This morning I spent the precious two and a bit hours when my son is at preschool, sat at St Bees, finishing this book and greeting. I'd found the fir...moreThis morning I spent the precious two and a bit hours when my son is at preschool, sat at St Bees, finishing this book and greeting. I'd found the first half of the book so-so but the last few days I have been sneaking in as much reading time as possible. Much to the detriment of my house and family's diet. I'm making amends now, and also the Kindle is out of juice, so for the sake of myself, my poor husband, (yes I did fetch it out of my coat pocket during the interval at the opera on Sunday night), and my lovely, slightly malnourished children, I am not going to recharge it until I have got a handle on my household. It will be tidy and meals, proper meals with vegetables and everything, will be planned and bought for. Then I will plan my next read.
So what made me sink to such lows? The main answer would be the Weedon family. Not that I was modelling their lifestyle in the same way that some social commentators think that watching video nasties turns one into a serial killer, no. I think it was the glimpses into their chaotic and sad lives that hooked me in and made me worry for them and ultimately kept me reading the first few chapters of the book.
We've been house hunting too whilst I've been reading this and unsurprisingly the class issues of various villages and areas kept playing through my head a la Pagford vs The Fields as we would stumble upon a house that wasn't ideally suited to us but was in a desirable middle-class village with, say, a group that organises coach trips to Carlisle's classical music concerts. Someone else snapped it up. Sigh. Of relief?
So the moral of the story in 'The Casual Vacancy'? Perhaps, I would argue, it is that politics is dangerous. But that's not fair on Rowling. Really, the danger lies with egos and lack of concern for one another. So do fight for what you believe is right, but smile and look wide and when you think you've looked wide, look wider still. (B-P).(less)
This afternoon I was snuggled up with my snoozing two-year old on the sofa finishing this book and feeling very fortunate. I was in tears for the best...moreThis afternoon I was snuggled up with my snoozing two-year old on the sofa finishing this book and feeling very fortunate. I was in tears for the best part of an hour. The ending is very good. Not to say that the middle and the start were not good: by Jove they are good too.
That adage of not judging a book by its cover is never truer than with this novel. The cover screams 'self-published sentimental tosh', I'm sorry to say, but by the third chapter it is clear that this author knows what she is doing, has a clear structure and is an accomplished wordsmith. There are a few formatting glitches, such as apostrophes always appearing as speech marks when the text is italicised, and a few spaces where they shouldn't be, but really, I am nitpicking.
The characters are well-developed, the story has a great arc, nothing is there that shouldn't be - it is very taut.
I'm fortunate enough to be meeting the author, Kate Hewitt, with my bookclub next month and really am looking forward to the event now.
Apart from the book's inherent good qualities, it was great on a personal level to absorb myself in a novel again. I'd stumbled with my reading recently and feel as though I'm back on the reading horse (Black Beauty?!). Looking forward to getting stuck into another novel soon.
I think this is week three of 'Save with Jamie'. We started with the Mothership Roast Pork for week one, then the Roast Chicken and this week the Bris...moreI think this is week three of 'Save with Jamie'. We started with the Mothership Roast Pork for week one, then the Roast Chicken and this week the Brisket of Beef, and really, it has helped streamline the shopping budget. One of his key tenets is that you cook a roast on the Sunday and then use leftovers the following week. His leftover recipes are unusual and tasty and perfect for cooks who (for instance) perhaps don't know how to create a chicken filling for a pie from leftovers.
We've always tried to plan the week's meals and shop accordingly, often using recipes from low-fat cookbooks, and the snag is, that to avoid monotony, many of those recipes use expensive cuts of meat, (pork tenderloin, chicken breasts). Ok, so Jamie's recipes aren't necessarily low-fat, but we have avoided eating out, and also, the amount of meat he uses in his leftover recipes especially is much less than we'd usually consume in a meal.
One of the best things about this book is that there is a particular repertoire of ingredients, so that, for instance, if you use 1/2 a cabbage for one recipe, there are other recipes you can do that also include 1/2 a cabbage.
