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

Sunday, 30 December 2012

December Roundup

It has been more like rain in the North West this December than snow, with a few frosty days which were pretty. Cold weather means sitting by the fire with a book though, whenever you get the chance.
Now I am on a roll how did the reading go...
Read - 1 and a half books
Completed - one book, The Organic Year by Patricia Gallimore.
Currently Reading -
The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini
Literary Genius edited by Joseph Epstein
TBR Pile - currently at 128 (according to GoodReads) with 7 novels as Christmas gifts added. I also got 3 other books over Christmas...
The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy
Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy
The Thread by Victoria Hislop
Winter in Madrid by C J Sansom
First and Only by Peter Flannery
Common Ground: Around Britain in 30 Writers
Shakespeare Off The Record by Stanley Wells
Dickens Off The Record by Paul Schlicke
RHS Latin For Gardeners by Lorraine Harrison
Challenges - Still haven't bought any new books throughout all of 2012. All of the new books in December were Christmas presents.
Wishlist Additions - just the one...
Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland
Discoveries -
I loved the Jim Carrey CGI version of A Christmas Carol which was on TV on Christmas Eve. Wouldn't be Christmas without some form of Scrooge. Went very well with a Festive glass of Port I can tell you.
Events - Apart from Christmas... I did watch the 2011 version of Wuthering Heights on TV last night, having read it earlier this year. It didn't have a great write up and I could see why. Long winded, not really a love story, frustrating characters, cold rather than passionate and endlessly melodramatic, the TV Times said 'unremittingly grim'. Just about everything I thought about the book to be frank. For all of the films frustrations it was exactly how I envisioned the story, a bunch of degenerate, unpleasant people in the middle of nowhere while endlessly blowing a gale on the moors. On that point it was a winner.

2013 is almost upon us, I hope you all have a wonderful New Year!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

This book was bought for me as a present for my birthday, along with another Cormac McCarthy novel. I was familiar with some of the films from this writers novels but this was the first that I had read for myself. I was in the mood for a book that took me to the wild prairies of America and the ranching life.
Book One in The Border Trilogy and set somewhere between the two World Wars (but surprisingly timeless), the story follows John Grady Cole, from Texas, a young and intuitive rancher with a deep love and understanding of horses. He and his friend, Lacey Rawlins set out for Mexico to find ranch work and the life that they love. On the way they pick up a young boy runaway, a decision that changes the course of their adventures and also their future. Encorporating a love story, friendship and stunningly beautiful scenery, this book was called 'One of the Greatest American Novels of this or any time' by The Guardian. So does it live up to this claim?
Coming from a less skillfully written novel before this one it was clear to me within only a few pages that Cormac McCarthy is by far a talent to be celebrated. The first page contained a 'sit up and take notice, in-take of breath' moment, and the writing was deliciously beautiful, in an indulgent, chocolate caramel way. The type of writing that causes involuntary sighs from the reader because of the satisfying beauty of the prose. Some of the passages in this book are some of the most beautifully written paragraphs or sentences that I have ever come across.
This is only four pages in...
'He rode back in the dark. The horse quickened its step.The last of the day's light fanned slowly on the plain behind him and withdrew again down the edges of the world in a cooling blue of shadow and dusk and chill and a few last chitterings of birds sequestered in the dark and wiry brush. He crossed the old trace again and he must turn the pony up onto the plain and homeward but the warriors would ride on in that darkness they'd become, rattling past with their stone-age tools of war in default of all substance and singing softly in blood and longing south across the plains to Mexico.' (p6)
McCarthy's use of repetition also served to validate the prose...
'When the wind was in the north you could hear them, the horses and the breath of horses and the horses' hooves that were shod in rawhide...'
or '...the women and children and women with children at their breasts all of them pledged in blood and redeemable in blood only.'
and I found it provided a rhythm that was comforting. I also liked the maturity of the voice telling the story, an assuring account of human nature that only comes with an experienced eye.
John Grady is the kind of hero we miss from old stories, steadfast, strong, reliable and entirely human. His sense of fairness compliments his passionate nature, for his own life, the woman he loves, his friend and the horses he surrounds himself with. You wouldn't go far wrong with this bloke on your side in an argument. These are men whose senses are heightened and do not spend much time on conversation.
The deceptively girlie title of the book hides the masculine content. This is an often brutal account of life on the land, with very few female characters, and a violent second half that had me holding my breath. Shocking circumstances left me wondering how on earth will they survive, only to lead to more shocking developments.
This is a gorgeous book on so many levels, the descriptions of the landscape and mans relationship with it, working with it and the horses. Also the accounts of friendship, and the determination to survive when others are determined that you will not. It was exciting and moving and a wonderful read.
Highly recommended for anyone wanting to visit a wild west that is about to be lost to machinery and corporate management very soon afterwards. Also for those who love quality writing that enhances sense of place and conveys tangible characters. I can't wait to get my hands on the 2nd novel of The Border Trilogy.
Reading Group Guides have discussion questions on All The Pretty Horses.
To go to Cormac McCarthy's website use the link.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

