Day 4: Bout of Books

This was much more like it. Having learned from Tuesday’s mistake that my housemates don’t understand serious book time I migrated upstairs to my bedroom and my favourite end-of-the-bed, leaning-against-the-bookcase position. I like to squeeze into a corner where I can feel all squirreled away and removed from the world.

Alias Grace squirreled away

Alias Grace squirreled away

Oh and that’s Barney my long time reading buddy.

And it worked. I made serious inroads with Grace and I’m really getting into the swing of it now, I feel like we’re getting to the mete of the matter and I’m actually quite keen to find out how Grace wound up where she is.

Not only that but it was a good day on the tube as well, I got the codeword over and done with pretty quickly meaning that I got a good amount of 100 Days to Victory read on both journeys bringing me to the close of 1917 with only 85 pages to go.

With any luck to go I’ll get both of these books finished this week!

100 Days to Victory: 40 pages

Alias Grace: 92 pages

Day 3: Bout of Books

I failed 😦 I got home and what with me being all alone in the house and it being a bit cooler out I decided to set up as follows for some indoor time with Grace and another plate of curry (ooohh added naan bread):

Alias Grace dines in

Alias Grace dines in

But then disaster struck in the form of one housemate after another traipsing in and apparently not understanding the concept of wanting to read in an evening albeit in a communal area of the house. So sadly my tally for the day (I forgot to do this yesterday) is a rather pitiful:

100 Days to Victory (this is my current tube book): 25 pages

Alias Grace: 8 pages!!

Day 2: Bout of Books

Monday came and there was one question on my mind: how am I supposed to find extra time to devote to reading? I know that Bout of Books is low pressure but I like to throw myself into a challenge with mo holds barred. The thing is I spend two hours a day commuting and during that time pretty much all I do is read (especially when I solve the codeword in the Evening Standard (other newspapers are available) in double quick time like I did last night) so where was the extra time going to come from? Anyhow when I got home I decided that the things to do would be to cook up a big old pot of curry that I could eat for the rest of the week without too much faff in an evening. And then while that was cooking and thanks to the lovely weather London was having on Monday I was able to sit out in my back garden and get to work on Alias Grace al fresco. There’s no chairs or comfy grass in my garden so my evening’s reading looked a little something like this:

Alias Grace al fresco

Alias Grace al fresco

I read 130 pages of Grace last night and I was really enjoying getting the back story of our protagonist but then every so often up pops one of the seemingly pointless letters that throw me all off kilter. It’s a very confusing book but I feel pleased with myself for getting a good chunk of it out of the way. And on a school night too.

Day 1: Bout of Books

And we’re off, my first read-a-thon is under way! I’m not actually sure how much reading I’ll be able to get done as this week has turned out to be a relatively busy one socially speaking and a few days ago my housemate brought home a ridiculous puzzle which seems to have the ability to steal entire hours of my life. So staying away from the puzzle and finding time to read around social engagements are my two main challenges for the week.

But aside from those challenges, the main reasons I’m doing this are two-fold:

1. My blog fell victim to the torment of thesis writing over the last year and a bit so I’m hoping that writing something every day will get me back in the habit and remind me how much I love vomiting my thoughts onto a virtual page and give me back the blogging spark.

2. Much as I hate to admit it I’m in a bit of a book-haze at the moment. I can’t seem to find anything I really enjoy and instead I’m forcing myself to plough on through however much I’m not really enjoying it. With any luck  a good bit of book chat will help me find that missing je ne sais quoi and really enjoy reading again.

Which brings me rather seamlessly to today’s challenge: a bookish survey!

Question 1: How do you organise your bookshelves? I really, really wish I could answer this; there’s a part of me that is screaming out for organising by theme and alphabetically but alas they’re just shoved on there any which way. One day I’ll get round to doing it properly. One day…

Question 2: What is one of your favourite books that’s not in one of your favourite genres? This is hard because I don’t really do genres – there are books I like and books I don’t. But I’m going to go for Katherine by Anya Seton which has to be the only time I’ve really enjoyed a historical novel.

Question 3: What is the last 5 star book you read? According to Goodreads the last book I gave 5 stars was Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks which seems fair as it was epic and gave me a new interest in WWI to the extent that I’m now reading a non-fiction book about the war.

Question 4: What book are you most excited to read during the read-a-thon? Currently my only goal is to finish Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood which I have been reading for an age. I’m pretty excited about that.

Question 5: What book do you recommend the most? I am the Messenger, Markus Zusak. This book is all kinds of perfect.

That’s all for today folks!

