Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Some books I would like.

A quick listing of books I am currently eyeing off and will most likely purchase after Christmas.

The Collected Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker.  The woman's a genius.  If you haven't read her you're definitely missing out.

Playground by 50 Cent.  Hello, a children's book by 50 Cent!  Need I say more? 

Open City by Teju Cole.  I've read a few reviews of this book and I am definitely intrigued.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I'm all for self-improvement and other people's journeys and this comes with pretty good reviews.

Make Hey While the Sun Shines by Pip Lincolne.  Craft! Pretty things!  I am a terrible crafter but a very wishful thinker, and something in me is whispering that if I owned this book I would definitely make hey while the sun shines (whatever that may mean).

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.  I am a little late to this bandwagon but saw the preview for the film today and cried a little bit.  I can only imagine that the book would do the same and I am nothing if not a masochist.

Monday, 19 December 2011

A quick update.

- I am up to seven books in my 52 books in 52 weeks challenge.

- This website is kind of fun.

-I am very close to ordering Open City by Teju Cole but should most likely wait until Christmas is over.

-The weather is finally nice enough for me to curl up outside and read (until hay fever sends me right back to the couch) or wish I was bike riding.

- I received my results for college today and am pretty damn happy.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Things I've done apart from read.

Look at water on the beach, walks on a mountain, get lost in mazes, eat pizza pancakes, walks to friend's places, share cupcakes, make origami water bombs, lose chess and eat out for multiple birthdays.

Books that make me run into things: part one.

Recently I have read two books that I have almost literally been unable to put down.  Both have been adapted into fairly popular films and I can't believe I haven't read them earlier.

The first of the two was Kathryn Stockett's The Help which was filled with characters I either fell in love with and loathed.  While the ending wasn't exactly what I was hoping for it was a shocking and vaguely beautiful story about the overworked and underpaid black housekeepers in 1950s America prior to the Civil Rights movement.  It was sad and incredibly addictive and I highly recommend it to everyone.

The second was About a Boy by Nick Hornby.  The film seems to be shown on television here at least twice a month so I've seen it a fair few times and have never failed to enjoy it.  While it does seem to follow the book fairly closely the novel is fairly different in some areas and therefore worth reading.  I loved this so much that I walked around reading it, had it next to me while I folded washing and tried to do my liquid eyeliner while holding it up.  No, that didn't work.  I never fail to be surprised at the way British authors are able to so eloquently capture human relationships and emotions (my other favourite being Mark Haddon, who is an absolute star) and completely loved the relatability of this story.

I figure if you are so absorbed in a book that you are willing to run into walls and tables or have black smears of eyeliner down your cheeks for them then they must be pretty special, so I implore everyone to give these two stories a look.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Things that aren't boring: reading non-fiction.

I really love non-fiction and tend to get much more absorbed in it than I do fiction.  After some amazing experiences overseas I have been absolutely infected with the travel bug and read travel stories very heavily.  Poverty and feminism are a couple of my other favourite topics.  Non-fiction doesn't have to be text-book boring.  In the right hands it is funny, clever and incredibly interesting.  Here's a few of my favourites.

 Princesses and Pornstars by Emily Maguire. Australian feminism made accessible.  Very entertaining and slightly shocking.

Emergency Sex by Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait and Andrew Thomson.  Explores life as a UN peacekeeper.  Challenging and somewhat inspiring.

A Girl's Own Adventure by Jacqueline Tomlins.  When I think of the masses of books about travelling Africa on my bookshelves this one comes to mind first.  While certainly not the best written novel of the lot it is certainly very fun to read and motivational.

Chasing the Devil by Tim Butcher.  Tim Butcher writes particularly well about African history and current situations.  Chasing the Devil mainly explores Liberian culture and its hidden devil-fearing culture.  Very, very interesting and very, very sad.

The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer. Peter Singer is an incredibly controversial Australian ethicist and The Life You Can Save contains his approach to ending world poverty.  While it seems a little out of reach it's a really good read and helps make global poverty a combatible issue. Dambisa Moyo wrote an unintentional counter to Singer's book: Dead Aid.

I've left out biographies and autobiographies but they probably deserve their own post.  Most of these books aren't especially recent and I apologise.  I'm a little slow on the uptake.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The very first meeting.

For a very long time I have been moaning and groaning about wanting to be in a book club.  Eventually, I did the sensible thing and started my own.  Officially, there are three other members, but I'm not sure that everyone read the first book so it was just two of us at our first meeting. 

Our first book?  The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Seeing that my friend Ellen and I decided that we had to dress and eat to the theme of the book, we made ourselves fancy and went to the nicest looking restaurant that we could afford.  We tucked into tempura mushrooms.  We talked.  Eventually, we even discussed the book.