The great Gene Wilder, in his most famous role as Willy Wonka. I first saw Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when I was about 7 years old and it was shown on TV during the Christmas season. We're talking the 1970's. It was pure magic and I loved it. The chocolate room delighted me and the tunnel scene scared me witless, but it was Gene Wilder who captivated me most. Intriguing, unpredictable, beguiling, I was hooked and watched it many times, as a child and as an adult (now owned on DVD!).
I have seen the Tim Burton version but I found it tried hard to be dark and wierd and didn't quite work. The first version is much more sinister, but also warmer and very funny. Of course the original book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was by Roald Dahl and a teacher in my primary school read us the story over a series of tuesday afternoons. A whole class mesmerised, and the perfect way to keep us all quiet. The joy of a good story.
So here is wishing you all a Merry Christmas with a little Festive Magic thrown in for good measure.

Coming soon... my review of All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy.

Friday, 14 December 2012

September, October and November Roundup

I have been missing for a little while, due to lots of reasons, mainly an inability to read for 2 months over the summer. This was mostly down to being hugely distracted after I came back from Italy, although my reading has returned again now, thank goodness. Together with a very slow laptop and generally being busy the habit of blogging fell aside. Sometimes life just happens. I did wonder was this it for my blog? Had it reached its conclusion, and there has been some anxiety over what to do and finding time, but with determined effort, and missing talking about books, I am back again.
So here is the last 3 months in summary...
Read - 6 books
Completed -
All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Harry Hop-Pole by Wispy Gorman
The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Notes From Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin
I Was A Rat by Philip Pullman
Currently Reading -
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Organic Year by Patricia Gallimore
TBR Pile - currently at 122 (according to GoodReads) with 2 added...
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Shakespeare's Flowers by Jessica Kerr
Challenges -  I still have not bought any new novels in accordance with #1 of this years personal challenges. Both books that are added to the TBR pile were second hand buys.
Wishlist Additions -
The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli
A Winters Night by Valerio Massimo Manfredi
Discoveries -
Decided, during a recent visit to Nottingham, to try and find The Kite Runner in a second hand shop after failing to find a copy in my home towns excellent selection of shops. Visited lots of charity bookshops and expected to find it easily because it feels like one of those books that you see everywhere. This was not the case but led to the discovery of some brilliant Second Hand Bookshops in Nottingham...
Bookwise on Goose Gate- very friendly, nice atmosphere, and an excellent selection of books. This was where I finally found The Kite Runner.
Books And Pieces in the West End Arcade- filled to the brim in a tiny shop as you navigate piles of books on every surface, this is book browsers paradise. The owner looked for the title I wanted on a computer and told me straight away that they didn't have it.
Events -
The Kite Runner is making its European stage debut at the Liverpool Playhouse next summer.

So there it is, 3 months in a nutshell. Amongst the Christmas madness I am looking forward to reviewing the books I have read in that time, and of course I am still on GoodReads.

Hay on Wye

Hay on Wye