really liked it. I get that it's a children's book, so I read it with that in mind, not expecting it to contain any really deep messages- which it didn't, really, but that's fine! I was in love with the girl heroine, I loved the Mrs Ws and it managed to be exciting and adventurous and then kind of moving at the end. Basically, I'm glad I have found it because would I like my super imaginary children to read this? Yes. Yes I would.

Girl Up by Laura Bates
My excellent friend Bex bought this for me for Christmas, and I LOVE IT. Just as a start, the endpapers are filled with dancing vaginas, but this book is a lot more interesting than that. It's pretty much aimed at teens, which means that there were parts that I didn't really feel were relevant to me, but I could be one step removed from that and just marvel at how useful this book really could be. It's not the book I need, but it's kind of the book I wish I'd written, in many ways. It should, I think, be recommended reading for all teens, all women who may need it, and ok, yeah, shall we say all people, just to be on the safe side? Ok, good.

Bad Girls Throughout History by Ann Shen
Oh hey, I managed to review this too! This was honestly too fabulous, I'm desperate for Shen to write about a million more books (and I'm in luck, at least a little, cause her new book is out this month!) and YAY women (the theme for this month, ya know?)

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
I've got to get this off my chest- I hate when books are written in dialect. This book was moving and really depicted the struggle of an African-American woman with a dearth of choices in the early 20th Century. I get why it's a classic, and the end is SO SAD. But my god, the dialect. THE DIALECT. It was pretty off putting, especially at the start, and I did kind of get used to it- I just didn't like it.

Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh
This book was fabulous. I love books written about food that aren't strictly recipe books (although I like those too) and this one really rivalled Nigel Slater's food writing for me, which trust me, is the highest praise. Tandoh's mission, I think, is to make people love food, to not feel bad about what they choose to eat but to appreciate food for what it does for us- not just physically, but mentally. To not feel bad for eating junk food occasionally, but to understand that we ate it because it's what we needed, at that time. To never feel guilty, in fact, for eating exactly what we want, in a world which tells us to do the exact opposite. This book is pretty much a call to arms to defend eating what we want, and baby, I'm ready to join that army.

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
Maybe Eat Up! had a lingering effect on me, but I sort of hated this book, which amounted, pretty much, to a fat shaming piece of crap. I'm not sure why I bought this after my bleugh feels about We Need To Talk About Kevin (must have been a kindle daily deal), but this book, which was basically a sister talking about how fat her brother was for pages and pages and pages. We get it, Lionel, morbid obesity is a big (ha) problem, but my GOD. The message is pretty much as drawn out as possible in this book. Let's just never speak of this again, because it really didn't have anything interesting to say.

Lamb by Christopher Moore
I wanted to read this for Easter Week because sometimes I like to theme my reading, and it was a solid choice. The idea of the book is that Christ's bestie (who isn't really mentioned in the Bible?) has been brought back from the dead to tell the New Testament story from his perspective. It's not the tale as we know it, but it manages to stay weirdly respectful (in this more-or-less atheist's opinion) to the story of Christ, just with an added 30 years or so in between. It's funny and actually an interesting interpretation of Jesus's 'lost years', and Biff (Jesus's bestie) is a super charismatic guy. I liked it a lot, basically, and enjoyed that I finished it on Good Friday because, you know, relevant.

I'm so sorry, that was such a long reading month! But a pretty good one, as you can see. Lest I forget, the Monthly Motif challenge though! The prompt for April is Read Locally - Read a book set in your country, state, town, village (or has a character from your home town, country etc). I have chosen (drumroll please):
At Home by Bill Bryson! It's a history of the home, essentially, and mostly based in England so pretty much fits the criteria we're looking for here. I did start reading this in March, which I'm sure breaks some kind of rules or something but I don't caaaaaare! I'm liking it so far, which is a good sign that I'm going to want to read all of the 600+ pages (oy vey, Bill).

And that is me, sorry I stole all of your life there. How about you? What did you read in March?

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Devouring Books: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

The Elegance of the Hedgehog has been lurking on my shelves for years and years. I can't even remember buying it (although that's the case with many of my books if I'm being completely honest), and I have even lent it to a friend since owning it and GOTTEN IT BACK (this never happens- either the lending or the getting it back!) Still, I only read it as my Monthly Motif book for March, and after all this time, what did I think?

...Meh.

In many ways, it's like The Elegance of the Hedgehog was written for me. It's about feeling like a misfit because you appreciate art and philosophy and books, and to some extent about those things too. The book has two narrators- a concierge of a Parisian apartment building, who hides her intellectual leanings from her more 'learned' neighbours; and a depressed 12 year old who is, to her mind, too smart to live, and plans to kill herself on her 13th birthday. Yeah.

There are good things about this book. I like the idea of learning for yourself, and then keeping that learning (mostly) to yourself- the idea of knowledge for it's own sake is pretty appealing to me, the person who took Japanese lessons for no real reason. I also really like the Japanese neighbour (you will know what I'm talking about if you've read this, I reckon), and I had no problem getting through it. I feel as though I'm struggling to find nice things to say about it, even though as I was reading it, I was having a pretty good time! I think that distance has made me, well. A little eye-rolly about it all.

Here's the thing. This book has a character who is TWELVE but wants to die cause the world is so, like prosaic and no one is smart enough for her and I don't know, probably other reasons. I had a hard time relating to her, not because suicide isn't a serious thing to deal with, but because SHE'S TWELVE. I had a hard time believing in her death wish, not even really because of her age, but because her 'reasons' were a little ridiculous. Try living a little, then come and see me, ok hun?

My other issue with the book is its pace. It clearly sets up the concierge and the teen as counterparts, misunderstood in different ways but both equally as intelligent. IT TAKES SO LONG TO GET THEM TOGETHER, and by then the book is basically over and so we don't really get to see their relationship grow. The ending annoyed me, but what especially annoyed me was that it assumes a deeper relationship between the two than we actually see happen in the book. Had they hung out more throughout the novel, I feel as though I would have been touched deeper, and it would have better achieved what (I think) it sets out to do.

Basically, this book was fine. It just wasn't great. I probably could have picked a whole load of other books for this month's challenge theme (and, in fact, I think I've read a few that meet the 'other country' criteria!) but hey, it gets another book of my shelves, right? Right.