Sunday 29 June 2014

Sunday Sundries: Dolly

I've been running a lot of ideas through my head about what to write my Sunday Sundries about this week (and running things through my head has really been my limit of blogging this week... SUCH BUSY TOO MUCH) and in the end it was going to be a variation on this sort of theme:
Because that really has been my week.

However. Last night, my mum and I went up to London to redeem her much awaited birthday present, tickets to see Dolly Parton live. I don't care what anyone has to say about Dolly, I love her an incredible amount, I think she's an amazing human, and SHE SET UP A FOUNDATION THAT SENDS FREE BOOKS TO CHILDREN. (Book relevence. Good.) She can also, at the age of 68, still sing as well as she ever could, and her voice live is even more beautiful than when it's recorded.
Going to one of her shows, she makes you feel like she's your best friend- she shares stories about her life and weaves them into her music, making sure you know where she's come from and that she really, really, really appreciates everything she has now. And her songs, man. She's just... She's so good. You might not like country music, you might not like corniness, but I like both of those things, and I love- LOVE Dolly, and I don't know how anyone couldn't.

Here's a fun story about her: Elvis wanted to record I Will Always Love You (because he was a smart, smart man) but he wanted publishing rights to the song, which would mean that he would make a lot more money off of his recording, and all subsequent recordings of it. Dolly said that he could record it, but he couldn't have publishing rights because, you know, that was her song. That decision meant that Elvis never did record it, but she has earned millions off of it, because, you know, Whitney Houston. But Dolly TURNED ELVIS DOWN. No one does that! But she did because she's awesome.
Laugh at her if you want, and she'll be right there laughing along with you- she'll joke about her wig, her plastic surgery- anything anyone could think to say about her, she's already said it and negated any kind of mockery. She's kind and sweet but tough as nails, and there's no arguing with her musical prowess- last night she sang Little Sparrow pretty much acapella, and gave me goosebumps all over. I'm not sure I'll ever have the pleasure of seeing someone live who I admire more, and I'm so glad, and grateful, that I got to see Dolly last night.

And did she fix all the things that were wrong with my week? Well, kind of- in that I didn't think about them for a whole two and a half hours, and I feel like I can carry her songs and her words and her incredibly uplifting spirit around with me for this next week (which is bound to be as crappy) and for many more weeks to come. Dolly, I love you. And I always will.

Sunday 22 June 2014

Sunday Sundries: Bit of a Big Week

Huge lifey things have kind of been happening this week, and although I'm still not ready to talk about one of them (I honestly can't believe I'm doing this because I HATE when people say this sort of shit on the internet, but I'm not trying to be cryptic, or keep you coming back or whatever, I'm just trying to get all my ducks in a row before I say anything. For realsies) there's still plenty to tell. Honestly, sometimes it's been a tiny bit overwhelming so I've been like 'um, things? Can you stop happening just for a sec? Thanks!'

So here they are. A Thing happened on Tuesday that was awesome, and big and I can't give any more details. I couldn't quite enjoy the thing because my cousin's baby was having his operation on Wednesday, so I was too worried about that to really appreciate anything. That happened, and he's not been feeling too well after it, but everything went to plan and I think after he recovers, we're all going to be really glad that it's over and done with. Also this week my housemate who is moving has sorted out a flat, so we hunted for and found a new housemate (who I haven't met yet. But he's Australian, Kayleigh!)

Realistically, none of these things involved me having to do much, but things that are big don't always involve that. In the past week, I've dealt with a giant life change (not saying), a family operation, and having to accept that my friend is really moving and I'm going to have to get used to a whole new person, PLUS I had my last day at work at the old office and tomorrow I have to deal with going somewhere new and potentially getting lost on the way. I'm not complaining about any of these things, really, but it just feels like a lot, all at once! But it's all going to be for the good, in the end.

SO. Enough about life things, for a minute. I've been collecting more links on my phooooone:

And one more cheeky link... I'm running the Race For Life in a couple of weeks (read: too soon for what I'm actually capable of running!) and in doing so am raising money for cancer research, so if that's something you'd like to put some money towards (because fuck cancer) then you can totally sponsor me here. You know, if you want. *winky face* *smiley face* *punch in the face*

Am I done? I might be done. Today I'm going over to my nan's for her birthday party (she was 85 on Thursday! I made cookies) and, whilst nothing as big as this past week is going on this week, I am going to see Dolly Parton with my mum next Saturday and I am SO EXCITED. I will probably freak out because DOLLY YOU ARE THE BEST. 

