Showing posts from 2013

The Christmas Countdown is nearly over...

There’s something very different about the build-up to Christmas once you are no longer in full-time education.  Having graduated in June, this is my first Christmas with a full-time job, and my first Christmas that doesn’t fall in the middle of a nice long 3-week holiday.

For a start, the month of December is racing by! Without the routine of timetabled lessons, followed by a formal end to the term and some free time to relax and finish Christmas shopping, the big day seems to be catapulting nearer. The windows on my advent calendars (I have 3 – is that acceptable?) are flying open and the countdown is well and truly on.

December is a month full of events, both recurring annual ones and one-off catch-ups, and all of those are now being fitted in after days at work, or fitted into the couple of bank holidays we all have off. It’s been a busy couple of weeks so far…
First came ChristmasFest, in the village where I live. An annual event, all of the shops stay open late and there’s stre…

The Reading List #9

It’s been a busy week, but I’ve still found time for reading! Here’s the latest round-up of things I’ve read:
The Lollipop Shoes, Joanne Harris

This novel returns to visit the family of ‘Chocolat’, which I have actually not read yet, but the story can stand alone as well. Yanne lives with her daughters Rosette and Annie above a chocolate shop, until Zozie de l’Alba enters their lives and changes everything. Yanne and Zozie both have pasts, and Zozie’s presence forces Yanne to confront things she has blocked from her mind. This novel has it all: mystery, ruthlessness, fraud, family, love and friendship – there is a lot going on!
One thing that slightly confused me was which character was narrating each chapter, until I realised the picture symbols at the beginning of the chapters were a sort of key, identifying Zozie, Annie or Yanne. Once I had figured that out, I got completely lost in the narrative, and it is superbly written, with distinctive voices. You have to suspend reality a li…

The Reading List #8

Oh dear, oh dear, I missed a week of The Reading List! I’m really going to try and stick to a Saturday upload, or I’m speeding through books then not blogging them until weeks later. Without further ado, here’s the latest selection:

Wish You Were Here, Graham Swift

This is one of those books that’s been hanging around on my shelf for ages, but gets shunted out of the way by newer, shinier options. I have a feeling one of my parents read this a while ago, and I then poached it from their bookshelf.

Jack’s brother, Tom, is killed in Iraq, and this loss causes Jack to confront many issues in his life, past and present. Jack is a man of simple pleasures, but incredibly complex, and the writing of this character is what makes the book. It faces a backdrop of war – both the Great War and the Iraq War – heritage, marriage and grief, but is never too heavy-handed.

The emotional current of the book is believable, with sometimes very abrupt changes in mood or in the way characters interact, whic…

The Challenges #1 December 2013

I held off on posting this at first, as I didn’t want to publicly set myself a challenge I couldn’t stick to! I have decided that I will begin each month by setting myself a challenge, which can cover any aspect of my life, and do little updates on here. It might be a good way to set myself in the routine of new habits, or just prove to myself that I can stick at something for the month. December’s challenge is a toughie: NO spending on toiletries or cosmetics. Anyone that knows me knows I have a huge collection of these things, far more than I could ever be using in one go. My mum moans about it all the time… until she needs to borrow something, that is! Although I don’t waste all my money on these things, and I do budget and have money to save at the end of every month, it can never hurt to save a little more. I thought that, in the months where I was finishing Christmas shopping, it might be a good idea to reduce spending on myself. And so December’s challenge was born. 16 days in…

The Reading List #7

The weekend seemed to fly by and I didn’t get around to finishing my reading list post, so here it is now. I’m still going through my period of pulling lots of books off shelves that I haven’t read yet, so the wide mixture of books continues…
The Sea, John Banville

I read two Banville novels at university and was more than impressed, so was excited to find this gem on my parents’ bookshelf. In ‘The Sea’, art historian Max returns to a place he holidayed as a child, following a personal loss. The novels flits between two periods of his life - the then and the now - leading to themes of childhood discoveries, maturing, and loss. The time periods almost blend into one another, yet there is something distinctly separate about them too, so it is not confusing.
It reads almost like poetry, and is utterly beautiful. Any literature fans, or fans of superb writing and narrative, need to give it a go.
A Small Part of Me, Noelle Harrison

