Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Devouring Films: Out of Africa

Or, The Most Romantic Thing I've Ever Heard

This isn't going to be strictly a review of Out of Africa, because I've seen it a grand total of once, and that was three and a half years ago(ish). What I'm saying is, I don't really remember much about it, apart from that there was this one character who said 'my waters have turned black' which made me HORRIFIED that such a disease could exist, and there was also a supremely awkward sex scene between Meryl Streep and Robert Redford that to this day can still make Frances and I giggle for AGES just at the mention of it.*

Anyway. The fact that I don't remember much about the story isn't important, because there's one more bit that I do remember and, as I have implied above, it's pretty much the most romantic thing I've ever heard. And it's not romantic in a disgusting, cutesy, annoying way, it's romantic in a way that appeals directly to me and my entire way of being. So, towards the end of the film, after Robert and Meryl have spent some time apart (don't ask me why, don't ask me if they end up together, I HAVE NO IDEA) he goes to see her, and he says:
"You've ruined it for me, you know... Being alone."
 Here's why this is so romantic to me: I love being alone. Being alone is pretty much my favourite state,  and much as there are other people I like (it's good to know I'm not a robot person, correct?) and much as I do like spending time with them, I do always need to spend some time alone after spending time with a lot of people because it's exhausting to me. I'm a classic introvert, is basically what I'm saying. So yeah, I like being with people, but I also like being alone, but to find someone I like so much that being alone would become an undesirable state? Well, I kind of want that.

There's also this love letter that Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote to his wife**, where he says, along similar lines,
"Thou art the only person in the world that ever was necessary to me. Other people have occasionally been more or less agreeable; but I think I was always more at ease alone than in anybody's company, till I knew thee. And now I am only myself when thou art within my reach."
I just... Isn't that the best thing ever? To be like 'hmm, people are ok' and then find a person who is necessary to you? Who becomes the one person you can't even imagine living without, and who changes you so that, instead of being happiest alone, you're happiest when they're near? I want that! Everyone wants that, I guess, but these are the two places where I've best heard it expressed, or at least that have stuck with me for the longest.

So, I don't really know if you should watch Out of Africa or not, but I do know the way I want to be in love someday. That's much better, right? Right.

*I tried really hard to find this sex scene for you on youtube, but it's not there. If you can find it, I commend you. And giggle.
**Of course I own a book called Love Letters of Great Men. Of COURSE it was a Sex and the City movie tie-in. I feel no shame about this!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Sunday Sundries: Bits and Bobs

Guys, it's Sunday and I move in a week and I should probably be packing and so I'm giving you bullet points today. It's fine, you'll love it.

  • Apart from packing/pretending to pack/looking at all my books, sighing and then laying down again, my life has become consumed by Breaking Bad. Ridiculously so, since it takes up 46 minutes of my week (75 minutes starting tomorrow) but for all of Monday I was in the worst mood because of it, and any time I've thought about it this week, I could honestly cry. If this seems like a ridiculous response to a TV programme then shut up, I don't need you in my life.
  • I've started using Bloglovin to read ze blogs so that *whispers* I can read some posts at work, and also because it's just generally more convenient to read them on my phone than my computer, most of the time. BUT- I am having issues commenting on blogs that use disqus or just general blogger commenting (wordpress and intense debate are fine) on my phone, and I don't know whyyyy. Technical help would be appreciated here, guys!

  • I went to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert yesterday and it was HIlarious and also I need all the costumes, but then there was a really racist bit that made me feel kind of uncomfortable... If you've seen the movie, you'll probably know which bit I mean, but I was like... Really? It felt like a very outdated version of humour to me, but there you go. Other than that though? It really was a lot of fun.
  • Alley is hosting a readalong of The Corrections in October (so, like, in a week) and you should all read it with us whilst we mock Franzen but also hopefully enjoy his words..? We shall see!
Either way, there'll be gifs like these, so it'll be all good.
  • In other blog goodness, there's still time to sign up for the Halloween Ninja Book Swap hosted by Bex and Hanna- send a book, get a book. It's alllllll good!
  • Speaking of moving (like I did, like, 50 bullet points ago. Try to keep up.) I'm actually fairly pleased with myself for posting two reviews this week because WHUT I have spent basically no time blogging (I just turned my computer on Thursday night and spouted shit about Fangirl, basically). I can't promise I will keep this up because obviously I have to pack all my things, and less obviously, I'm reading The Girl Who Had Things And Did Things Trilogy by Steig Larsson and have decided to review them all in one post, so... This could take some time. Also this feels like a stupid move when there are like 2000 pages or something to review. Oh well.
Phew, that was a lot of bullet points! Did everyone make it out to the other side ok? Good. I am unsure about whether I'm going to do a Sunday Sundries next week because Sunday is ACTUAL MOVING DAY (OMG) but it would just basically go 'packed all week. Took days off work to pack. Moving today' and oh look I just wrote that so no need for another post next week! Or... we'll see.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Devouring Books: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

"'How do you not like the internet? That's like saying 'I don't like things that are convenient. And easy. I don't like having access to all of mankind's recorded discoveries at my fingertips. I don't like light. And knowledge.''"

I finished Fangirl two days after I bought it on my Kindle, and that was only because I didn't have much time to read on one of those days because, social life. That was a week ago, and I still don't know how to talk about it without squealing about how much I loved it because my GOD I really did and also have I mentioned lately that Rainbow Rowell is the actual best and I love her? Because that's about as useful as I'm going to be in this review, to be honest.

Ok, no. Actual words. So Fangirl is excellent, and it's excellent in ways that I didn't even expect it to be. If I'm honest, I expected to love it in the general way that I'm always going to love a Rainbow Rowell book (I assume!) but maybe to feel less connected to it in the way I did to, say, Attachments, or to Eleanor in Eleanor and Park because I don't really know anything about being a fangirl. Or, at least, I don't know anything about being a fangirl where I share all those thoughts with everyone on the internet- I've been pretty good at being a Les Miserables fangirl this year, for example, but that was mostly in my own brain.
Does being obsessed with one dude also count as being a fangirl? Cause if so, I get it!