How about you?

Thursday 19 June 2014

Summer Reads

I feel like a little bit of an idiot even making this list, considering I've read a grand total of three* of the books on my spring reads pile, but nonetheless, I will have a clue about what I'm reading for the next three months, I will, I will! Disclaimers: This list should really have been a Top Ten Tuesday, but of course I didn't have my act together enough to actually post on Tuesday, and I reserve the right, on any given day, to forget to take a book with me wherever I'm going and read whatever is on the Kindle app on my phone.

I'm only human, after all.


The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter- The number of Angela Carter books I own now (a few) and the number I've read (one) is getting a bit silly, and I'm concerned that, having spent a certain amount of money on this book (quite a bit) I might never get to it. I can end that concern by reading it this summer, right?

Evelina by Fanny Burney- I decided I need to read a classic this summer and I've had this one, in one copy or another, for a really long time now. Epistolatory novel? Don't mind if I do.

Stoner by John Williams- I need to get my brain around Stoner. Ellie says so. I tend to believe her.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery- I feel like both Alice and Alley read this a realllly long time ago now, and I still have not. If I'm not going to France this summer, might as well do the next best thing (... read a book set in France, obviously.)

Look At Me by Jennifer Egan- I have fond memories of reading The Invisible Circus in the sunny sunny garden last year, so I have good feelings about Egan and summer. Doesn't mean I'll definitely read this, but the chances do look good.

Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood- It's Margaret Atwood. It's not going to be a bad book.

Made in America by Bill Bryson- Summer=reading Bryson and feeling cheerful about it. Or it will this year (she says).

Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami- I started reading this when I bought it, and it was VERY WEIRD. I'm kind of excited. Plus, who doesn't need a Murakami fix every once in a while? (Most people, Laura).

Dear Life by Alice Munro- Ohhh yes. I have not read the other Alice Munro book I said I was going to read in the spring, but obviously there's something different about this one that's going to make me want to read it. The thing that is different: I really need to read one of her bloody books already!

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson- Um, just check out its name. Obviously I can't read this at any other time.

REAL TALK: Things I will probably actually read this summer:

  • The last three Dark Tower books by Stephen King because OMG I am so close to reading them outside in the lovely lovely sun that I can hardly stand waiting
  • The end of The Women's Room which is SO AWESOME and feministy and the best
  • Whatever is on the aforementioned Kindle app
  • The three books I just got out of the library because I can't help myself
  • Some books I've already read
But let's just pretend none of that's true and oooh over this list, shall we?

*To be fair, I'm reading a fourth one at the moment. I get points for trying, right?

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Devouring Stephen King: Everything's Eventual

"I want to make you laugh or cry when you read a story... or do both at the same time. I want your heart, in other words. If you want to learn something, go to school."

When starting Everything's Eventual, it occurred to me that I hadn't read a book of King's short stories for quite a while, but I didn't realise that it hadn't been for practically 2 years. What this tells me, really, is that I need to get a move on if I'm ever going to finish reading all his stuff (not that that will actually have happened until he, you know, dies. And if that never happened, I'd be ok with that.) but also that there was quite a wait between collections- 14 books, and 'almost a decade', according to the back of my copy. 

But none of that is really important. I've said before that I think King's short stories get better as you read them in progression, and I definitely think that Everything's Eventual is at least as good as, if not better than, Nightmares and Dreamscapes (from what I can remember of it). There were a couple of duds, as always, but there's also an impressive range of different genres covered here, which is a big reason that I always appreciate King's short stories- they prove that he's not limited to one style, that he can be effective in a number of different ways, and almost always scare your pants off. 

I never know how to review short stories (never, never, never) but I think this time, since there's only (!) 14 of them, I'll tell you some really brief thoughts on each of them. I think I actually do have thoughts about all of them, which is pretty rare, so please bear with me whilst I ramble. This shouldn't be too painful.

Autopsy Room Four- This story makes me roll my eyes now because of certain elements of it, BUT at the time I was reading it, it really freaked me out because I'm just a tiny bit scared of being alive whilst an autopsy is carried out on me. Just another one of those 'weird' fears I have.

