The Liebster Award or Someone Does Read This Stuff!!

I am immensely surprised to be nominated for this award on this blog, and thanks to Not-So-Modern-Girl for the nomination. I guess someone besides my partner is reading this blog, I’ve given up on asking my family they said it was too… arsey. So, Thanks again NSMG I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog!

As part of the award I’m to answer 11 questions posed by the blog who nominated me, without further ado, here we go:

  • What three words best describe your reading habits?

Critical, eclectic, and… arsey (If your mom says it, it must be true)

Continue reading “The Liebster Award or Someone Does Read This Stuff!!”

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Review: Paulina & Fran

“She wanted to be her, or be with her, or destroy her” – Paulina & Fran

I received a lovely copy of Rachel B. Glaser’s “Paulina & Fran” from Granta Books in exchange for an unbiased review. I was unfamiliar with the book but the cover really drew me in (I’m a sucker for a funky cover) and I was very excited to give it a read. The results were…a bit of a mixed bag.

paulina-and-fran-book-coverThe book centres around the larger than life character of Paulina and her trials and tribulations as she bluffs her way through art school, determined to create as much chaos and adventure as possible to facilitate her dreams of living her glamorous life to its fullest. She feels she is too good for the hipster circles in which she finds herself and longs to realise a greater calling – as soon as she discovers what that is. Along the way she meets Fran, a quiet but intoxicating presence in Paulina’s life and they quickly form a close bond. The book follows the girls as their friendship deepens and struggles through the trials and tribulations graduation and harsh life realities throw their way.

I definitely enjoyed this book overall. Glaser’s breezy yet sardonic prose suits the story and the world these characters inhibit. She takes an environment that can seem so vapid and ridiculous and makes you care for characters that, if you met them in reality (and sadly reader, I absolutely have) you would cross the room, road and potentially state lines to avoid. However the book is far more than a particularly drawn out and tedious episode of “Skins”. I found her depiction of the girls’ lives post-university incredibly affecting. Fran’s floundering in comparison to her friends’ perceived success really rang true and I found myself all-to-easily relating to the panic and confusion of exiting the college bubble. Glaser handles this deftly and I definitely found it novel come into its own in its second half.

All this said it is difficult to get past the irritating character of Paulina. I have, in the past, been criticised by friends for needing my protagonists to be likable but I take umbrage at this accusation. I certainly don’t need to “like” my protagonists; however I do ask that they don’t enrage me and make me roll my eyes so much as to cause self-induced headaches. Perhaps it comes from mingling in college circles that featured individuals like Paulina – individuals that elicited sighs and more eye-rolling from this ever-so-cynical Die. There were moments where Glaser allowed glimpses of Paulina’s uncertainty and vulnerability to shine through and these were highlights for me, however they were not plentiful enough to allow me to reassess her overall. Unfortunately I felt the novel needed you to buy into and root for Paulina to be an out-and-out success and alas, I just could not bring myself to care that much.

Overall “Paulina & Fran” is short but enjoyable with enough glimpses of brilliance and curly hair commentary to look forward to future works by this author

TL;DR: Some lovely human moments with annoying human characters. Lots of hair and dancing – 3.5/5

– Die

Cover Image via favim.com. Novel Image is Die’s own

Literary Excursions: The Sherlock Holmes Museum

“Under such circumstances I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained” – Dr. Watson, A Study in Scarlet

Much like my dear colleague Moz, I too recently upped sticks from the west of Ireland and moved to London Town. Many trips back and forth over the years cemented my love of the city and I felt the best thing to do on my first full weekend as a new inhabitant would be to combine fond childhood memories with beloved literary idols – which of course meant a trip to the Sherlock Holmes museum on Baker Street.

outside-museum
Front of Museum

I first visited the museum over ten years ago having stumbled upon it by accident. Cast your mind back, dear reader, to a time before Robert Downey Jr’s and Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayals, and the Holmes museum was not as big a draw as it proves to be this day. In fact I only happened to find it as they had an actor dressed as Watson loitering outside of Baker Street tube handing out business cards with the museum’s location to mostly ambivalent commuters. Not so the case in this day and age, as the intervening decade or so has made everything Homes related a very hot commodity indeed – as seen by the queue of people looking to gain access to the museum and gift shop on my visit last week.

