Monday, 31 May 2010

It's Monday What Are You Reading? (1)

What Are You Reading, is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.

Hosted by Sheila over at Book Journey

Why is it that whenever someone asks me "what are you reading" that my mind goes completely blank and I can't remember what I've been reading? Especially if they ask me when I'm away from my laptop and don't have my handy excel spreadsheet opened up in front of me so I can actually see what I've been reading?

So, spreadsheet open: Since last week I have read quite a few books which is unusual for me as it usually takes me one week to read a book, but then again these have all been fairly short.

Last week I finished After Dark by Haruki Murakami (favourite author of mine) Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster (first time I have read one of his) and today I finished The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones (my absolute favourite author).

After Dark is one of Murakami's latest books and despite some sneering reviews from other people, I really, really enjoyed it. The main criticism seemed to be the fact it left the ending hanging loose, but I really loved this as it allowed me to keep on thinking, imagining and wondering what was going on. It is set during only one night, and to tell a complete story with full plot and character arcs in one night, I have always found overly simplistic and unrealistic.

Murakami writes weird surreal fiction (and non-fiction - don't know whether the non-fiction is weird yet) that mixes reality with not-so-reality in a seamless fashion you're left not truly knowing the difference between either. When reading, you merely accept it - no matter how bizarre. Reading a Murakami is no linear experience. You have to take into consideration everything - not just what happens on the page, but how it makes you think, feel and experience different things. Whilst reading After Dark I listened to jazz music mentioned in the book and tried to look up other cultural references whilst reading. Murakami is much more an experience then any other book I have read.

Where Angel's Fear to Tread was my introduction to E. M. Forster. I quite enjoyed it though I wasn't blown away by it either. I'm still keen to read his other books though, I enjoyed his rather simple style but I found the characters all rather hard to feel anything for - like, dislike, love or anything like that. As my post-After Dark read though perhaps it dimmed in comparison. Next up by Forster will probabably be A Room With a View which I'm really looking forward to.

And then today I recently finished The Time of the Ghost which is for older Young Adults and really quite good - very spooky and like all Diana Wynne Jones books, she can just suck you into this world and make you feel like you've been there all your life. I loved all the characters and how real they felt - and I don't know how she does it. It isn't as if she even tries. You can't see how she develops the characters or progresses the plot. Some authors just have an innate ability I think - she introduces a character and you already know her just within a few words. I could wax on about Diana Wynne Jones for a whole blog though so I shan't start now.

It wasn't as funny as her books for younger readers, and from what I have read about her life, she has inserted a lot of her life into this book - her negligent parents who couldn't care less and her sister's way of coping with their lives living in a school for boys. Cart I think is a version of Diana Wynne Jones - considered by her parents to be ugly but clever and so deserving of university - Isobel and Fenella mirroring her two sisters. In many of her books, careless, selfish parents are a common feature, but I think there is a lot of herself in this book.

And now I have just started Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe the first international best-selling American classic. It is, if you are unaware, about slavery and the fight towards freedom. Abraham Lincoln apparently said to Stowe: "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!" I have to admit - I know next to nothing about the American Civil war that started in 1861 (I know that now!) so this book should be quite enlightening for me, and help fill in those gaps that I missed out in school.

So, what are you all reading? Something interesting I hope.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Books & Music & ScribeWriter

So, for my third blog post I am testing out this blog editing software thing. The one I am currently using is called ScribeFire which is a Firefox add-on (also available on Google Chrome, don't know about Internet Explorer). I have also downloaded two others (Windows Live Writer and W.Bloggar) and will be trying those out later on.

ScribeWriter so far looks quite sleek and you access it through your web browser rather then as a separate program. So far very simple, you just press F8 and it pops up - either in a new tab or as a split window so you can browse at the same time as you blog. Seeing as I haven't tried publishing anything with this yet I shall reserve judgement until the end.

Who else uses things like these to blog by the way? What do you think is the best one, not just of these I have mentioned but all the others I haven't decided to (yet) try out?

Anyway, Books and Music two things that for me go really well together. I like listening to music as I read, I know not all of you do, but for me it helps keep all those other distractions at bay.

My favourite are usually soundtracks - I love Hans Zimmer and John Williams equally - and I try to match music to books to really immerse me in the mood.

My favourites are probably Memoirs of a Geisha by John Williams and The Last Samurai by Hans Zimmer. Last April I read Shogun by James Clavell (which is by the way my favourite book in the world) and when I listen to these two albums, I do not picture their films, I feel Shogun in an almost physical sense. It's wonderful to feel as if I have been reunited with the book just by listening to these soundtracks once again. Perhaps I have gone mad, I don't know.

Another book that for me, became intertwined with the music I listened to - was The Counte of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Now if you haven't read this, if you've been put off by the sheer size please don't be because it is a absolutely brilliant, brilliant, brilliant book.

I read this whilst listening to Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man album. Why I chose this to listen to whilst reading I do not know, but some how it worked and I can still feel that book inside me whenever I listen to it again.

