8.31.2014

MONTHLY WRAP-UP | AUGUST 2014


I always think that when I go on vacation I'll get all this reading done. I'll read book after book sitting in a quirky coffee shop or a friendly park, and next thing you know, I'll have caught up on my TBR list as if by magic. But in reality, I only get through the usual amount of books - or less. Sometimes I only read on the plane.

So you can probably guess where this is going: I only finished four books in August, so I'm back down from my impressive (for me) July reading list! Nonetheless, here they are:



Fallout was beautifully written, but I wasn't entirely happy with where the story went. I was still glad to have read it though, and would recommend it based solely on the strength of the writing. I Am the Mission was a great long-weekend read and I polished it off very quickly. Great if you enjoy YA thrillers. The Vacationers was.... well, you all know how I hate to say bad things about books, but I was rather disappointed in this one. It reminded me of about three different familiar plotlines, but didn't really manage to pull off an original twist. Still, great cover. And finally, She Is Not Invisible, which was delightful. Reminded me in the best way of Neil Gaiman's books for younger readers.

Reviews published in August:

And some other posts you might have missed:

So that's it for August - I can't believe it's September already! I feel like summer just started a few weeks ago. What did you guys get up to over the last month? (By which I mean, of course, what did you read?)

THE SUNDAY REVIEW | COLD COMFORT FARM - STELLA GIBBONS

 
'I saw something nasty in the woodshed'

When sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste is orphaned at nineteen, she decides her only choice is to descend upon relatives in deepest Sussex. At the aptly named Cold Comfort Farm, she meets the doomed Starkadders: cousin Judith, heaving with remorse for unspoken wickedness; Amos, preaching fire and damnation; their sons, lustful Seth and despairing Reuben; child of nature Elfine; and crazed old Aunt Ada Doom, who has kept to her bedroom for the last twenty years. But Flora loves nothing better than to organise other people. Armed with common sense and a strong will, she resolves to take each of the family in hand. A hilarious and merciless parody of rural melodramas, Cold Comfort Farm (1932) is one of the best-loved comic novels of all time.

This new Penguin Classics edition includes an introduction by Lynne Truss discussing Stella Gibbons' unconventional life and career and her joyously satirical voice.
- Goodreads


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I have been meaning to read this classic for years. Literally, years. Pretty much ever since I first watched the movie around the time it came out, which was in 1995. Fuck, I'm old. Anyway, it's been on the TBR for a while.

The other day, for some odd reason, I decided I was ready to dive back in. I picked it up for the third time determined to give it a fair shake and not give up on it in the second chapter as had happened in both previous attempts.

And get into it I did. It's an odd book, to be sure. There's the time period - having been written in the 1930s - but there are also cultural references and peculiar dialects to get used to. I think it helped that I had seen the movie first, because its dialogue stuck quite closely to that in the book, and I was able to draw on my memory of the actors' voices and representations as I was reading.

The story itself is one in which not a lot happens, really. Flora Poste, a young woman who was recently orphaned, goes to live with her eccentric relatives on a crumbling, dirty, inhospitable farm, and proceeds to take everyone in hand - from sex-crazed Seth to wood nymph Elfine to downtrodden Reuben and even Aunt Ada "I saw something narsty in the woodshed" Doom.

Flora is about the only person who could not only devise ways to get through to each of the Starkadders, but who would have the stomach for it. They're an unappealing lot, and stubbornly set in their ways. But as you read the story of how Flora wins over each in turn, you'll discover that she's also won you over in the end. 

This is definitely a story that will appeal to those with a "British" (i.e. dark, dry and sarcastic) sense of humour. Which is probably why I love it so much, as that sums up my own. It's a classic for a reason, and once you get past the first few chapters and settle into Flora Poste's England, you'll feel right at home there. If not always comfortable.

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Book Title: Cold Comfort Farm
Author: Stella Gibbons
Series: No
Edition: Paperback
Published By: Penguin Classics
Released: September 8, 1932 (this edition 2008)
Genre: Fiction, Classic, Humour
Pages: 233
Date Read: July 8-14, 2014
Rating: 10/10

8.30.2014

STACKING THE SHELVES | #36 (& RETURN FROM VACAY!)