The Man in the Black Suit- Kid goes out fishing by himself, meets the devil. I can see what King was trying to do with this one, but it really really didn't do it for me. 

All That You Love Will Be Carried Away- Again, this story was a little bit meandering, and I didn't really get anything out of it. In fact, I barely remember it, which doesn't necessarily mean it was bad, but refreshing my memory of it didn't exactly light my fire. Research tells me it first appeared in The New Yorker, which makes me wonder if King was messing with his style to try and fit into that magazine, and if that's true I want to shake him and say NO. You're awesome, stick with it.

The Death of Jack Hamilton- A fictional account of something that happened in John Dillinger's gang that's both sad and incredibly human. I'm pretty sure that gang gets way more good press than bad, especially these days (see: Public Enemies), and this only adds to their legend, and their humanity. And, it's pretty fun and exciting.

In The Deathroom- This is an exercise in creating dramatic tension, and ohhhh boy, does it work! A man is being interrogated inside a room he fully expects to be the last one he sees- will he escape? WILL HE? Tension, man. It's awesome.

The Little Sisters of Eluria- At 80 pages, this is almost more of a novella than a short story, but since it's part of The Dark Tower series, I didn't mind so much. This tale, of one of Roland's skirmishes before he meets up with his ka-tet is both creepy and such a welcome glimpse of a character I haven't seen since last summer. ALL THE ROLAND.

Everything's Eventual- This starts off slow, and actually doesn't necessarily get any quicker, it just builds a full picture of everything that's happened in a roundabout way, until you realise what's really been happening, and you're kind of shocked. I really liked the first person narration of this one, it worked well, and I can't quite put my finger on what I liked about it, just that I did.

L.T.'s Theory of Pets- This is another one where I could see what King was trying to do, but it didn't really work for me. It's a good example of the difference between people's public faces and private thoughts, though.

The Road Virus Heads North- This story scared me. Big time. I have a weird, childhood-based fear of inanimate objects that come to life, and this is that, and combined with the open ending, I was not left easy at the end of it. *shudder*

Lunch at the Gotham Cafe- This was a little bit gory, as well as showing a divorcing couple who can't even get their shit together when their lives are being threatened. I liked it, but not that much. 

That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is In French- If The Road Virus... scared me, then this one freaked me out. It honestly made me palpitate a little bit, and made my stomach twist because it's the weirdest case of deja vu ever. To say much more about it would give it away, but it must be a perfect use of the uncanny because it freaked me the fuck out.

1408- Alley week may be over, but I think it's worth mentioning that this is her favourite short story from this book (and I think from King?) I can see why- it's got a good build up, and it's not quite the way you expect it to be, which is why I think it is actually scary- things don't happen that are necessarily in-your-face shocking, but everything's a little off until suddenly everything's wrong. It's really good- not my favourite, but still pretty great.

Riding the Bullet- This story contains a lot of anxieties about death, King calls it his attempt to deal with the death of his mother, and it manages to be gross and sad and goes back and forth between the two until its end. I liked it, even if it didn't necessarily play with my mind like some of the others.

Luckey Quarter- I feel like I shouldn't even like this story as much as I do because there's not a lot to it- it's possibly the shortest of all the short stories, and it doesn't really say much. Except that it kind of says everything, especially in the last few lines. To me, it's a story about how even if you don't have a lot of material things, as long as there are people you love, you kind of have everything you need, and that's just really a message I can get on board with. Short but sweet, definitely.

There, that wasn't SO bad, was it? Although now I scroll back up, it is quite long... Deal with it. If you're into short stories, this is a pretty great collection, and for me there were really only 3 or 4 duds (I'm undecided on Lunch at the Gotham Cafe). It might be worth mentioning that I had read this collection before but didn't remember it AT ALL (I had opposite deja vu when reading it, I guess) so that's probably not a good thing, although it's a definite advantage when it comes to re-reading and wanting to be scared again. So, yeah. 

Now that that's out of the way, I just have one more King book and I can live out my dream of reading the remaining three Dark Tower books this summer. VERY EXCITED.

Sunday 15 June 2014

Sunday Sundries: Worries and Books

I really dropped the ball on last week's Sunday Sundries, huh? No excuses, just, you know, I watched Orange is the New Black all day Saturday and hung out with my family all day Sunday and weekends. You know how it is.