Last Saturday I used up 1/2 a butternut squash (had needed the other half in a recipe that week) from his 'Roast Butternut Squash 4 ways' section, and we had bruschettas with butternut squash mash spread on them, with crispy bacon and mushrooms on top. Scrummy.
It's has also taken me out of my comfort zone and I have cooked offal (chicken livers) and tofu, both of which were new to me. I'm feeling proud of myself. I've also done his 'make herb butter with leftover herbs' trick and actually used them to make a very tasty gravy.
My favourite recipe is probably the Banh Mi which was a surprising hit with our 2 boys, aged 5 and 2. We loved it so much we've done it twice now. Excellent. (less)
So it was a wet and windy Sunday and we decided to go to the library. I forgot to bring the book I'd earmarked as my next read. Bummer. Smallest child...moreSo it was a wet and windy Sunday and we decided to go to the library. I forgot to bring the book I'd earmarked as my next read. Bummer. Smallest child was asleep in his buggy, so I actually had time to read, and after perusing the 'Banned Books' shelves, I picked up 'Persepolis' and began reading.
I don't think I've read any graphic novels since a pre-teen and I went on a bit of a library bender, reading Asterix books, so it was a fairly new experience to read a grown-up graphic novel. I loved how quickly I got through it. Very heartening.
Of course, Satrapi's story is compelling in its honesty, and the drawings are excellent. I've learned much from this book about what it was like to live in Iran during the late 80s, and it reiterated the point that veiled or not, young women have far more in common with one another than they realise.
I stayed up late reading this book a couple of nights ago, and I've caught a cold. I'm not saying that reading's bad for you, just that I need to be more disciplined with my bedtimes and perhaps then I wouldn't be so exhausted. It was worth it though!(less)
So, I started reading this whilst in the doctor's waiting room, and it had me giggling. Which is a good thing. It's an interesting and entertaining re...moreSo, I started reading this whilst in the doctor's waiting room, and it had me giggling. Which is a good thing. It's an interesting and entertaining read, but not particularly well structured.(less)
We were in the gift shop at Edinburgh zoo. I saw this paperback and bought it as a gift for my dad who loves reading about World War 2. We caught the...moreWe were in the gift shop at Edinburgh zoo. I saw this paperback and bought it as a gift for my dad who loves reading about World War 2. We caught the bus back to our digs and I started reading it, (as it turns out, pretty much anything is better than 'The Finkler Question' that I was part of the way through and that was my 'read-de-jour'). It was very readable, and the story, especially if you know nothing about it, is very interesting.
I then took a break from it and read a novel and finally returned to it this week to finish it off before seeing my dear Pap-par and handing it over.
The book is split into three sections. Firstly there is the story of Wojtek, secondly, a section that details the author's efforts to erect a statue in the bear's honour (I skimmed much of this), and thirdly, a rather lengthy but informative epilogue written by an historian, (name escapes me), that concerns the history of Poland, and in particular the fates of the Polish population during the second world war and how that mirrors Wojtek's life story. The part written by Aileen Orr is good enough, but she does repeat turns of phrase and nuggets of information, but I forgive her as it is clear she is an amateur enthusiast. I found the epilogue really interesting, and am glad it's there.
So - I learned a lot. That's about the nub of it. And I like learning. And I like stories about silly bears who think they are Polish. And I like Wojtek. And I like Aileen Orr's attempts at fostering a wee bit of world peace and cultural understanding. Perhaps I should have given this book four stars afterall.
**spoiler alert** The first of three recommendations from a dear friend who told me I needed to ditch 'The Finkler Question'. Am glad I did. Green, gr...more**spoiler alert** The first of three recommendations from a dear friend who told me I needed to ditch 'The Finkler Question'. Am glad I did. Green, green peas.
This is the second Boyd book I've read, and although the other, 'Any Human Heart', was excellent, it is very different to this. This one had a quicker pace, faster plot, but the characters were still rounded and the ending was great.