BUT. Whilst I might have been expecting to be less into this book than her others, I was so completely wrong about that, and that's really all down to Rowell. Here's the deal with Fangirl- it IS about a total Fangirl (Cath- she's really really into these 'Simon Snow' books and writes fan fiction where the hero is in love with his mortal enemy- the Simon Snow books bear a striking resemblance [kind of] to the Harry Potter books, and Rowell is a fan of Harry/Draco...) but it goes so far beyond her life as a fangirl that it stays readable for, I think, even people who don't use the internet that much,* and definitely for people who wouldn't really consider themselves fangirls.

Midway update: We've established there's more to this book than the title.
I'll say some more things about it, shall I? Just as a personal thing, Fangirl really hits some of my soft spots- a 'going away to college' (or just any new situation) narrative, Cath is a TWIN and twins have kind of been my favourite since that time I read Sweet Valley High all the time**, and there's an adorable boy character. I can't be too clear on this point- Levi is FANTASTIC and I love him and I want to go live on a ranch with him and raise cattle and babies and I DON'T EVEN EAT MEAT (or babies. But that's beside the point.) Really the only disappointment I have about Fangirl is that Levi doesn't exist so I can't make him mine. Hmph.

And then, there's Cath. I love Cath. You kiiind of have to love Cath if you're going to read Fangirl, because it's all from her point of view, but I really really love her. The thing I love most about her is that, even though certain things are expected of her as a freshman in college (i.e. she's supposed to be a wild partier) she has literally no interest in bowing to the things she's 'supposed' to do, and pretty much does what she wants. And yeah, some of this comes from the anxiety disorder she's dealing with (trying to deal with) but even without that- she doesn't want to go to parties. She's not very concerned about making friends. And that's a perfectly valid choice for her to make and everyone doesn't have to be all social all the time, ok?!
And this being a Rainbow Rowell book, Cath is dealing with things apart from her anxiety that I won't tell you about because spoilers, but they bring juuust enough sadness to counteract Levi's cuteness, but not so much that I wanted to die, and THAT is the perfect amount. Also being a Rainbow Rowell book, some of the sentences were so awesome I could have cried. Seriously, here are a few:
"'The Triangle House!' Courtney said. She said it the same way you'd say 'the Playboy Mansion!' if you were a total D-bag."
"The squirrels on campus were beyond domestic; they were practically domestically abusive." 
"Levi's eyebrows were pornographic."
And just, kind of, all the rest of the words? Yes, those.

And then there are the fangirl bits, and, rather than excluding those who don't really know what fangirling is all about, they seem deliberately inclusive- since they're centred around a fictional series (that, actually, I would definitely read) it's not like a massive amount of prior knowledge is expected, AND they fit in with the plot in interesting and unexpected ways- Cath, for example, has written about love so much in her fanfiction, but is woefully unprepared when it happens to her, but it's all ok. It's about the limits of existing in a mainly fictional universe, but is always respectful of the incredible amount of work that (sometimes) goes into writing fanfiction.

It's also about a lot of other things- feeling like a fish out of water, feelings of abandonment, growing apart from a sibling, finding friendship and love in unexpected places, finding yourself and so so so many other things- and each of these things is handled so well, and with real thought and in an awesome writing style. Do I have to say it again? I LOVED this book, I would kind of have babies with it, and if you're holding off reading this because you're scared you might not like it as much as Attachments or Eleanor and Park, then DON'T BE because it's awesome. I promise you. Now go and read it. Now.

*Do these people exist? And WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM?!
**Ages 9-15

Monday, 16 September 2013

Devouring Books: The Kid by Sapphire

Remember when that film Precious came out and it got nominated for loads of Oscars and was totally critically acclaimed and I watched it and cried all over my face and was fairly grateful I'd watched it alone?* Well, that film was based on a book- Push by Sapphire (which I also read around the same time) and The Kid is the sequel to that book/the film. I'm glad we got that sorted and also can you tell that I'm stalling here because I sort of don't want to talk about this book so much? Because that's what's really going on here.

Ok, so. I really liked Push- it's written in a really interesting way, to show Precious's growing literacy and empowerment and all sorts of things like that, and above all, it leaves you with a sense of hope- that, even if bad things happen to you, even if some of the WORST things happen to you, you're still allowed to do everything you can to rise above all of those bad things (to Push your way out of them, if you will). So, it's horrible but there's kind of a purpose to the horror, and it at least doesn't leave you feeling like you want to die (or at least not so much...)

The Kid, on the other hand, starts with Precious's death (oh yeah) and goes rapidly downhill from there. Before I even start, I really have to emphasise how upsetting Precious's death is- all you want when you read Push is for her (and her child, Abdul, the kid of the title) to be ok, to escape the ridiculously horrible circumstances of her upbringing and live a long happy life. She dies when she's 27, so yeah. It's horrible. What's really clear from the outset is that she's raised an intelligent, curious, fairly sweet nine-year-old boy, and even though she's dead before the book even begins, her influence is clear in him, at least to begin with.

So it's all... Not good, but at least bearable, until Abdul gets taken into care and everything turns to shit. At every single facility charged with his care, he's failed by all authority figures, he gets beaten, raped, all the possible bad things, and he spends his first years of puberty being raised by Catholic priests who very much conform to the popular image of Catholic priests these days (child rapists, that is). And it's SO horrible, and there's a whole thing about how he's being redeemed by dance, but I was still trying not to throw up after his great grandma explained her rape as a 10 year old so I kind of missed that bit.

