The true university these days is a collection of books.
-Thomas Carlyle

Monday, 30 April 2012

April Roundup

The 23rd April is traditionally thought to be Shakespeare's birthday and the BBC is marking it with quite a few TV programs which I am looking forward to watching. This lovely picture has come from The British Shakespeare Society who have an excellent website if you follow the link.
On with the books for April...
Read - Almost 3 books
Completed -
Dubliners by James Joyce
August: Osage County by Tracy Letts
Currently Reading -
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
Notes from Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin
The Organic Year by Patricia Gallimore
TBR Pile - currently at 118 (according to GoodReads) with one being read but another added...
Howard's End is on the Landing by Susan Hill
Challenges -
I have kept to #1 of my own challenges to not buy any new books. The new Susan Hill book was second hand.
I have completed the TBR Double Dare hosted by Ready When You Are, C. B. to only read books from your TBR pile from 1st Jan to 1st April.
I have also read Dubliners by James Joyce and August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, both of which were titles I was challenged to read by my colleague AR.
I am currently reading The Summer Book by Tove Jansson as part of #3 of my own challenges to read books that came up in discussion on our literary holidays.
Wishlist Additions -
Lottery by Patricia Wood
Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops by Jen Campbell
The Testimony by James Smythe
Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore
Cloudland by Joseph Olshan
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Discoveries -
Love Your Indie is a website that celebrates independent bookshops and offers not only a comprehensive listing of independent bookshops in the UK but also a rewards card to earn loyalty points at the bookshops listed. Take a look to find out more.
Events -
World Book Night was on the 23rd April and this year was an international event this time with our friends in USA giving books on the same day. I had fun giving away The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and you can read about my day by using the link.
As I mentioned earlier it was Shakespeares birthday on the 23rd as well and there have been some excellent TV programs on the BBC as part of the Shakespeare Unlocked season.
I have just come back from a weekend in Haworth in Yorkshire which is famous for where the Bronte sisters lived and were inspired by the surrounding countryside which features prominently in their novels. Look out for my next post where I will cover our trip in more detail.
The Liverpool Playhouse and The Globe Theatre have co produced an excellent version of Henry V which is currently touring the country. Try and catch it if you can.

April has been a full month, can't wait for May...

Monday, 23 April 2012

World Book Night 2012

It is international World Book Night today and givers have been working hard to pass on the joy of reading.
1 million books have been passed out this year and the title that I chose was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. You may remember that I reviewed this novel back in 2008 and I thought that it was an unusual and emotional book that was not difficult to read but very absorbing with a good heart. I also wanted to pick a title that would appeal to men and women from its first impressions in order to get people interested enough to take a copy and give it a try.

All of my copies went to people in and around where I work and they were very excited to get into the book. I thought that these copies were very attractive and aroused interest immediately, which helped me find new homes for them.

I loved the reference to Shakespeare's birthday in the back of the copies too and the invitation to track your copy online as it goes from person to person was much better for being at the front of the book.

What I did notice this year, as opposed to last year, was how much quieter the media were on this event. I actually thought there would be more presence because it has now linked the event up with our friends across the Atlantic in the States making it an international event, but no, it has passed by much more quietly. I was looking forward to the bookish programs on TV that I enjoyed last year and the general buzz throughout the day, but other than a few things in Waterstones in Liverpool 1 I felt I was largely on my own today. Last year there seemed to be an advance awareness amongst the public but that seemed to be missing this year which was a shame.

I enjoyed giving out the books though and I know that those who received one were excited. Those who knew each other suggested catching up when they had all read it, which I loved. Talking about books, sharing opinions and ideas is just as important in encouraging reading I think, as well as being loads of fun. I love discussing books in common with friends and colleagues.

This is a worthwhile event, lots of fun for those involved, and I hope that it continues. I only wish that the media had got behind it in the same way as before. It is only once a year and other than Waterstones, where book buyers already go, it slipped quietly by.

If you were involved in WBN this year I hope you enjoyed your day as I did and if any of you got a new book then fantastic and all the more to talk about. There are some brilliant books out there and if WBN encourages more people to read something, talk about it, pass it on to share it, it can only be a good thing.

Monday, 16 April 2012

The TBR Double Dare

The picture to your left has been living on my side bar for the last few months. This challenge was organised by Ready When You Are, C. B. and ran from January 1st to April 1st, and all you had to do was only read books that were on your TBR pile before this time. You could still buy books or add books to the pile, you just couldn't read them during the allotted period.
I joined the TBR Double Dare because I had already set myself the challenge to not buy any new books this year and they both seemed to compliment each other. I can accept books as gifts or buy second hand, but I really need to get my TBR pile under control. On average, being quite a slow reader, I get through about 18 to 20 books a year, and I have 118 books on the TBR pile. That is nearly 6 years worth of books. It is not as if I don't intend reading them either. I will read every one. It is just that there is so much temptation, more and more to read, and I love the choice. I simply need to apply some control, and these challenges help.

It seems I have passed the TBR Double Dare, and I have not bought any new books so far so am doing ok with my own challenge.