Christina’s mother, Greta, walked out on her as a child, a…

The Reading List # 6

It’s been a busy old week, and I’m a bit behind on my reading lists. The good news is I’ve been reading lots so there’s enough to fill a good few posts over the next couple of weeks. The majority of this next list was pulled together by grabbing things from my parents’ bookshelf, and one is a trashy re-read from a few years ago. Here goes:
Beach Babylon, Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous

This is another in the Babylon series I have mentioned before – ‘true’, insider accounts are drawn together in a narrative to give an insight into a week of certain luxury worlds. This one covers a week at a tropical island resort, where money is no object and the guests are demanding to the extreme. It’s told through the eyes of the resort manager, covering the staff’s side of things. It is an over-the-top, funny and trashy read, and perfect for a lazy weekend or holiday.
Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

This is the biographical account of Greg Mortenson, a mountaineer who stu…

The Reading List # 5

Weekends are the perfect time to catch up on reading, so here’s the latest instalment of things I’ve been reading recently.
Fatherland, Robert Harris

It is 1964, and Hitler is nearing his 75th birthday, having been victorious in the Second World War. Detective March finds a naked dead man in a lake, and this begins to unravel a huge conspiracy.
The premise of this book was so interesting, and it certainly delivered. There is enough fact weaved in to make the events believable, and the atmosphere and architecture of this 1960s Germany is conjured up well. The book is realistic in that there is still plenty of discontent in the country, so it was a rounded picture, and then in amongst it all was a gripping detective story. This is well worth a try.
Revenge Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger

Ten years after The Devil Wears Prada ended, Andy is co-running her own successful wedding magazine. Her life has changed a lot, and is the usual rollercoaster of emotions. This is a trashy novel, of cou…

The Reading List # 4

I think this reading list is the most mixed bunch so far, so I’ll just get on with it!
The Scar, China Mieville

There’s a bit of a story behind this choice. In second year of university we did a genre fiction week, discussing why science fiction and fantasy aren’t studied at school. The set text was an 800-page fantasy novel: China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station. I was dreading it, as I would never select something like this, but stuck with it and was more than impressed. Browsing at the library a while ago, I spotted this other Mieville book, and just had to give it a try. The Scar is about a character called Bellis Coldwine, who has been exiled from New Crobuzon, and finds herself living on a floating city run by pirates. They are all on a hunt for a forgotten people and a wound in reality.
Yet again, Mieville has converted me to his favoured genre and blown me away with his writing. The descriptions are exquisite, and the world he creates is so well-crafted that I found it easy…

The Reading List # 3

This reading list contains yet another very random mix of novels. I was in the library and just picked up some books with interesting covers or titles, to be perfectly honest! Amongst this group were a few very pleasant surprises…
Jubilee, Shelley Harris

In 1977, a photograph is taken at a jubilee street party, with a young Asian boy at its centre. 30 years on, Satish is still living with the memories of that day, and a reunion photo is being arranged. The novel weaves together the events of that day in 1977 with Satish’s life now, as a grown man. The day itself is examined from so many different viewpoints, yet is never repetitive, and there are many complex emotions and themes tied to that day which still haunt his life.
I’ve got to say, I absolutely loved this book. It was beautifully written, and cleverly pieced together. Not much actually happens, yet Harris keeps you turning every page, and you are lost in Satish’s story. Satish is such a fully-formed character, and some of the …

The Reading List # 2

It’s time for the second instalment of things I’ve read recently, and these four books were random library selections. They are all fairly easy reads – not particularly long and with a fast-paced story. Here goes:
Told in Silence, Rebecca Connell

The main outline of this story is that Jonathan and Violet marry young, and at the point of the story Violet finds herself a widow at just 21. The book is split into three parts:
Part 1 - Told by Violet, flitting between the present and the time before Jonathan’s death. There are beautiful passages on the idea of loss, but it trips along fairly quickly. Part 2 - Told by Harvey, Violet’s father-in-law, looking back at Jonathan’s life and featuring a few revelations. Part 3 - Told by Violet, who discovers events discussed in part 2 and her world is shattered.
All-in-all, this has a good storyline and moves quickly. The time jumps are slightly stilted to begin with, but once you know the characters the story begins to tell itself.
The Clever One,…