I'm back from San Francisco!  Before I get started with this week's Stacking the Shelves, you may remember my pre-vacation post that included some bookish landmarks in San Fran! For those of you who have been anxiously scratching your heads wondering what they were, here are the answers:


  1. Kayo Books, a really funky bookstore on Post Street that specializes in noir mysteries, vintage paperbacks and pulp fiction.
  2. The bathtub of books at The Beat Museum.
  3. The poetry room on the top level of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers.
  4. Jack Kerouac Alley which runs along the side of City Lights and is covered in passages from Kerouac's works.
So there you have it! A mini literary tour of San Francisco. 


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And now, it's time to look at the books I added to my shelves this week with Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews! Not necessarily books I bought - also includes books I borrowed, was given or otherwise ended up with. Weeks where I don't buy books I'll scramble around my shelves and find some books I haven't shared in a StS post yet! 

Here are the books I picked up on my trip:

 
This One Is Mine - Maria Semple
Scratch One - Michael Crichton (writing as John Lange)
Franny and Zooey - J.D. Salinger

Here are a few I (accidentally) picked up while waiting for my flight home in the SFO airport:

 
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson

And the books that were waiting for me when I got home!

  
Ordinary Thunderstorms - William Boyd
Hearts and Minds - Amanda Craig
Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein




A Week in December - Sebastian Faulks

So that was my week in books! As you can see it's a pretty wide-ranging list, including some I stumbled across on sale (This One Is Mine - I already have the UK version but liked this cover better and it was on sale for a few bucks, so I figure I can use one as a gift at some point), discovered on random bookstore visits (*ahem* airport *ahem*) and some further British reads! I'm excited to read all of these ASAP. What about you guys? Have you read any of these - and if so, what did you think? What did you pick up this week? Share in the comments!

8.28.2014

LIFE OF A BLOGGER | FEARS


Life of a Blogger is a weekly meme hosted by Novel Heartbeat. Every week there's a new topic, not related to book blogging. This week's topic is the other side of last week's: Fears. (For a full list of topics - past and future - go here.)

Well, this should be an easy topic for me! I'm not what you might call the courageous sort. I'm not a total wimp, but I'm not about to climb about in the skies like these blokes:


My fears are rather pedestrian, really: heights, spiders, poisonous snakes, zombies, serial killers, torture, losing people I love, being forced to eat haggis. There's one that, I admit, is a bit ridiculous an disproportionate - ebola. Now, I know, you're rolling your eyes and thinking how sick you are of hearing about it. But my ebola fear stretches back much further than this most recent (and most deadly) outbreak to, appropriately, a book. This book, to be precise:


I read The Hot Zone in high school (I'd read The Andromeda Strain, which led me to other books along the same line) and what I read truly terrified me. For those of you who don't know much about the disease that is currently ravaging affected populations in West Africa, it's horrific. It starts off with symptoms similar to the flu, if more intense. Fever, muscle pain, headache. It then quickly progresses to vomiting, diarrhea, a severe rash (trust me, you don't want to Google image that shit), and impaired kidney and liver function. In some cases it can cause both internal and external bleeding - I remember seeing pictures of victims with blood leaking from their eyes, nose and ears. There is no vaccine or cure, and, depending on the strain, it can be fatal in up to 90% of cases.

That said the chances of an outbreak happening in the developed world are very low. It's only contagious once symptoms occur and isn't airborne. If it were to make it here, it would likely be quickly contained because our medical systems are so much better equipped (ironically) to deal with this kind of outbreak. But that doesn't change the fact that hundreds have died from or are currently battling this disease in terrible conditions with little hope of survival.

So yeah, I find that pretty scary.

What about you guys? Fears? Paranoias? Irrational aversions? Share in the comments!


8.27.2014

55 QUESTIONS ABOUT BOOKS | PART TWO


I came across this on The Notebook Sisters' blog (if you don't know the blog you should devote the rest of your day to reading up - it's one of the best and funniest blogs out there). Cait and Mime's answers are much funnier than mine, so please read theirs after you finish this post, but here's part one and part two. (There were a couple of questions missing here and there, so I went to The Literary Lollipop's post for the original list to fill them in.)

This is part two - check out part one here!

 28. Favourite reading snack?

http://animated-disney-gifs.tumblr.com/post/24696888158

I don't really have one. But I'm always game for chocolate. And beer. And chips.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

These Broken Stars. Ugh.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?