I did feel sorry for the sedated and neglected, but loving Ly-On, and I was pleased and surprised to see that JonJo saved the fate of his devoted beagle. I also liked the 'Church of John Christ' and its capacity for helping those in need: the parallel to Adam Kindred being framed for something he didn't do (as apparently Jesus was framed whilst John, the original Christ, went free), was not lost on me. I cheered when nasty man went over the bridge into the river and felt relieved when Ingram still had £10 million left when he had 'lost' his fortune, (I was concerned he would be able to pay for his private hospital treatment. Panic over.)
The ending? I'd like to think that Ly-On will see more of Adam and Rita, sharing more lasagnes and living happily ever after.
I really dislike the way this book is presented and marketed. On the back of the book is a headshot of the Daisy Goodwin, (whoever the hell she is) an...moreI really dislike the way this book is presented and marketed. On the back of the book is a headshot of the Daisy Goodwin, (whoever the hell she is) and considering that her only role was choosing the poems of other people, I think that's narcissistic.
Then there's the title: "ESSENTIAL POEMS for the way we live now". Is it eckers like. The front cover of my copy has a photo of a laptop keyboard and a rather dated-looking mobile phone. The third section of poems in the anthology, was food themed: 'FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD' and I quote: "These poems pre-date Delia, Nigella and Jamie and the final drizzle of virgin olive oil....." HARDLY eschewing the way we live, and EAT now, then is it? Lazy. Surely there are some poems out there about chocolate, bulgar wheat, coconut water and the Atkins Diet?
I also don't like the fact that the only information Ms Goodwin deigns to give us about the poem is the author. No date, no 'this was written blah'. Nada. Really deserves that huge glossy photo of herself on the back, doesn't she?
I liked the characters, although at the start of the novel I thought they would be too brattish, their 1970s teen...more**spoiler alert** I loved this book.
I liked the characters, although at the start of the novel I thought they would be too brattish, their 1970s teen culture too crass, but Coupland (deftly in my opinion) moved us along from this period and the characters developed. Sort of. And now it gets tricky, so here's the SPOILER ALERT.
Cut to the end, and the book is about truth; making a difference; looking wider. I happened to read the second half of this book on Guide camp. The lack of meaning in the Rabbit Lane Group's lives and the consequences of their navel-gazing resonated with me. Guides (and me as a leader) take a promise, a promise that has recently been altered. It now goes:
"I promise that I will do my best, To be true to myself and develop my beliefs To serve the Queen and my community, To help other people And to keep the Guide Law"
It seems as though all the Group, (save Wendy, perhaps), are living a life devoid of these aims. At least Wendy is helping other people (albeit for the wrong reasons, and therefore not being true to herself). Also whilst reading it, my husband's grandfather lost his battle with cancer and dementia. This death also focussed my mind and chimed with the book in respect to using the limited time we have on this earth to good effect: not just for ourselves, but for our communities, both locally and looking wider, into a global community. Our environment is precious and in a precarious state and we cannot afford to exploit it continually.
Is my generation doing its best to push agendas towards making the future a better place? Or are we lining our friends' (and our own) pockets at the cost of the earth and poorer communities miles away?
So, yes, this book doesn't get many favourable reviews, but I loved every minute. I was hooked and tried to read more whenever I could. It was my first Coupland book and I'll visit his mindscape again. (less)
Well it took me to about page 150 to give a damn about any of the characters. By the end I was interested to see what would happen, but it wasn't an o...moreWell it took me to about page 150 to give a damn about any of the characters. By the end I was interested to see what would happen, but it wasn't an outstanding book. Yes, it was a vehicle for presenting the recent history of Afghanistan which was interesting, but I found the story too contrived and badly structured to call it an epic. I know it's a favourite of many. Sorry.
Maybe it's after coming fresh off the heels of 'East of Eden' which is an epic, and brilliantly written, that I am so harsh. Maybe it's because I didn't like the story of Mariam finishing and the story of Laila beginning without any hint of sequitur. Whatever the reason, I'm sorry but I won't be reading the Kite Runner and will perhaps look to non-fiction for some more indepth knowledge of Afghanistan.