Here's the thing about this book, though. While with Push I very much felt emotionally connected to Precious, and while there were bits that were shocking, they had a purpose- showing the things that Precious has to overcome to become who she wants to be, with The Kid... it was really difficult to feel connected to Abdul because of the things that he does. The whole theory behind this book is that abuse begets abuse, I think, but when that means that Abdul rapes a child because he thinks that's the only way to show his love... I just don't know what to do with that. Because he's smart, and he knows what he's doing, and I just... That is SO not what Precious would have wanted him to become, and it kind of hurts to read.

But it more than hurts to read, it's gross, and to very little purpose, it seems. There's no situation I can imagine where a great-grandma would tell her great-grandson about the time she was raped (in detail) and, I mean, does Abdul have to be raped in every situation of care he's in? Is that really that likely? I mean, stop me if I'm being truly naive about the care situation in New York City, but it has to be better than that, surely? And yes, I understand it's for, you know, dramatic emphasis, but does that mean it has to be so graphic and horrible and just... hopeless? Are difficult situations only escapable for a tiny amount of time before you have to return to them? Am I ever going to stop asking questions?

Basically, I don't even know how I made it to the end of this book, and I have a feeling I only finished it to go 'DON'T read this, but you can definitely read Push, or, at least just watch Precious.' Because Precious had a lot of the same things to say, but did it in a more concise, less horribly disturbing and much less hopeless way, and The Kid was just not a pleasant experience in any way. Which I realise it wasn't supposed to be, but that didn't make it any better to read.

*You definitely don't remember my part in this, because it was pre-blog. Otherwise, I would have had to write a post immediately, going ZOMG EMOTIONS.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Sunday Sundries: Please Let Me Send You A Book And Save Me From Myself

This is what it's like in my brain when I think about the fact that I'm going to have to move 600 books into an attic room.
It's not pretty, but it does got character.

Anyway. The point is, I've been both thinking about packing and sorting things out this week (sorting things out=looking through all my books, sighing, then putting most of them back. No actual packing has been involved.) and basically I've weeded out a fair few books that I probably don't need to desperately cling to. Of course, there's a certain amount of guilt attached to this process (I LOVE YOU BOOKS, I'M SO SORRY) and to make it better I want to give you some of my books.

I really do. Except they're only the thin ones because I don't want to pay a lot to post them, which I think is fair! Basically, the deal here as always is, if you want any of these books I'm about to list, just tell me and leave me your email and I'll get your address and yadayadayada we know how these things go.
You want a list? Here's the list:

Push (Precious)- Sapphire
Walden- Henry David Thoreau
The Newlyweds- Nell Freudenberger
Robinson Crusoe- Daniel Defoe
What Maisie Knew- Henry James
Wide Sargasso Sea- Jean Rhys
Into The Wild- Jon Krakauer
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee- Rebecca Miller
Election- Tom Perrotta
Treasure Island- Robert Louis Stevenson
The Europeans- Henry James
The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat- Oliver Sacks
The Turn of the Screw- Henry James
Lady Chatterley's Lover- DH Lawrence
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde- Robert Louis Stevenson
The Road to Wigan Pier- George Orwell

So, yeah, if you fancy any of them then just let me know in the comments, my pretties, and we'll see what we can do.

What else have I done this week? Well, my friend Justine moved to Bristol (today, in fact) so I saw her on Wednesday for the last supper (last until, you know, I go and visit her in Bristol or whatever) which was a pretty good dinner but also, you know, I was all sad. Obviously.
Yesterday was cool though- I took a bus to my almost-home, which is something I'm going to have to do a LOT in the future (have I EVER mentioned that I don't drive? I totally don't drive!) and in spite of a series of unfortunate events (I missed the first bus and the one I was on made me transfer to a new one for no apparent reason...) I made it there in one piece without any unfortunate getting-lost issues or anything, so that was good! And then I laid on some dude's bed to decide if I wanted to buy it off him or not (I do!) and hung out with my friend Becci for the rest of the afternoon. It was nice.

Annnd... That's about all the excitement there was for this week! I worked some, read some (DUH), nearly DIED waiting to watch Breaking Bad on Monday because I had to work all day... you know, all of the usual things. The weather has been TRULY appalling this week, and has basically made me want to take to my bed at all times, but instead I did All The Walking to work, including getting completely (COMPLETELY) soaked on Friday. Always take an umbrella, is the only advice I can offer you, guys.
And that's pretty much it. Laura out! I'll go back to moving things around but not actually packing, and you have another look at that list and tell me if there's anything you fancy. I'm setting a cut off of, say, Wednesday lunchtime (UK time) and any books not selected by then will be off to a charity shop. I'm a cold evil bitch, really.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Devouring Books: Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

"'Don't you know? That's the secret. If you always make sure you're exactly the person you hoped to be, if you always make sure you know only the very best people, then you won't care if you die tomorrow.'"

Before I even start this review, on this book that I loved, a quick note on fiction. I have never known anyone who has had AIDS, never known anyone who has known anyone who has died of AIDS, and I was born right at the end of the eighties so it's not even a big cultural thing in my life. But, somehow, it's become the number one thing that I've never been affected by that affects me, really deeply, solely through the medium of fiction (I'm thinking mainly of Angels in America, here) which really shows its innate magic. And also how incredibly sad the entire AIDS epidemic has been and still is.

I cried a lot when I read this, is what I'm saying.

Tell The Wolves I'm Home is really so excellent. Every single character is well drawn, the writing is beautiful and the situations are real, and upsetting, and I believed every single one of them. The story focuses on June, our narrator and basically the best fourteen year old character I can think of*- her favourite thing is to go out into the woods and pretend she's in medieval times and, although I never did that specifically, I was like 'YES! That is how some teenagers are, not precocious idiots *side eyes John Green.*' June very much goes her own way, and it's not set up so that that's something she does because it's cool, it's something she does because it's what she likes to do.