If by "the critics" you mean other book bloggers, then pretty often. But then again, I've carefully selected a virtual family of bloggers to follow who  have similar tastes and opinions to me, so I'm not sure that's particularly accurate.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

http://uproxx.com/tv/2013/04/the-funniest-meanest-and-most-vicious-lines-from-veep/

Okay, maybe that's a bit strong. But this is pretty accurate:

http://pandawhale.com/post/14135/relaxing-looping-tea-gif

Seriously, I am so aware that a ton of time and effort has gone into every single book, even the bad ones. I also know I could never write one. So tearing one down? Pretty much the absolute shittiest part of book blogging.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

French. And Spanish. Actually, both of them. Whatever, I'm fine with cheating and picking two. 

33. Most intimidating book I’ve read?


Does reading all of Jane Austen's books count? I don't think I'm a particularly impressive reader. Though I did read the whole Twilight saga in a week. You can bow down to me now.

34. Most intimidating book I’m too nervous to begin?

War and Peace. Les Miserables. The Odyssey. Ulysses. Crime and Punishment. Anna Karenina. Moby Dick. Oh, tons.

35. Favorite poet?

Emily Dickinson was my favourite growing up, because of the name thing. But I love spoken word and hip hop. Which you can try to argue as much as you want, but to me good rap lyrics are poetry, and I'm not changing my mind on that. So, that being the case, I'd go with Slug from Atmosphere, Saul Williams, Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Latryx, etc. Oh, just listen to this.




36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?

Don't use the library (see last set of questions for details).

37. How often have you returned books to the library unread?

Back when I did use the library, all the time. I'd check out any books that appealed to me and try them, but often set them aside. I mean, that was kind of the point. No commitment.

38. Favourite fictional character?

Oh, this old chestnut. Augustus Waters. Hermione Granger. Holden Caulfield. Boo Radley. And oh, so many others.

39. Favorite fictional villain?

http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/tom-hiddleston/images/31989654/title/tom-loki-fanart

Loki? Does that count? *swoon*

41. The longest you’ve gone without reading?

I have no idea. I went for a while without reading regularly - i.e. I would sometimes not really be reading anything, other times I would re-read Harry Potter. But I don't think I've ever gone for any length of time without reading anything at all.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.

Bleak House, The Historian,On the Road, the Divergent trilogy, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, a few of John Irving's books and a few of Hunter Thompson's books.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

If it's a good book, not much.

44. Favourite film adaptation of a novel?

http://www.boomsbeat.com/articles/144/20140124/50-interesting-facts-about-brad-pitt.htm

Harry Potter, hands down. Also liked Perks of Being A Wallflower, though I never finished the book. Fight Club.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?

Hmmm. I tend to block these. I haven't read the Vampire Academy books, but thought that movie wasn't up to much.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?

Maybe like 50 bucks? I tend to book shop online or used in store, so not a huge amount.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

http://gifsec.com/funny/are-you-kidding-me-gif-8/

*blinks*

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through?

If I hate the writing or characters and if the plot is boring.

49. Do you like to keep your books organised?

I would like to if I had a library so they were all in one room. But as it is they're too scattered to be able to really re-arrange them without it getting overwhelming.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?

Keep unless I don't like them.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?

The rest of the Beautiful Creatures books.

52. Name a book that made you angry.

http://now-here-this.timeout.com/2014/01/01/32-emotions-you-will-feel-while-watching-tonights-sherlock-as-told-by-benedict-cumberbatch-gifs/

Insurgent, These Broken Stars and Shatter Me. UGH. Annoying characters and poor or irritating writing. Inconsistencies. Inadequate world building. Just... ugh.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?

The Razorland Trilogy, which turned out to blow my mind.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?

These Broken Stars. I'd heard such amazing things about it and it just totally bombed for me.

55. Favourite guilt-free pleasure reading?

I'm not sure how guilt comes into it. I don't feel guilty for reading anything I enjoy. If I'm in a really bad mood and want to re-read something I know I'll love, generally it's Harry Potter, Helene Hanff, TFIOS or one of my childhood faves like Adrian Mole.

That's it for all 55 questions! Phew. If you've been following along, don't forget to link-up with your own posts in the comments or just pipe in on any questions that strike your fancy! 

8.25.2014

TOP TEN TUESDAY | BOOKS I REALLY WANT TO READ BUT DON'T OWN YET


This week's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Books I Really Want to Read But Don't Own Yet. Hahahaha, oh dear. This could get out of hand. But I'll try, very very hard, not to exceed my allotted ten!