Ellen: So, what did you think?
Emily: Uh, I didn't really, uh, I hated it.
Ellen: Oh, thank God.  Me too.

We thought it was clunky, boring, pretentious and offensive.  The story didn't flow, the events seemed pretty random and the five or so pages in which Dorian is reading about excess and youth and whatnot just about made Ellen throw the book across the room (apparently the only thing that stopped her was the fact that it was my book).  The characters were distinctly unlikeable and even allowing for the time we found that the attitudes towards women were almost painful - it was very much a men's club and I wish Wilde would just come out and flippin' tell us about Dorian's big old crush on Lord Henry.  The storyline was predictable and the 'dark' themes boring.  We were unsure of Oscar Wilde's views on Dorian as he was treated quite gently despite being a hideous soul.  No, death isn't enough for us.  If you're going to be dark, authors, we want you to go all the way.  "Give me more gory details," as Ellen said.

What confused us the most was the amount of people we had talked to who had adored it.  We don't feel that we missed the point (pleasures in life are temporary, beauty is fleeting, etc.) and it is not as though we are not used to reading classics or literature in a similar style.  We just plain didn't like it.

Rechristening the story The Picture That's Boring and Gray, we drank cocktails and thanked the universe that we don't have to read it again.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

A selection of my heroines.

I am a complete sucker for a good heroine.  The following is a list of my favourites and where to find them grabbed from both children and adult fiction.

Meg Murry
(Hope Larson's depiction of Meg that will appear in an upcoming graphic novel...!)

Meg Murry is the amazing protagonist from Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. If you like the Harry Potter series you will love L'Engle's fantasy/science fiction/romance/genre-jumping first novel - her emphasis on the power of love and triumph of good over evil will be very familiar to many, though it must be noted that L'Engle came first and was no doubt an influence on Rowling. Meg Murry is a completely believable female lead, urging her friend Calvin and younger brother onwards when they leap into unknown territory and basically saving Earth by the end. Basically.  Don't worry, I haven't given too much away.  She is intelligent, boldly individual (and not in a Mia Thermopolis/generic Meg Cabot character way) and very strong.  Other female characters include the amazing Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which (though arguably they are genderless), Mrs Murry and the gorgeous Aunt Beast.  Yes, I just finished reading it for about the seventh time.

Katniss Everdeen
Come on people, if you haven't read The Hunger Games then you shouldn't even be on the internet.  Climb out from under your rock and give one of the best stories to come out in recent times a look.  While it is admittedly not executed perfectly, Suzanne Collins' idea of a dystopia is truly horrific and the strength found in Everdeen is a result of this.  Probably not my favourite character of the list but certainly deserves an honourable mention for her display of loyalty, skill and persistence.  Also, there's a movie coming out soon so I implore you to read it before the film potentially butchers the book.  It probably won't, but just in case.

Holly Golightly
Breakfast at Tiffany's is almost certainly one of my favourite stories of all time and Holly Golightly drives the tale, encompassing a perfect mix of heart-breaking nostalgia for a dead brother and, uh, money-grabbing from baby-faced millionaires.  Okay, Golightly is not the perfect heroine and definitely not someone I'd ask a very young girl to look up to, but I think the older crowd can learn a lot from Truman Capote's beautifully realised character who is massively flawed but somehow admirable.  Please, forget the movie.  The novella is much better enjoyed on its own and while I adore Audrey Hepburn the story is much better minus the sap.

Matilda Wormwood
Intelligent, kind and blessed with the power of teleknesis, Matilda Wormwood is one of Roald Dahl's very best characters.  Strong enough to stand up to the evil power of Miss Trunchbull and her family and smart enough to know the perfect way to do it, the character of Matilda and all that she embodies is a perfect example for little boys and little girls to follow - and it's not a bad book, either.  While Dahl's depictions of 'bad' characters has been questioned, his stories have a beautiful, timeless quality that children cannot resist. Beautiful.

To the tiger in the zoo, Madeline just said 'Pooh-pooh!' I think every child has a bit of Madeline in them and I used to relish getting my hair cut like her, perhaps in an effort to take on some of her spirit.  She is funny, loyal, friendly and the right amount of cheeky.  She's also an amazing show-off, courageous and French - need I say more?  The illustrations are beautiful, the writing very sweet and clever and all of Ludwig Belmenmans' stories are sure to be enjoyed by young and old alike.  You cannot help but adore Madeline and the other eleven little girls in their two straight lines.

I have a lot more I'm itching to write about and something tells me that this is a work in progress.  What about you?  Who are your favourite female characters?

PS - Thank you to Lauren of Word Taxi for the inspiration.  You can find a post about a couple of her favourite characters here.