I didn't really have much to report anyway, (see: Watching Netflix all day Saturday) so I probably saved you a dull post, you lucky things! This week is much the same- I worked a lot at the start of the week, and then towards the end of the week I worked less but it was sunny so I made friends with my back garden* and also built a clothes rail for mine broke (SOB) which has turned out to be a blessing in disguise, for my new one has SHELVES, and I now have a shelf for running clothes, and yesssss this is great.

So this past week wasn't much, but this week coming has a few things. Firstly, I'm working three full days instead of 5 half ones, which sounds like I'm totally being lazy (I have 2 days off in the week! YAY!) but actually works out to more hours, and hopefully to more hours spent doing productive stuff on non-working days (but don't count on it). I'm quite excited, or maybe just optimistic about the change, so we'll see how well it works out.

The other big thing for this week coming is that my cousin's baby is having an operation. I say baby, he's 4 and a half, but he's still OUR baby, at least until my other cousin has her's later on this summer. I can't remember how much I've talked about him on here, because it's kind of not my story to tell, but he had brain cancer when he was tiny, his first operation when he was 1, tons of chemo, proton treatment... the whole kaboodle. When they operated on him before, they had to take away a big chunk of his skull, so he's been wearing a helmet for the past three years, and now this operation is to close up his skull again. Which, in one way is a really good thing, because it kind of feels like a proper ending to everything, but at the same time it's just really scary and awful and I can't really think about it without being kind of upset.

So. That's happening on Wednesday, so if you just keep him in your thoughts and, if you're so inclined, your prayers, that would be awesome. I know that's all I'll be thinking about all day, so.

And now, for the slightly less heavy topic of the books.
This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic was the top ten books you've read so far this year. Now, I've pretty much retired from Top Ten Tuesdays, mostly because I rarely remember when it is Tuesday, and also because eh, lazy. However- I thought this week's topic was really good, and it seems like a lot of people agree with me, because I've seen people still doing the list after Tuesday, which is practically unheard of. So, if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me. Here they are:

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far This Year

1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt- Still so so so incredible that I can hardly stand it. Would re-read again in a heartbeat. Review here.

2. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion- So good that I've even forgiven it for making me cry on public transport. Was exactly the book I needed to read, at exactly the right time, showing how even though grief is always different, it's still universal. Review here.

3. NOS4R2 by Joe Hill- The second book on this list that I actually started last year, this was both so much fun and made my skin crawl- although with me, those two things aren't always separable. Easily as good as some of daddy Hill's (Stephen King's) good stuff, and way better than his bad stuff. Review here.

4. Bleak House by Charles Dickens- The first readalong of the year of my very first Dickens. It's difficult to say if I liked this better because I got to discuss it weekly, but Lady Audley's Secret is not making it to this list, so this really must have been good. I don't know if I can say I'm not scared of Dickens anymore, but I definitely luxuriated in his writing in this, so that's not nothing.

5. Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger- Franny and Zooey is the reason I won't be saying mean things about Salinger anymore. I really liked this, it reminded me a bit of Sylvia Plath (totally a good thing) and a bit of something awesome. It's pretty great. Review here.

6. World War Z by Max Brooks- Everything about this book is perfect. I'm still surprised by just how much I liked it, but I probably shouldn't be considering it's that rare and beautiful blend of good writing AND pure entertainment. It's probably up there with The Goldfinch for best best book of the year so far. Review here.

7. The Housekeeper And The Professor by Yoko Ogawa- Japan strikes again, with this beautiful and quiet novella that I still can't quite get out of my mind. Highly recommended. Review here.

8. Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley- Encouraging a new love for running with books about running, I didn't necessarily expect to love them, but it turns out I really did. This was especially great, running from a female perspective (rarer than you'd think) with bonus history of women's struggle to even be allowed to compete in marathons. Great fun, and weirdly emotional (another one where I cried on public transport). Review here.

9. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami- I may like this one less for its running stories than for its memoir-qualities, but either way, it proved to me that Murakami can write non-fiction just as well as fiction, and I guess you can take that any way you want to! Review here.