The museum itself is a treasure trove for Holmes fans, both casual and ardent. The creaky narrow staircase guides you to the first floor where Holmes’s bedroom and living area have been lovingly imagined and recreated. Deerstalker hats are aplenty and visitors get the opportunity to take a closer look at Holmes’s belongings. There are some lovely additions here for Holmes fans – a personal favourite being Watson’s diary left open on a writing desk to reveal his handwritten notes from The Hound of the Baskervilles.

 

Some things to note for visitors however – the museum is not for the claustrophobic. It is incredibly narrow and the rooms are quite small so some manoeuvring is required to see everything without bumping into people. Also, if you have a fear of waxworks the third floor isn’t for you! Seminal characters from the short stories have been recreated and are housed here, but some are lifelike enough to cause momentary panic!

moriarty
Professor Moriarty – reports that I jumped in fright thinking he was a real person remain unconfirmed

If the £15 museum entry fee proves too steep for you however, it is worth a trip to see the gift shop alone. Everything any Holmes fan could possibly want is featured here at a variety of price points. I have made frequent trips just to the gift shop in the years since my first visit to the museum (however for my own sake, I’d rather not think of all I’ve spent there!)

When making your way back to the Baker Street tube, I recommend stopping by the statue of Sherlock that stands in front of the entrance. If you look behind the statue you’ll notice there’s a web link that allows you to receive a “phone call” from Homes himself as he tells you all about the statue and its sculptor John Doubleday. I found it utterly delightful.

sherlock-statue-pinterest-via-google-images
(Pinterest via Google Images)

Lastly, no Sherlock day out is complete without a quick stop to the Sherlock Holmes pub on Northumberland Street (short walk from Charing Cross tube). With its casual food and drink – and even an opportunity to try their Sherlock or Watson ales! – it was a perfect end to the day. Whether a die-hard fan or a casual observer, Sherlock Holmes is one of the most iconic literary figures ever created and as lovers of literature (which I imagine all of you are if you’re visiting this humble blog) you owe it to yourself to pay homage to this most charming of creations.

sherlock-holmes-pub

 

(All images Die’s own unless otherwise stated)

Roald Dahl – A Brief Word from a Devoted Fan

“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray! Go throw your TV set away! And in its place you can install a lovely bookcase on the wall”

I learned this morning that today is Roald Dahl day, something of which I was previously unaware (although to be honest, if we can have “Talk Like A Pirate” and “Ask A Stupid Question” day, this is the very least the man deserves)

rdd
Image courtesy of @roald_dahl

It got me thinking about the profound impact the writing of Roald Dahl had on my childhood and the intense love I have for his works. This year saw the release of Steven Spielberg’s long awaited adaptation of Dahl’s beloved The BFG. While I found myself utterly charmed in the immediate aftermath of the film, my love for it has grown the more I think about it and it was further evidence of the timelessness of his writing.

As a child I remember feeling quite hard done by that Dahl died the month before I was born. Such was my love for the man that the idea that I never got to live during his lifetime was something I considered extremely unfair. However I made do with reading and re-reading his classics with an ardent fervour and he became such an important part of my childhood that trying to dissect what it is that makes his writing so appealing feels almost impossible.

For me, and I like to think for a lot of children it, it came down to the characters. These incredible, visceral characters that could inspire and thrill and made even the skinniest and most uninteresting child (cough me cough) feel capable of the extraordinary. Dahl never took children to be idiots, capable only of handling stories of fluffy kittens, princesses and happy endings. There are extremely dark elements to his stories but he put his faith in children (and adults alike) to understand that anyone can triumph over adversity (side note – I do however think he was a little wide of the mark with The Minpins because JESUS CHRIST ROALD THAT BOOK TERRIFIED ME HOLY GOD).

While the books are obviously the most glorious representation of his genius, his work has been adapted into some fantastic films over the years. Danny DeVito’s Matilda was such a crucial film for my childhood that I am still capable of quoting 85% of the film from memory (much to the disdain of those who have the misfortune to be watching it in my presence). Spielberg’s The BFG (mentioned above) is so effective at recreating the scratchy, iconic illustrations of Quentin Blake that it truly is like watching the book come to life. And the sad passing of Gene Wilder last week really brought home his incredible performance as Willy Wonka – a performance so good people have had the good sense never to try it again (“Wait Die, I think they did?” No. They didn’t. “You sure they…?” Don’t say it. “Johnny Depp?” Shut your mouth and never speak of this again.)