The only person who understands June (or so she believes) is her Uncle Finn, and basically on the first page we find out that he's dying. Since he's gay and it's the eighties, he's obviously dying of AIDS, and even though his death happens early on, he casts this shadow of how awesome he was over the whole of the rest of the book. It's really interesting to read because there's no sense of everyone this whole family grieving together for Finn, and that leaves you to wonder exactly how everyone else is feeling while June is doing her thing (this is because the other characters are all really good. Did I mention that?)

What I like a lot about this book is the way June actually has to grow up, rather than already being in a state of over-grownupness. There are a lot of complicated relationships that she doesn't always grasp at first, and she has to deal with finding out facts about her mum that are almost too horrible to bear (I find it hard to forgive her mother) as well as a sister who seems to hate her except when she decides that she doesn't (I have both been this sister, and had this sister. I can relate). It's all quite fraught, but never overdone, and I just really cared about everything that happened to everyone and MY GOD would you just read this already so I don't have to keep finding words for things I don't have words for?
And then there was the best/worst parts. (I don't consider this a spoiler because it's more or less spelled out in the blurb on the back of my book, but if you really don't want to know any plot details then don't read it, because I want to discuss it so there.) After Finn's death, June finds out that he had a secret boyfriend (secret only from her and her sister, because of her mum's aforementioned horribleness), Toby, who she comes to see as the only other person who misses Finn as much as she does. Toby makes me unspeakably sad- he kind of represents all the secret partners of gay men, the ones who nursed them through their final hours, only to find themselves excluded from their funerals and nooooo I can't cope with it** and please can't we all agree that it's much better that we live in a world where same-sex partnerships are acknowledged and even celebrated (in some states and in a civil-uniony way in the UK)? Yes, we can.

But anyway. Toby and June hanging out were probably some of my favourite parts of the book, because you really see a relationship grow from mistrust (and even a bit of hatred) to understanding, and then even something that's a little bit like love. More than maybe anyone else in the book, these are two characters who really need each other, and I think I needed them to need each other, to make at least something in this book a little less heartrending.

I'm not going to pretend that this book isn't going to upset you, and it will probably make you cry, but it is so, so worth it. It's one of my favourite books that I've read all year, I can't remember one I've thought about so much when I wasn't reading it, and I've been putting off its return to the library*** because I can't quite bear to let it go yet. I honestly can't imagine the kind of person who won't be affected by it, and that's why I want everyone to read it because, God, I haven't snuffly sobbed like that since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and that is saying a LOT. Please read it and I will offer you a tissue and a shoulder to cry on and then we'll discuss how good this book is.

NOTE: Shout out to both Tika and Megs, without whom I probably wouldn't have even known about this book, let alone actually read it. Also their reviews are awesome and perhaps more, um, coherant, so READ THEM.

*Except for Mattie Ross. But they're the best in different ways, so it's fine. Why am I reading so many books involving teenagers this year?!
**Genuinely. I have been putting off writing this because 1) I loved it so much, and 2) I didn't want to cry some more, and I think I'm doing a pretty good job of 1) Being incoherent, and 2) crying.
***Why are the books I get from the library always so much better than the books I own?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Devouring Stephen King: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

"The world had teeth, and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted."

Ah, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. When you decide to do something stupid like read every single Stephen King book ever, when you've already read quite a few of them, there are bound to be some that you're not really bothered about encountering ever again. Whilst I didn't dread The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon like I do, say, Dreamcatcher (I hate it. I hate it so much. And it's a mere 2 books away.) I still wasn't desperate to read it again, like I am, say, the last three books of The Dark Tower.

Anyway. Enough about me. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is about a girl. Who loves Tom Gordon.
(Tom Gordon being apparently a real life baseball player and zzzzzzz) And who also happens to be walking in the woods with her mum and brother when she goes off the path to pee and gets completely and horribly lost. And she wanders around in the woods for days and stuff happens and there's a really stupid supernatural element aaaaand that's about the whole book.

The thing about The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is, even if you hate it (which I don't! I just don't particularly like it) it's at least short, so you don't feel like you're about to die of boredom while you're reading it. Having said that, though, it also almost felt too long for what it was- there's only so much you can read about one girl's struggle to survive in the wilderness before you almost don't care anymore. In some ways this book reminded me of The Body (which was also Stand by Me) only with more peril, and I felt like it would also have benefitted from being novella-length, rather than a full sized novel.

But. The main character is a girl!
Now, I actually think King has a fairly good track record with his representation of women (if I didn't think that, I don't think I would have been able to keep reading him for so long) but it's a rare thing where his main character (and in this book, Trisha is basically the only character) is a girl, and even rarer when that girl isn't a victim of some kind of abuse. Better than that though, Trisha is sort of awesome- she's a nine year old who manages to forage in the woods for food, escape insect attacks, and walk into a whole other State to try and find her own way out. Not bad for a girl, huh?

She's also a girl who loves baseball, which makes me partially want to go 'Yessssss, girls like sports too!' but in reality it was more like 'ughhhhh, baseball' because I don't really enjoy reading about a sport that firstly, I don't really understand because it's not something we have in the UK, but also that what I do understand I find kind of boring? The point is, this is something King often includes in his books, and it's never going to be something I find very interesting, although I understand why he does it and I'm not going to scold him for it. I'll just continue to yawn my way through those parts.

So, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. It's fine, but it doesn't set my world on fire. If you were the kind of child whose nightmares were centred on being lost in the woods, then this will probably scare the bejeesus out of you, but I'm from England and there probably aren't even any woods here you couldn't find your way out of in, say, a day. Which, incidentally, is about as long as it'll take to finish this book, ensuring that you don't waste too much of your time on it. Which isn't something I'd recommend.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Sunday Sundries: ACTUAL NEWS

Guys, it's Sunday and I am SO TIRED.
Just look at me wrong right now and I WILL BE.