10. Chicken With Plums by Marjane Satrapi- A bit of a left field decision here, and apologies to some of the great non-fiction reads I could have chosen instead, but this graphic novel completely sucked me in, and I really feel like it left me with a better understanding of people, even though that's such a hyperbolic thing to say. Shut up, it was good. Review here.

And there you have it. As a slight mid-year (ish...) update, I'm going to say that I've been reading books that I've pretty much universally liked, but not that many that I think are going to be lifelong favourites. I'm reading a pretty even male/female split, and although the women were winning a week ago, I've managed to finish 3 books by dudes in a week, so I'm now on 15/14 male/female. Which is fine, because I'm in the middle of 3 books by women, so it's all good. I'm still reading too many white people, and I'm reading more on my kindle which is great in terms of validating its existence, but not so great at reading the books I have in physical form. But never mind, it's all just good fun, right? Right.

And now I shall leave you to your lives, and your days. Have good ones!
*Not a euphemism

Thursday 12 June 2014

Devouring Books: The Housekeeper And The Professor by Yoko Ogawa

"He treated Root exactly as he treated prime numbers. For him, primes were the base on which all other natural numbers relied; and children were the foundation of everything worthwhile in the adult world."

I read The Housekeeper and the Professor solely because Alley read it and said it was pretty good. This might be an oversimplification- I also read it because I love Japanese fiction*, because I actually like maths quite a lot even though I don't feel passionate about it, and because, well, Japan. The combination of these things made me buy it for my kindle minutes after I read Alley's review, and the point is I'm not sure I would have even heard of it had Alley not read it.

Nice work, Alley, is basically what I'm saying. You keep reading those books so I can figure out what to read next.

SO. This book is so lovely. That's the main adjective I can think of for it, but it's also quiet, and short, and fairly sad. Because of course it is, because Japan. The story is that of a housekeeper (duh) who goes to work for the professor (also duh), a maths genius whose memory only lasts for 80 minutes before it's wiped clean because of a car crash he was in some years back.** He spends his days working on maths problems for obscure journals, she spends her days watching him, learning about the mysteries of numbers, and generally wondering what goes on in his magnificent, but broken, brain.

Now that I'm thinking about this book in a reviewing way, I'm realising that this book fits in a lot of stuff in so few pages. A lot of this is in subtext, and you can imagine a grand past relationship in just a few lines, but it still feels like a huge achievement to have created this whole world that's very detailed in less than 200 pages. I think the fact that there are only three, at a push four, main characters helps, but the way it stays so deeply focused, and the way Ogawa really tells the story she wants to tell, makes it feel really special, at least to me. 

And, the maths. I don't think it's important to like maths before you read this, because the book kind of takes care of that for you. The housekeeper says that she was bad at maths at school, but that doesn't matter because the professor is SO in love with maths, and numbers, and the general rationality of it all, that he makes the housekeeper (and, by extension, the reader) at least interested in what he has to say, and at best, maybe a little bit in love with numbers herself. I've literally never read a passion for numbers expressed so beautifully, or so convincingly- Ogawa makes maths sound almost like poetry, and I never thought I would compare the two in my whole life. But there it is. 

I don't know what more I can say about this book to make it sound like something you need to read. I feel like, if you need a lot of action and drama and conflict, this is absolutely not going to be the book for you. It's so undramatic, so slow and dreamy and (here it comes again) lovely that it's a perfectly relaxing read- you'll feel a little bit sad once it's finished, and that'll mostly be because it's finished. I finished it a couple of weeks ago, and already I want to read it all over again, which I think says a lot. 

Plus, did I mention that it's just lovely? 

*Like that's actually a category that means anything... But I do tend to like Japanese writers, so I thought I'd give this a go.
**If this all sounds like 50 First Dates to you, you should probably stop watching Adam Sandler movies and read this book. Just sayin. 

Monday 9 June 2014

Devouring Books: World War Z by Max Brooks

"Most people don't believe something can happen until it already has."

This post marks the start of what will unofficially be known as Accidentally Alley's Week. That is to say- I'll be reviewing two books that I preeeetty much only read because of her enthusiasm for them, and which I happened to read kind of near to each other, only not really because I TOTALLY FORGOT I hadn't reviewed World War Z yet and the draft for this post has been sitting sadly backstage on the blog for ages now. Poor little post.