Karl Jenkins is a modern day neo-classical composer whom I really enjoy, but this following piece is my favourite of anything he has done.

Bededictus - Karl Jenkins

I love the gentle, haunting build up that is so sad and then the soul-catching choir half way through. For me it resonates with the sadness of The Counte of Monte Cristo and his crusade towards revenge. Now as I listen to it again, I can almost smell the book again. Some books just seem to remain, physically in your mind and by associating the book with music, I can bring that back whenever I listen to it again.

Music I have been listening to lately though - not always book related because it isn't all the time that the book and the music gets so closely intertwined - has been what's apparently known as nu-folk. I love Mumford and Sons and Laura Marling, wonderful music, great lyrics and they both seem to fill a hole inside me. Go check them out if you are interested. I recommend The Cave by Mumford and Sons and Rambling Man by Laura Marling.

At the moment I'm listening to Mumford and Sons whilst I read The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones. I hope you've enjoyed my third blog post - I'd appreciate any comments and constructive criticism.

(Now let's see how this ScribeFire works... if you're reading this then obviously it has!)

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Any Human Heart - William Boyd

star1 star1 star1 star1 star1
Genre: Historical
Published: 2004
Pages: 480

I wondered what book I should start this blog off on. I have just finished Where Angel's Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster which I shall review later but I would like to begin with one which I really loved and a bit about other things I love too - excellent TV Dramas (the more period the better) and my favourite actor.

Any Human Heart by William Boyd is a fictional memoir of Logan Gonzago Mountstuart who was born in 1906 and follows through until his death in 1991. That isn't a spoiler really, as it is written as if it is a real memoir you are expected to know that he has already died, as it says so right at the beginning.

You can read my Goodreads review here if you wish. Basically, five stars, loved it and if you like books set in the past, about human feeling and enjoy stories that will make you laugh as well as cry - you may want to try this one out.

It's a beautifully written, rather subtle book and I decided to read it because it is actually, at this very minute being turned into a TV drama for Channel 4 starring Matthew Macfadyen, Jim Broadbent Tom Hollander, Samuel West (all my favourite actors, you can follow Samuel West on twitter @exitthelemming)

You can also follow the production team @AnyHumanHeart

And as a fan of Tom Hollander (brilliant actor, played Lord Cutler Beckett in Pirates of the Caribbean 2&3 in case you're wondering who he is) and member of the forums of Thomagination we decided a great way to prepare for this role would of course be to read the book. He is to play the part of the Duke of Windsor and I'm so looking forward to his performance.

If you're interested in Tom Hollander may I recommend to you the films of:

Bedrooms and Hallways which is a very camp film about a man named Leo who joins a men's group and then declares his attraction to one of the members.

Lawless Heart which is probably my favourite with Tom in it (he actually plays one of the leads) about a man who has recently lost his lover and is about the events that occur after the funeral.

and Gracie which is a TV bio-pic of Gracie Fields, the 1940's singer. 

Anyway, enough free plugging for now. The book I found a joy to read - as I explained in my review. I had heard of this author before and to tell the truth, I did not really have any high expectations - I read the book because of the upcoming TV drama but I ended up loving it and discovering a new author I know I'm going to return to some day soon. I just hope that the drama will live up to the book and that they stay true to the characters.

Let me Introduce Myself...

I am Fiona.

I've been tempted away from my current book (Where Angels Fear to Tread) by Allison to create a book blog of my very own, something of which I've been thinking of doing for a very long time. Unfortunately due to chronic procrastination it has taken me until now to actually set one up. 
So you're thinking perhaps, if you don't know me: Who are you? Well I can't possibly sum myself up (shy, book reader, likes the look of her own typing) so I guess you'll have to come to your own assumptions as to who I am from what you read in the following blog posts.

You can probably already guess that this blog is going to be about books. I'm a reader, I love reading and my life revolves about what I am currently reading and what book I am going to read next. Everything else is null and void. I'm quite unable though to stick to one topic so if I go off on a non-book tangent then, well... don't be too surprised. 

What books do I read? Well good question - I read a range - from Young Adult books to classics, to historicals, crime, fantasy and other contemporary novels. I'll introduce you to my favourite books and authors another time perhaps otherwise this introductory post is going to go on forever.
I am found in various places on the internet. One such place is Goodreads where I list all the books I own, have read, want to read etc etc. The other place is twitter and you can follow me at @ratsinabag if you so wish. Unfortunately my twitter profile is secured due to the numerous amounts of porn stars wishing to follow me so please leave me a comment here if you wish to follow me so I know you have no illicit intentions.

Over on Goodreads I run a Young Adult group, one that is aimed at adults as well as young adults - Wild Things: YA Grown Up so I will probably be using this blog also as a way to talk about that. I happen to be moderator of another group over at GR too... but more about that later on.

So, that is me - very briefly, not much yet I know. I am rather new to this blogging business but I hope to get up to date soon. However right now, I am going to finish off the twenty pages I have left of Where Angel's Fear to Tread (by E. M. Forster) before I go any further!


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