Not My Father's Son - Alan Cumming
Yes, Please - Amy Poehler
Not That Kind of Girl - Lena Dunham


Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2) - Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Killer Instinct (The Naturals #2) - Jennifer Lynn Barnes


Dept. of Speculation - Jenny Offill

 

And oh, so many more! What about you guys? What are you simply dying to get your eager little hands on?

8.24.2014

THE SUNDAY REVIEW | Q'S LEGACY - HELENE HANFF


Here is the remarkable story of how Helene Hanff came to write 84, Charing Cross Road, and of all the things its success has brought her. Hanff recalls her serendipitous discovery of a volume of lectures by a Cambridge don, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. She devoured Q’s book, and, wanting to read all the books he recommended, began to order them from a small store in London, at 84, Charing Cross Road. Thus began a correspondence that became an enormously popular book, play, and television production, and that finally led to the trip to England – and a visit to Q’s study – that she recounts here. In this exuberant memoir, Hanff pays her dept to her mentor and shares her joyous adventures with her many fans. - Goodreads

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If I wasn't already a devoted fan of Helene Hanff based on her famous collection of letters-turned-movie, 84, Charing Cross Road, I would be now.

This is, more or less, the story of Hanff's life. It begins with her self-education in the craft of writing - and the genesis of her love for the written words of others. This education was had at the hands of one Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (yes, "Q"), a Cambridge don whose lectures she discovered at the library. Rather than go to college, she learned all she needed under Q's tutelage, which led indirectly to the salient turns in her life - and, eventually, to 84. But let's start at the beginning.

After discovering "Q" at the library, Helene goes in search of both Q's work and the books he discussed but discovers that they're nearly impossible to find at affordable prices in her native New York. Luckily, while perusing a magazine one day, Hanff stumbled across an ad for Marks & Co, a British book store located at who specialized in out of print and "antiquarian" books. Though somewhat nervous that "antiquarian" would mean expensive, she took a chance and sent along a letter to the store located at 84, Charing Cross Road in London asking if they had any editions of the books she wanted at prices she could afford.

They did.

Thus began a decades-long correspondence between Hanff, Frank Doel (who handled nearly all her requests) and, eventually, all the other employees of the store and several family members. Hanff's sense of humour (not to mention her generous Danish packages of meat, eggs and other items that were impossible to find during war rationing) won over all the staff and she found herself the fast friend of a whole troupe of store employees and their families - none of whom she had ever laid eyes on.

An impoverished writer, Hanff struggled to make ends meet through most of her life. It wasn't until the publication of a slim volume of letters by the name of 84, Charing Cross Road that Helene saw any measure of success - but much to her surprise, the book proved to be beloved by many. Though it didn't make her fiscally secure, it did provide her with something she valued just as highly - fans who became friends.

In Q's Legacy we get the back story, the context and find out exactly where 84 took Helene's life. The sense of her we get from reading her letters is but an inkling of the story she unfolds here, and because of that I enjoyed reading Q even more than I expected. Helene is such a kindred spirit, and I'm sure that were she still alive, I'd try to take her out for lunch if I ever visited New York. (She regularly accepted meetings and outings with perfect strangers who sent her fan mail - which would certainly have emboldened me to try, anyway!)

If you're a fan of 84, of books about those who love reading, or just looking for a pleasant read to fill a rainy afternoon, introduce yourself to Helene. She'd love to share her story with you.

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Book Title: Q's Legacy
Author: Helene Hanff
Series: No
Edition: Paperback
Published By: Penguin
Released: August 5, 1986 (this edition)
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Humour, Books
Pages: 192
Date Read: July 18-20, 2014
Rating: 10/10

8.23.2014

STACKING THE SHELVES | #35


Greetings from San Francisco!

Time to look at the books I added to my shelves this week with Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews! Not necessarily books I bought - also includes books I borrowed, was given or otherwise ended up with. Weeks where I don't buy books I'll scramble around my shelves and find some books I haven't shared in a StS post yet! 


Like No Other - Una LaMarche
The Rain -  Virginia Bergin


Fruit of the Lemon - Andrea Levy

Most of these I've had for a while, but haven't featured yet. I'm particularly fond of Fangirl, which I got after seeing it discussed on Writer of Wrongs. It's just so pretty! (Check it out in her video here.)

What about you guys? What did you add to your shelves or dig out this week?
 

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