This is really a compound tiredness- Friday I worked all day which meant getting up early which meant less sleep than usual, then on Saturday morning at 5am my nan phoned and we kind of freaked out and I went over there with my mum (she was alright- it wasn't reaaaally enough of an emergency to warrant WAKING ME UP) so that was broken sleep, and then last night I didn't go to bed until like 1am because I forgot how to move off the sofa because, you know, tired.
So very tired.

Anyway... Quick blast through the week- I feel like I did a lot this week but I don't actually think that's true because I can't remember doing much stuff. I'm going to say that it was just so hot (yay!) that everything felt like more of an effort and so it seemed longer. Or something. I'm really tired and can't remember things so well, did I mention that? Oh yeah, I did. Anyway, Friday was my sister's birthday so we went out to dinner, then on Saturday I made her a cake and went to her birthday gathering (ice cream and crazy golf, which at first I thought was lame but then I thought YAY because CRAZY GOLF) and then today we had a whole-family thing and some Indian food. I've eaten too much this weekend, is what I'm saying. 

 Anyway, NEWS is what you were promised in this post, and news is what you're going to get. After about a year and a half of Sunday posts about my relatively uneventful life, here is some actual news- I AM MOVING OUT OF MY PARENTS' HOUSE! Yep, in just three weeks (GAH) I'll be moving out, and about... 5 miles away to this house my friend lives in with these two other guys and I shall literally be the madwoman in the attic and I am SO EXCITED and a little bit nervous but mostly the excited thing and YAY.

So YEAH, that's a thing that's happening soon! I've known about it for a while, but today I told my family (because my dad has a big fat mouth- not that I was hiding it from them but I don't know how to bring up such things, except in writing, clearly) and so now you guys get to hear it. AND here's the slightly embarrassing part- EVERY time someone on the internet has moved and complained about it, I've been like 'I love packing! And unpacking! It's so fun!' and have sort of offered to go and help because I really do like it. BUT- now that I have to do it myself, it has so far involved going 'Ugh! I have so much stuff! Where did all this STUFF come from? Do I really have to move it all? UGH.' So while I still am kind of excited about packing all my stuff, I'm less excited about the carrying of it up and down stairs (did I mention the part where I'm going to live in an attic?)

But still- It will really all be worth it because MY GOD do I need this. I do love my family, but I think they sometimes don't get that that doesn't mean I want to see them all the time and, you know, talk to them and stuff because, like, how can I miss you if you WON'T GO AWAY? Exactly. It sounds harsh but I've kind of wanted to move out ever since I moved back (Three. Years. Ago.) and this opportunity has come up and the time is now, apparently! I am going to be so poor, but, I hope, so happy. I'm at least really happy about it right now, so.

Blog wise- Nothing should really change! I'm lucky in that I'm going to be moving somewhere that already has internet so I can still annoy you all with my chatter, and apart from unpacking and stuff I need to do something with the time I won't be arguing with my family... So I will still be here. Of course. Where else would I be. I can't promise another week where I post FIVE REVIEWS. That is DAILY REVIEWS, people (did that really annoy anyone or was it like a big treat? Be honest...) because that was mostly just clearing out the draft folder to make way for RIP reviews. But blogging there will still be plenty of. 
Two Breaking Bad gifs, one post. I could also tell you about the TWO Breaking Bad dreams I've had in the past two nights, but then it might sound like I was obsessed or something.

So, to sum up- soon I will be writing these posts on a Sunday from an entirely different location, and I still won't have anything that exciting to tell you. But everything will be awesome just because of that fact and yeah. It's all just very very exciting.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Devouring Books: The Outsider by Albert Camus

"I wanted to assure him that I was just like everyone else, exactly like everyone else. But it was all really a bit pointless and I couldn't be bothered."

I picked up The Outsider (aka The Stranger) on a whim one day from the library, mainly because I'd sort of heard about Camus and wanted to check that shit out, and also because they didn't have the book I actually wanted and I didn't want to waste my visit to the library. Also, it was short, so everybody wins. 

In spite of my crazy shallow reasons, I ended up really really really enjoying this book, although I'm not sure if enjoying is even the word for it. I should explain- this isn't really the kind of book that I like because it's an amazing story, or because it's incredibly well written or any of the usual reasons I have for liking books. Nope, this is one of those times where I like the book because it's almost a work of Philosophy, only it's Philosophy in the way I wished it was always expressed- with recognisable characters, real life situations, Philosophy-as-life, if you will. If I'd read this before I wrote my dissertation (which was on the advantages of fiction over philosophical works in affecting the way people live their lives, basically), this shit would have been straight in there without question because it's perfect for that.

So the story. It's pretty sparse- Meursalt is an Algerian man whose mother has just died, a fact which he takes on like any other and her funeral is an event where he doesn't act much differently to normal, in spite of everyone else's thought that he should be more outwardly emotional. After her funeral, he returns to everyday life, goes on with it as normal until a series of events lead to him shooting 'an arab' (casual racism really seems to be part of this) wherein he is imprisoned and put on trial, seemingly not only for his actions but for the entire way he chooses to live his life.

That is basically the story in a nutshell- and I don't consider it filled with spoilers because, well, like I said, the story isn't really the point. I don't know if this is the kind of book that other people would have a problem with because Camus should maybe have written an essay containing these ideas instead, but I would much rather read a novel than an essay, so. There are various things Camus brings up about life and ethics and stuff like that, but I think the core of things is this- A lot of the time, people act not in an authentic way, but in a way which they believe is expected of them, and so they sacrifice truth for acceptance. Meursalt isn't like this- he is truly honest about the things he feels, and even if at times that makes him read like a sociopath (who knows, maybe he is), it's difficult not to respect the fact that, say, he doesn't feel like crying at his mother's funeral and so he doesn't. 