I hope it continues, fingers crossed.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

This novel has been a big hole in my reading history, having never read it at school or university, so when the opportunity came up to go to Haworth and have a Bronte's weekend at the end of this month, it was a good excuse to get this one under my belt at last. Plus Jane Eyre by sister Charlotte is one of my favourite books ever.
I had only seen clips of the Laurence Olivier film, and my only other experience was the Kate Bush song. I felt it was a dark and passionate love story, atmospheric and intense. This was all I knew beforehand.
Telling the story of two houses in the remote moorland of Yorkshire and the families that reside in them over two generations. Mostly it is told in retrospect by the previous housekeeper to a new tenant of Wuthering Heights after he arrives, to a frosty welcome, at the main house and meets the master, Heathcliff, and the other degenerate occupants.
The housekeepers story recounts the history of Heathcliff, an urchin brought up as his own by Mr Earnshaw, along with his other two children. His son Hindley hates Heathcliff who is a sullen little boy, but Cathy and him share a special bond from childhood. When the father dies and Hindley inherits the estate he deliberately treats Heathcliff with contempt, reducing him to a servant and humiliating him where possible. Cathy becomes friends with the children of Thrushcross Grange so when Heathcliff runs away and is gone for 3 years, Cathy entertains a flirtation with Edgar Linton and eventually agrees to marry him. Heathcliff returns with one thing on his mind...revenge.
I have to say that my expectations of a passionate love story were quickly dashed. There is a love story, but it is obsessive and melodramatic, and not convincing as anything genuinely based on love. This only forms some of the story though. Revenge is the flavour of this novel, a really base and immoral form of it, that waits its time, calculating major catastrophe on all of those in its vicinity, seeking to destroy even its possessor and reaching those who were not even born when it began.
This is where I had my problem with this novel. Almost everone in it is vile, not just dislikeable but truly vile. We have a collection of sadistic, unfeeling, selfish, game players. Most of the women are spoilt and the men are either manipulative to the extreme or weak, or both. My despair at reading about this horrible lot and their to-ing and fro-ing between the houses over rode any sympathy or feeling I may have had. They all got what they deserved and I wanted to be free of them. The one or two that are not outwardly horrible, like Edgar or even the tenant telling the story, are flat and unmemorable. With the others there was too much gnashing of teeth and debauchery for me.
I did enjoy the setting, the remoteness of the lives in the story (I deliberately picked this edition because of the effect of the cover picture), and the compelling descriptions of the more eccentric characters at Wuthering Heights, like Hareton and Joseph. At times it felt like a 19th century classic novel version of the Addams family and did have some comedy elements. Indeed on talking to others who hold the novel in high esteem these parts were some of their favourites and I did pick up on that. Sadly though I just hated them all and this is what dominated my impressions of the novel.
I am glad that I have read it and I look forward to talking about it in Haworth in a few weeks, and I do appreciate that this was never meant to be a comfy read about nice people living in the countryside, and it is this that emulates it in the affections of so many. Also I didn't want to abandon it at any point and I am sure the images of the residents of Wuthering Heights, sniping and bickering at each other in that sulky, miserable house were etched indelibly on my imagination. I cannot say I wholly liked it though.
An essential but not always enjoyable read that was nothing like Jane Eyre, and I guess therein lies the appeal of the Bronte sisters.
For discussion questions about Wuthering Heights use the link.
To read an interesting Online Guide to Wuthering Heights use the link which includes some of the more obscure questions about Wuthering Heights.
For information about the Brontes at Haworth in England use the link.

Monday, 2 April 2012

March Roundup

The March Hare has a long history in the UK, but no more so than as one of the characters at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, a story that fascinated and delighted me when I was a child. The picture to the left, accompanying this months roundup is from poetreecreations with a poem to go with it if you use the link.
How have the books been going...?
Read - 3 books
Completed -
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce
The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
Currently Reading -
Dubliners by James Joyce
Notes from Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin
The Organic Year by Patricia Gallimore
TBR Pile - currently at 118 (according to GoodReads) with no new ones added in March.
Challenges -
-I have kept to #1 of my personal challenges to not buy any new books, also tying in to the TBR Pile Double Dare (see my sidebar) which is to only read books from your TBR pile
-I have posted another Book/Film comparison about We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, for #5 of my personal challenges.
-I have completed #2 of my personal challenges, to read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte which I will be reviewing here soon.
-I have read my dystopia novel, The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, for #6 of my personal challenges. The review will be coming up on The Octogon soon.
-I am currently reading Dubliners by James Joyce as one of my recommendations for the year from AR.
Wishlist Additions - There are none this month which is just as well, seeing as my TBR Pile is toppling over.
Discoveries - poetreecreations, a poetry website started by poets in the East Midlands with workshops held in Nottingham. The website also explores commonly held traditions in Britain and around the world and their history, especially those that are linked to a particular calendar day or month (such as the March Hare above).
Events - World Book Night is coming soon (April 23rd) and various events are being organised around the country, books are being prepared to be delivered to volunteers who will be giving them away in lots of places on the night. Last years event was very successful and there was a host of book related programs on TV. I am looking forward to the whole event, especially as I gained lots of inspiration last year for new authors and titles.
Spring is well under way, warmer days and outdoor spots to take a book along and read. April is here.

Hay on Wye

Hay on Wye