So, World War Z is amazing. I've said for a long time that I don't really care for zombies, but I keep on reading zombie books and I keep on liking them, so who can say how true that really is? It's probably not true at all, but it wouldn't matter anyway because World War Z isn't reaaaaally about zombies.
Obviously zombies are involved. They are indeed the Z of the title, but it's the subtitle that's the really interesting part- An Oral History of the Zombie War. An oral history it is indeed (Alley seems to listen to the audiobook about once a month, and now I know why- I can already tell that the audiobook would be SO GOOD) and that's what makes it so special, and so excellent.

Here's why I think the multiple (and I mean multiple. Like, basically every account is from a different person) perspectives thing works so well. Brooks has clearly thought A LOT about every aspect of what a zombie invasion would involve, which means that the book covers government reactions, and attitudes beforehand, how the lives of ordinary people were affected, the global reaction, the battles... basically every area of what you talk about when you talk about any war is covered, and it's covered with detail and realism and it's so so so interesting and good and completely makes you forget that this didn't actually happen because IT FEELS LIKE IT DID.*

I think we all know that this is going to end with me going READ IT (and honestly, if you read the first account then I don't know how you're going to be able to stop, because it's so creepy and perfect and YES) so instead of gushing too much about it, I'm just going to talk about a couple of my favourite sections in a bit of detail. This will involve spoilers only in as much as I'm going to talk about stuff that happens in the book, because I'm not really sure it's one you can spoil. Unless you didn't know that zombies were involved, in which case, whoops!

SO. One of my favourite parts was set in Japan, where a teenager who pretty much lived on the internet had to learn how to live in the real world where actual bad things were happening and everyone was dying. I liked this a lot because it made me think about the way we live, all connected to the internet but not even necessarily connected to the people around us (it took this guy days to realise his parents are dead) and how, even though this was an extreme example, we could all take more time to look away from the screen and go 'Shit. Things are happening. I should probably do stuff.' The personal development of this character is excellent and I liked the part he had to play and also did I mention it was in Japan? So, yeah.

My other favourite part was the bit with the guy who marketed a 'vaccine' for 'African rabies' that he duped innocent/ignorant people into buying, believing it would make them safe, and that it wasn't something they were going to have to think about. To be clear, I think this guy is an abhorrent piece of shit, but I really appreciated this part because THIS IS TOTALLY WHAT WOULD HAPPEN. EVERY time there's a pandemic style scare (avian flu, and the like) the government makes a big show on how it's stocking up on vaccines, only, if this is a new strain of virus that's especially deadly, I don't think it's quite that easy to have a vaccine ready. Still, we all relax, don't think about it, and one day that could easily be our downfall. Only, hopefully not in a World War Z way, because JESUS CHRIST that would be scary.

Seriously. This book is amazing. Brooks has thought about everything, has made his vision of a zombie war so very realistic and well thought out that you end the book thinking 'so... Maybe this could happen.' Which is terrifying, but also INCREDIBLE. I can't overstate how much I purely enjoyed reading it, and I also can't overstate how impressed by it I remain. It's just some damn good book, guys. If Alley hasn't made you read it already, you've got to read it. I will not rest until you do.

*I only know it didn't because I'm still alive. I would totally be zombied up first.

Friday 6 June 2014

"'Bouncers don't have inflammation of the lungs.'"

Hey, kids! I know, I'm a day late (and a dollar short) and although I finished the book on SATURDAY (I know) I've managed to forget to write anything about it, for evening shifts at work have broken me a tiny bit. Still! I am here now and that is all that matters.

Let's begin. I'd like to refer you to a comment Megs made on last week's post:
I think that Lucy might be ACTUALLY mentally ill. That whole internal battle she was having with herself in her bedroom was so disturbing to watch, because she was spending a good deal of time justifying her actions to herself (I've never done anything TRULY horrible except for that one thing, and I totally had a reason to do that), and then she finished it all off by saying out loud to herself that Rob is mad and Rob is the problem, like a mantra.

And ALSO when she's trying to convince Sir Michael that Rob is crazy, doesn't she sound like she's describing herself with this: "People are insane for years and years before their insanity is found out. They know that they are mad, but they know how to keep their secret. Sometimes a paroxysm seizes them, and in an evil hour they betray themselves. They commit a crime, perhaps. The horrible temptation of opportunity assails them, the knife is in their hand, and the unconscious victim by their side."