My extensive research* of Camus since I read this has led me to believe that his main philosophy was one of absurdism, where there is no meaning in the world, and meaning has to be rendered by each individual. In The Outsider, there are characters who have their different ways of adding meaning to situations (through religion, or the law) and Meursalt is the only one who sees through this and almost goes 'there is no meaning to anything because we're all going to die anyway, and besides, everyone knows that life isn't worth living.' It's not the most cheerful philosophy I've ever heard (and someone following its exact line does come off as an almost complete sociopath) but the idea that events and things don't have meanings except for the ones we ascribe to them is a kind of powerful one because it means we can easily change those meanings and kind of create an entirely different world to the one we live in because meaning is all just individual, anyway.

I think the main thing this blog post has taught you is, I wish I could write a whole essay on Camus and Absurdism and oh gawwwd, does this mean I have to do an MA now? I'll stop boring you with it now, but really really this book is so interesting in terms of the things it did to my brain, if not so much in its pure story form. And if you've read it, please, tell me what it did for you? Because I'd be willing to accept that, actually, you found it kind of bullshit because I get that. But this kind of thing is really MY thing. And I really liked it.


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Devouring Books: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (teehee)

"Humans often assumed symmetry and equality where none existed."

I'm not sure if anyone's aware of this (I may have figured it out all by myself) but Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym of JK Rowling.
I know. This seems like a pretty good move to have made since all any reviews of The Casual Vacancy were able to say were 'Well, it's not as good as Harry Potter' and 'Good God, she uses the word cunt a lot,' but then again, whilst reviews for The Cuckoo's Calling were favourable (and no one said 'OMG cunt.') sales were pretty poor until you know, we all found out JK was the author and everyone wanted a piece of that.

I was no different, and after a thankfully short wait and a mere 50p of cash, I had my copy from the library, and I zipped through it in mere days (about 3 of them? And it's a hefty book!) I haven't read a lot of crime books, and so there's always going to be a specific reason I read them (JK) but whenever I do, I find that I really like them. I like not knowing what's going on, and I like having people explain things to me using things we've discovered together through the story and I just like them like them like them.

The Cuckoo's Calling is no exception. The case concerns the death of Lulu Landry, (alliterative names, love it) the bipolar supermodel who seemed to commit suicide one freezing night by jumping off the balcony of her swish London flat (Spoiler: it wasn't suicide. Obvs.) and the detective chosen to investigate it is Cormoran Strike (what a name!), an ex-army officer who, when we meet him, is technically homeless and kind of a mess (is there any other kind of PI? I think not.) Things progress, clues are gathered, suspects are considered then discounted and it's all just really really good fun.
This is where Daria and I part ways because I actually do like fun.

I probably have two favourite things about this book, and they are these:
  • London- The London that JK depicts is probably the best London I've ever read in any book ever (you should probably take into account the fact that I don't read a lot of books set in England when I say this...) and by this I mean that, her descriptions brought up an exact picture of the London I know in my head. I'm really interested to know if this setting is as vivid for someone who has, say, never been to London- I'm guessing the picture wouldn't be exactly as clear, but then when that person visited London it'd be like 'WOAH, it's just like being in a Robert Galbraith novel.' The setting is really great, is what I'm saying.
  • Cormoran and Robin- It's not quite Batman and Robin, but the relationship JK sets up between Strike and his assistant is truly one of the best things about The Cuckoo's Calling. It's really interesting because you get to see the relationship from both sides, and the things Strike assumes Robin is thinking about him are not necessarily correct, and vice versa (although sometimes they do overlap almost alarmingly). This relationship is set up so well that I can't help but wonder (hope) whether JK plans to write more Cormoran Strike books because I would support that, big time.
What else can I say? It's JK, so you know what you're getting in terms of readability and awesomeness, and you know you're going to read this if you're a Harry Potter fan* so don't even pretend you're not. Rest assured, though, that when you do, it's definitely not going to be a waste of anyone's time and hopefully you'll have a lot of fun when you're not being all sombre and serious because, oh yeah, it's about a murder. Read on, my pretties.

*i.e. a breathing human

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Devouring Books: Eating for England by Nigel Slater

"I suspect that for most of us, there has been a point when toast has briefly been our best friend. Maybe we were broke, or busy, or drunk, or lonely, or in need of its crusty, buttery qualities. For many of us, who understand the real point of toast, it may just continue that way."

 One of my very earliest reviews (very earliest=no one read it) on this here blog was of Nigel Slater's memoir, Toast, which I'd read because of the BBC adaptation of it that had been on that Christmas (it was really good.) There's not really any need to read it, but the point is that I really really liked basically everything about it- Nigel Slater is a really good writer, AND he likes to write about food, AND he can make you pretty much taste the foods he's talking about, AND if you ever met him, he'd probably cook them for you. It's just not right for him to have that much going for him, really.

In spite of my Slater-love, I hadn't heard of Eating for England until Ellie mentioned it in a post on... her most comforting books? Or something? I forget, but anyway, the point is that I read about it and HAD TO HAVE IT so I bought it and promptly didn't read it for about four months which actually isn't that long in my book life. Besides, I had to save it for summer because just look at the rock on the cover! Doesn't it make you want to go to the seaside RIGHT NOW? (Just me? Ok then...)

So, what it is. Eating for England is basically a collection of teeny weeny essays (most of them are around a page long) about all the foods that have found a home in England one way or another, and the idea for it originated when Slater was asked to describe British food on an American radio show and was stumped because, although we don't really have one specific food culture, there are a lot of foods we associate with home, I think. The time he was given on the radio show was clearly not enough, and so we get a book about it, which is just awesome.