Bout of Books

Last month I signed up for Dewey’s Read-a-Thon but sadly that didn’t work out because it coincided with the London Marathon. Now although I’d love to say I was running the Marathon that would in fact be a lie. I was however volunteering as a ‘finish line walker’ meeting the brave souls who ran the course for Anthony Nolan and taking them to the after-race party (main features – massage and lots of bottled water). That meant I was at the race all day with no time for reading 😦

But in the interests of flexing my reading muscle and hopefully getting this blog back on track (it’s been a bit barren recently hasn’t it?) I’ve now signed up for Bout of Books, a week long read-a-thon starting on Monday which will hopefully help me improve my currently waaaay behind schedule annual target of books read as well as get me back in the habit of blogging. And it’s probably for the best because let’s face it, I really need my beauty sleep these days!

Bout of BooksThe Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 11th and runs through Sunday, May 17th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 13 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs

I went home a couple of weeks ago and to my horror I realised that I hadn’t packed a book for a three hour train trip! So I dived into Waterstones and picked up this book mostly due to the intriguingly sombre little girl on the front cover.

I had been aware of Miss Peregrine’s before but what made me pick it up this time was that I read a sentence describing it as being packed with “found photographs”. That idea really appealed to me because I love the opportunity to get an insight into other lives that is afforded by these discarded photographs. I find pictures of my own family fascinating but the photos of others even more so.

And it was these photos and their use, scattered throughout the text, that saved this book. I found that the story itself was a little lacklustre and predictable but I loved the way it twined around the photos of the peculiar children that really made it interesting and kept me reading.

The story is centered around sixteen year old Jacob who leaves America for a remote Welsh location where he hopes to finally make sense of the tall tales his Grandpa told him and the incredible pictures which Jacob always believed to be fakes. On his arrival Jacob finds himself drawn to the mysterious Emma and her friends as the mystery of his Grandfather’s life begins to unravel.

As I say the story itself didn’t wow me but I did love Riggs’ method of storytelling and his ingenious use of genuine vintage photography and the interview with the author at the back of my copy increased that feeling. So although I didn’t immensely enjoy this book I can recommend it to anyone else with an interest in vintage photography  or anyone who’s ever looked at an old picture and wondered who and why and where that photograph was taken.

13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks

A few years ago I was offered a free ticket to see the stage show of Birdsong so (because I never turn down a free theatre ticket) I went along with absolutely no idea what I was letting myself in for. What it turned out to be was an utter sob-fest set in World War I. So it was with some trepidation that I approached the book which I expected to be even worse.

BirdsongBirdsong tells the story of Stephen Wraysford who first arrives in France in 1910 as a young man of 20 to learn about the textile industry in the northern city of Amiens. The first section of the book deals with Stephen’s time with the Azaire family and the passionate love affair he embarks on under their roof which will mark him for the rest of his life.

We then skip to 1916 and a trench on the Belgian border where we meet Stephen again as a Captain in the British army. The introduction to wartime is as brutal as it can be with three characters dying in the first few pages of the 1916 section and little respite from then on. Every page bristles with the possibility of death or serious injury yet despite this it wasn’t the tear-jerker I was expecting. By this point death has become a fact of life for Stephen and all the other men and it is relayed as such in the text. It was a very grim read, there no doubt about that and there are some very gory descriptions making it definitely not a book for the faint-hearted but it only drew a tear from me on a couple of occasions (and that’s saying a lot, I’m the kind of person who cries at the drop of a hat).

I imagine that the war was a very surreal experience for those whose lives were consumed by it and that unreality is conveyed very clearly in the text, they shift dramatically between front-line warfare and rest days in some of the towns further from the line but there is a sense of abstractness that lies over everything. One of the most surreal moments was Weir’s story of his visit home and his parents’ complete disinterest in everything he had seen, experienced and felt which made it one of the parts that really moved me.

Then, about halfway through we shift completely to London in 1979 and some seemingly unrelated woman on the tube. It emerges gradually that she is looking into her family’s connection to WWI and I imagine that this part of the story was brought in as a way to tell what happened after the end of the war and to tie up the more romantic elements of the book but I felt it was completely unnecessary. I didn’t care about Elizabeth, about her relationships or any part of her life and I feel that all she did was detract from the central story. I was particularly annoyed that after the dramatic and moving conclusion to the book’s front-line events we were returned to Elizabeth which really spoilt the ending for me.

But that remains my only complaint, all in all Birdsong has left me with an urge to find out more about the terrible events of WWI. I feel like I know a reasonable amount about WWII but I only have a very vague grasp on the facts of The Great War which is awful given how many men and women gave their lives during the conflict. Today we are 100 years on from the horror of the trenches but we must never forget.