OMG...what if Lucy's big secret is that she's clinically insane???

I will be so mad if this ends up being a Victorian madwoman tale. SO MAD.
Yes, I did just copy and paste the whole thing, because lazy, but LOOK AT IT ALL, IT IS ALL TRUE. Megs gets all the prizes, and also, I'm assuming, she is SO MAD right now.  As we should all be.
There's so much to be mad at, really. Firstly, obviously a woman who tries to take control of her own life (in bad ways, sure, but still) has to be insane because no sane woman would ever do bad things. Never ever ever. I'm not entirely convinced that Lucy was insane so much as she convinced herself that she would be so she was- there's definitely something about post-natal depression in there, but apart from that, not so crazy. Maybe.

That said, I did so enjoy MEB's use of caps: "'You have conquered- a MADWOMAN.'""'I know where you have brought me,' she said. 'This is a MADHOUSE.'" I like to think that Lucy just shouts these words (cause she cray cray, apparently) but I'm assuming it's more for shock value. Like, just in case you missed the part where Lucy's crazy, BITCH IS CRAZY.
Still. She's safely in the MADHOUSE, so what has become of all the rest of our beloved cast? Luke's death did not raise a tear to my eye (He DEFINITELY raped his wife a lot) but I enjoy the fact that his body was weak from all the boozing so it wasn't really the fire that killed him, so Lucy kind of isn't accountable for any deaths, because we can't actually have a woman murdering anyone, that would be ridiculous.

Speaking of which- GEORGE IS STILL ALIVE. How nice of him to let his best friend, the guy who looked after him while he was mourning for his not-so-dead wife, the man who is in love with him, 'hey dude, I'm still alive but I have to go back to Australia, k bye.' I'm tempted to say that George has self-esteem issues, so he thinks no one will miss him when he's gone, but mostly, I'm afraid, I think he might just be an asshole.
OF COURSE Robert welcomes him back with open arms instead of a closed fist (OMG that sounds SO dirty now I've typed it. I mean he doesn't punch him! Not anything else!) because he's a nice guy, and also because he's in love. Not with Clara, of course, don't be ridiculous, but his love for George burns ever brighter. I really want to believe that MEB was kind of aware of what she was doing with Robert and George- I mean, the novel proper ends not with Robert's wedding, but with George and Robert reuniting, hugging... other things... And I really feel like that means something. Or I might just really want them to be gay for each other.

All I have to say about the actual end is that OMG THEY SETTLE IN TEDDINGTON. That is SO near to where I live, guys, that it's ridiculous. It's a very nice place to have a fairy cottage, and aw, lovely. Poor old Lucy dies of what I can only assume is boredom, and all the good Victorian readers rejoice that she won't come and NOT murder them in their sleep. George OF COURSE lives with Clara and Robert (who, of course, got married), so one can only imagine how THAT living arrangement works, and suddenly we realise that George is actually the Marian of this tale, only 10,000x less awesome. Equally as single at the end though.
I miss you, Marian
Annnnd, that's about all I've got. To sum up- women who want things are crazy, George is an asshole and Robert is so so gay. As I said, I finished this on Saturday, and I've kiiind of already forgotten a lot of the stuff that happened. This isn't something that makes me go 'I must read it again!' but more 'Hmmm... it must not have been that good.' WHICH IS TRUE but it did keep me amused for a few weeks, so there's that.

Thank you for hosting, dear Alice, and until next time, THE END.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Devouring Books: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I couldn't stop reading Life After Life. That's the first thing I want to note about it, because even though it's not necessarily the most important thing for a book to have, it's a fairly important indication of how much I was enjoying a book at the time of reading. The fact that I literally couldn't put it down because I read it in the 24 Hour Readathon is neither here nor there, it was just very readable and intriguing and I always wanted to know what happened next and then all of a sudden it was over and I had... Feelings.