Now, I really loved this book and found more than enough places to agree with Slater (marmite! Tunnock's teacakes! How much we all love chocolate!) but I can imagine that someone older than me would find even more points of agreement in this book and might even love it more than I did (which was, if I haven't made it clear yet, a LOT.) I always think that the best thing about Nigel Slater is how he can make you nostalgic about foods you might not even like that much and probably still can buy, and I don't know how he does it, but somehow you start thinking 'I haven't had a custard cream in a while, maybe I should get some' because of that one time when you were about 10 when you loved them. Food memories are ones that appeal to all of the senses, I think, and maybe that's why they're so potent, but Slater just manages to make them even stronger by being amazing.

My other favourite thing about this book, aside from the nostalgia, is something really specific to me. As you might have noticed, I read a fair few books about food, and basically all of them are along the lines of 'you should not eat meat!' 'You should not eat meat OR dairy!' 'You should only eat seasonal foods' and frankly, it all brings out the most horrendous guilt in me. Nigel Slater does not do this AT ALL- even though he's quite a big advocate of farmers markets, and of eating seasonally (or he at least mentions these in some essaylets) he's just as likely to be talking about how amazing some ridiculously processed food like kit-kats are. It's really clear that he just really loves food- of all types, in moderation, and served with great dollops of nostalgia. 

Also he really bloody loves toast and it's just impossible not to be charmed by someone like that.

I've been trying to think about whether this book would work for anyone who wasn't raised in the UK (if you were, I mean, seriously, go and read it now. It's ridiculously lovely) and I think, kind of? It's definitely not going to have the same resonance because, you know, you're probably going to have to google some of the foods he talks about, but it's still amusing enough and we surely have some similar culinary touchstones (we all love toast, right?) that it would still make sense in other places? Actually, I'm pretty much just saying this because I want to find out if these things are true, so if any of you want to read it, you can definitely report back and I will listen.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Devouring Books: The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger

"It seemed incredible that it could be the same road, the same asphalt that they had travelled so many times together. You thought that you were the permanent part of your own experience, the net that held it all together- until you discovered that there were many selves, dissolving into one another so quickly over time that the buildings and the trees and even the pavement turned out to have more substance than you did."

I only got The Newlyweds out of the library* because I really really liked the cover. I mean, look at that cover. It's awesome. I did honestly believe that I would probably take it back unread after feeling guilty about it staring at me for three weeks, but then I ended up on a train and it was the only thing I had to read and it was Bout of Books time, so. It got read.

I feel like by telling the story like that, I'm doing this book a disservice, because I didn't only read it because I had nothing else to read. I mean, that was true of the twenty minute train journey, but then I was at home and I had, you know, all the other books in the universe to read but I didn't because The Newlyweds was good enough to make me want to keep reading, which is sort of the only thing I ask for from books. Sort of.

The Newlyweds is not so much the story of two newlyweds as the story of one of them. Amina is from Bangladesh, and when we first meet her she is married to George, an American she met online and left everything she knew for. The reasons for this are complicated- it's never hidden that Amina wanted to move to the US for the opportunities it held, but she also wouldn't have done it with any old man and she and George had a genuine connection. George's reasons for marrying Amina, it becomes clear, were also complicated and slightly messy, and so it's difficult to get a clear idea of exactly what their feelings are for each other. It's especially difficult in George's case, because this novel is told solely from Amina's perspective.

Amina's perspective, as the immigrant in the US (a muslim immigrant, at that) is undeniably the most interesting one in the novel, and it's the one it relies on to be appealing to the reader. If you don't find Amina sympathetic, you're probably not going to want to carry on reading The Newlyweds, because her thoughts and opinions are the only ones we get. Luckily I liked her a lot, but even so, I would have liked to have had some insight into the other characters heads because it's sometimes difficult to know where they're coming from. It strikes me, though, that this is probably intentional- Amina isn't aware of the motivations of all the other characters, and so we aren't either. Which is fair enough.

The one thing that urked me about this book is that, in spite of it being called The Newlyweds, it wasn't really about the newlyweds. It was at least about one of them, obviously, but the majority of this book is devoted to Amina being really really worried about her parents and the urgency of getting them to America. The final third of the book is SOLELY about this, and I don't know, I just didn't find it that interesting. It wasn't that I didn't want Amina to be reunited with her parents, or that I wanted them to not go to America, but I found the relationship between Amina and George (and his family) a lot more interesting, or intriguing, I should probably say. There's nothing intriguing about Amina's relationship with her parents- she loves them and wants to be near them and they all need each other in equal measure and this does not interest me so much (needy parents are something I might have too much experience of...) and I eventually got kind of frustrated with how much of the story was focused on this. But that might just be me.

So basically. This book was fine but I'm not desperate to discuss it with anyone, nor do I want everyone to read it because their lives would be complete without it. I think, in the end, I liked the premise more than the actual execution, and although it was pretty readable (I finished it in two days) I didn't really feel many things about it and I suspect I will have forgotten about it in a few weeks. So if it falls onto you somehow then I'll allow you to read it, but otherwise, don't even worry about it.

*and then bought it because I thought I wouldn't read it for ages but then I did straight away and I don't even want to keep it and grrrr this is why I'm poor

Monday, 2 September 2013

Devouring Books: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

I have kind of decided, at this point, that Graphic-Novels-that-are-also-memoirs are my jam. I'm not sure what it is about them, but it could be the fact that you can finish them in a day and still feel like you've absorbed someone's entire life story (or, at least, the important bits) and, if you're really lucky, that you've learnt something about how people in different situations to you live AND you've learnt something about how those people actually aren't that different from you, at least not at their core. And that's something that's been true of Maus and of Fun Home (basically the other two graphic-novel-memoirs I've read) and it's also the case with Persepolis.*

So Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi's story- one of being born into an Iran that was fairly liberal, and then suddenly, almost without warning, living in one that becomes extremely extremely oppressive, in religious terms and especially for women, when she's about 10. This is where the book begins, and from there, it's basically what that was like, her thoughts on it, and her eventual emigration from Iran. And THAT'S just part one! Part two is equally as interesting, as it documents Satrapi's time abroad, but also what it's like to come back to a place that you know is as oppressive as Iran is.

And it's pretty awesome. There's so much insight into social and religious issues alongside Satrapi's life story that it's clear that these are issues she's thought about deeply and has a lot to say about, and it's really a pleasure to read. I know I laughed out loud a few times, and, since I read it on my epic holiday to Didcot, I insisted that Frances keep it and read it right away (which she has. And I think her mum has too. And also this review is going to be faaaairly non-specific because she still has it.)

Here's an example of one of the issues that Satrapi covers, which I remember because it's also the kind of thing I think about a lot and I am really interested by. The thought is this: part of the oppression of women in Iran is making them wear the kind of clothing that covers up every single part of their body, hair and legs and, you know, all the parts. Whilst I'm totally open to the idea of this being a powerful act in a place where dressing like this is a woman's choice**, when it's the rule of an entire country for all women, I'm not so much down with it. The point that Satrapi makes is this- making women cover themselves up at all times is not only oppressive to women, it's oppressive to men too- the idea behind it is that it's for the women's own protection as men can't control themselves if they saw a woman in, I don't know, jeans or whatever and seriously, isn't that so insulting?

(Seriously, this is why every man who isn't a rapist should speak out against victim blaming and all sorts of other bad things that go on when rape is involved because OH MY GOD if you're saying 'she shouldn't have drunk so much' or 'she shouldn't have worn such provocative clothes' then the thing you're not saying is 'because men can't be expected to control themselves' and how insulting is it to be treated like a being with only primitive instincts? Like I say, this is something I've thought about a lot.)

Anyway! So that kind of thing made me really open up to this book and made me want to know more about Satrapi's life because, you know, this is a woman I can really see eye to eye with despite our wildly different backgrounds (like, seriously. Crazy different.) If there was one thing I would say about it, it's that whilst I was completely captivated by Satrapi's story (and not just because, ooh, pictures!) I was also aware that her's wasn't the typical experience of women in Iran, and hey, how about one of those stories, please? This isn't a criticism of Persepolis at all, more of a cry for more graphic novels, from a wider range of women and, you know, MOAR LADIES STORIES PLEASE.

Obviously you should definitely read this since it ranks up in the heights of Maus (which is one of my favourite books of any kind ever) and Fun Home, and because feminism and religious skepticism and this little gem?
You definitely want to read this. And HEY if you already have can we talk about feminism and religion and things in the comments please? Or, actually, can we just do that anyway? Of COURSE we can!

*Obviously. Otherwise why would I have brought it up?
**If going out wearing hardly any clothes is an act of freedom, then why can't going out covering everything up be? 

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Sunday Sundries: RIPPPPPPPPPPPP!

It's Sunday and THAT means you get to hear me ramble about my life, so YAY for that, amiright?
Calm down, this is MOSTLY going to be about books, so all will be well! Just let me have a little ramble first.

SO. On Monday we all got a day off for some reason (I don't know, because it's warm and sunny and everyone's bored of working? Last Monday in August, we all just agree not to go to work) and I went to the Zooooooooo with my sister and her boyfriend (third wheel forever) but MOST IMPORTANTLY with the giraffes
And also all the other animals and stuff but also GIRAFFES
I love them quite a lot. You probably know this already if you follow me on instagram, and if you do, I'm sorry about Tuesday.

Anyway! After the joy of the zoo I worked two full days in a row which was possibly the stupidest thing I've agreed to in recent times, especially when it meant working for 10 hours on Wednesday (10 hours of listening to people say crap is not so pleasant. I sort of still haven't recovered, actually!) but it was all fine on Thursday because I saw my lovely friend Becci for the first time since her return from a month long holiday going across the USA (of COURSE I was totally jealous, you know me. But the pictures were AWESOME) and that was preeeetty cool, even though it meant going to bed super late and then waking up early on Friday for no reason. DAMMIT BRAIN.
So Friday was fun! (Friday was not fun). On Saturday, though, I went to Windsor to see my friend Justine (I have friends, guys! It's awesome!) who is LEAVING ME in a few weeks because she's moving to Bristol so quality time must be had before then. Today, then, I'm hoping for a liiiittle bit of relaxation (i.e. doing NOTHING all day) and maybe a light spot of reading and much sleeping? It would be very nice, I have to say.

And now, BOOKS. Because, as you may have noticed, it's the 1st of September, and around these parts that means only one thing- it's RIP tiiiiiime!
You can sign up here and you totally should if you like reading horror, or crime, or thriller, or mystery books or ALL OF THOSE THINGS (totally me) and and as always I'm REALLY excited because this is the actual best blogging time of the yeaaaar for me (which I'm sure really surprises you considering the amount of Stephen King I read. HA.)

So, of course, I might have gone a tiny bit overboard with making a pile this year. I might even, in fact, have made two piles, possibly...
I KNOW. It is ridiculous and I will OF COURSE not read them all and that's ok because that means I get to read the rest for RIP next year! I haven't even really thought about a priority list type-thing, but off the top of my head, it's probably something like:

  • Hearts in Atlantis- Stephen King
  • The Girl who had and did various things Trilogy- Steig Larsson
  • The Stepford Wives- Ira Levin
  • Warm Bodies- Isaac Marion
  • The Silence of the Lambs- Thomas Harris
  • Affinity- Sarah Waters
  • Rosemary's Baby- Ira Levin
That are the books I want to read the most, but then The Talented Mr Ripley and Shutter Island were on my pile last year and gaaaah what should I read I don't knoooow. (It's very difficult being me.) But those 9 books (sounds like a lot, but I hear those Larsson books are reaaaaaally readable) are pretty much my priority. Right now...

How about you? Are you doing RIP too? (Say yes.) DID YOU SEE ANY GIRAFFES? I think we all want to know the answers to such questions.