Let me tell you about the book before I tell you about those feelings. A baby is born and then dies, that same baby is born and survives until she's about two. She's born again, she dies again. That's basically it, except that each and every life is different and has something new to say about the world and about especially World War Two, and it raises issues (at least for me) like, which life would you choose? And if you knew what was going to happen, would you be able to make the right moves to make sure it didn't happen again? And just how awful are ALL THE OPTIONS in the war? (They're all pretty bad)

The fact that I can say that, yeah, I liked this book, is especially impressive since it's historical fiction which, unless it's written by Emma Donoghue, I'm not so hot for. It's such a different and intriguing concept that it's difficult to stop reading, and yet. And yet. I wanted more from this story than it seemed willing to give. I wanted some kind of explanation for what was happening, and why it was happening to Ursula, and I wanted to know which one of the realities was the realest, or, if they all actually happened, then I wanted to know that too. I mean, Atkinson can make whatever decisions she wants about what she writes- it's her book- but it kind of feels like she just wanted to write a lot of different scenarios without writing a lot of different books, but also didn't want to explain how such a thing could be. Which is sort of annoying.

The fact that not enough is explained isn't enough for me to say this book isn't worth reading. I still think it is, but that doesn't mean that I didn't want more from it. Maybe I even wanted more from it because I liked it so much that I wanted extra stuff. I want to know how Ursula kind of knows that she's lived other lives, but kind of doesn't. I want to know if one timeline is the true one, or if they all are. I want to know if deja vu actually comes from the lives we're not living rather than the lives we are. I want to know if Ursula can actually choose death, or if she's doomed to repeat life until she gets it perfect- whatever that means.

Apparently I just want to know lots of stuff. But maybe that's all part of it- that I'm supposed to be making my own mind up about things, that I can decide whether there's still a version of Ursula living out her life, trying to get it 'right'. I don't know if it's meant to make me think about whether or not I'd like to live like this, but I know for a fact that of course I wouldn't. I don't know what the right choices, no one does, and even Ursula only knows not to make the wrong choices as each life goes by, not which ones are the right ones. I feel like I've veered ever so slightly off the topic into strange philosophy land, but apparently this is what this book does to you. Or, to me. I don't know.

THE POINT: This book is a good read. It's not perfect, and the thoughts you'll have afterwards may make you write a rambling blog post that doesn't have a lot to do with the book. I'm not sure I would feel the need to ever read this again, and there wasn't really a huge amount of character development to speak of, but I still truly enjoyed reading it (and picking it apart afterwards) which is sometimes all you need from a book.

Monday 2 June 2014

Monday, Monday

So I kind of dropped the ball on Sunday Sundries yesterday, huh? I have excuses, all of them good, but I've been making too many excuses for not blogging lately, and that must stop. Mission statement going on right here (also I have like 7 draft posts right now, and that is just too many).

Yesterday though- it was my mum's birthday (I made a cake, natch) and whilst I got her the best present in the world (we're going to see Dolly Parton in like 4 weeks!) I also abandoned her a tiny bit so that my sister and I could do the Colo(u)r Run- that thing that you see people doing on instagram like allllll the time, and go, 'God, that looks fun' so you sign up for it and... God, it's fun.

I say it was fun- queuing up for more than an hour in the burning sun waiting to start was not fun in any way, and I'm pretty sure they need some kind of better organisation or something because that was total bullshit. However- and I didn't think this would be the case but it was- the fun of the running and the colour was so good that it actually outweighed the fact that we'd stood waiting for it for longer than it took to run. Also, COLOUR.

And that was pretty much my weekend, minus the 50,000 times my family annoyed me. Hey, it happens.

The week before the weekend? I can hardly even remember it now. Except WAIT, yes I can- my dad came out of hospital at LAST, which freed up time in my life for doing other things, and I used that time to watch Frozen, finally (it's so good. Like, really good. I kind of want to watch it again right now) and to go out to dinner with my housemate-friend (she was my friend before she was my housemate so I don't know what to call herrrr) and also make a shitload of cake for this was the week of my mum and grandads birthdays, aka my busy season. It's all good fun though, whatever.

This week: all I can think about for this week is the fact that Orange is the New Black is out on Friday and there goes my weekend. I'm slightly dithering over whether to watch season one again (I watched the first two episodes this Friday) so I'll probably just see what ends up happening in the week, but the important thing is OITNB!!!!!!!!! (I might be too excited about this. I'm not sure, it's probably fine.) I do really want to get some reading done this week- seems like an obvious thing to say, but I feel like I haven't really gotten into a book for a long time, so I need to hunt one down that will make my heart sing with joy.

Or, I could just watch OITNB again. Whatever.

Other than that, I guess I'll just see what the week brings. I hope yours is full of all lovely things!