Dahl means so much to so many that I’m in the unique experience of having so much to say but not being able to find the words to do those feelings justice. I recommend reading Sophie Dahl’s beautiful post in The Guardian today about her grandfather (http://bit.ly/2cnRQP2) A lovely reminder that the man we desperately wanted to know was as wonderful as we could have expected.

So from this devoted fan to the undoubtedly many others that may stumble upon this post, I wish you a very Happy Dahl Day. I hope you found my babblement scrumdiddlyumptious and not too squiff-squiddled around.

 

A Means of Introduction: My Favourite Book

You can get the high-brow readers, who only drop names like Vonnegut or somesuch pretentious-in-isolation author, but who couldn’t tell you the name of a book released in the last 5 years. And that’s no fun, living so narrow a life.

Good evening, afternoon, morning, and goodnight to you, whoever you may be, reader. This is Moz of The Cracked Spine Blog and (coming soon) Podcast. Welcome to our first post on any medium, isn’t that exciting?

women-1421096_960_720By way of introductions, as the title suggests, let’s delve into discussion on our favourite books! It can often be quite telling when a person reveals their favourite novels. Be they guilty pleasure reads or tough literary fiction, you can learn a lot about a person by the books they tell you they love.

You can get the high-brow readers, who only drop names like Vonnegut or somesuch pretentious-in-isolation author, but who couldn’t tell you the name of a book released in the last 5 years. And that’s no fun, living so narrow a life. There’s also the other extreme of well-I-watched-the-film-that’s-the-same-thing “readers”.  What a shame to miss the depth of feeling on pages. I am, I hope, a happy medium between the two of these extremes being as ordinary as can be in most other areas, I think this is a fair assumption. Learn what you can from my favorites, if you find out which kind of reader I am let me know. It would make choosing the next book that little bit easier!

bridget-jonesThe first book I should reasonably mention is Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s DiaryI first
read this book after seeing (and loving) the film. From start to finish I laughed at every page at least once, much to the despair of those who lived with me, a night-time reader. There are those who would criticize this novel as enforcing all the stereotypes modern feminism has fought for, but I would politely disagree and regard it as a parody of everything women’s magazines spout. And, perhaps, I see a little of Bridget’s bumbling in myself. Ok, I see a lot of myself in Bridget’s antics and less than ideal choices. That said, I have never made it to cracking the bindings on any of the sequels just yet, so maybe I fit into the second of the two categories of readers mentioned above… just a bit.

Speaking of movies and books colliding and crossing over, long before Game of Thrones was the last word in TV shows to watch I had hoped Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy would be adapted to the silver screen. Starting with Assassin’s Apprentice, the trilogy tells the story of a royal bastard and his progression into court life in the fictional world of the Six Duchies. So taken with the characters and setting that my friends very quickly tired of hearing about these books. The sheer misery of some parts of the novels left many wondering how I loved these books enough to forego studying in order to finish chapters for the second and then third time. I can’t comment on that myself, but I’m sure you all have your own feelings towards the fantasy and misery-lit categories.

18143977Which brings me neatly, and conveniently, onto my final choice of favorite books: Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, yet another somewhat poignant book which divided opinion in our book club. It would be too easy to sing this book’s praises as it gained such critical acclaim in 2013 when it was released, so I will say little other than that Doerr wrote an amazing plot incorporating the fantastical and real-life history of WWII. Given my predilection for fantasy this was right up my street although our own Die would disagree that the magical elements of the story were strictly necessary or interesting.

I could tell you I love other novels like Kafka’s works or read only Man Booker Winners, but then I’d be shoe-horning myself into that dreaded first category of readers under falsehoods. I’m an ordinary reader through and through, give me a little bit of what’s popular and a little bit of what’s on sale and I’m happy. So, reader(s; I’m not too optimistic with the first post), what do you think, are we similar in our tastes? Or totally at odds? Let us know what kind of reader you are in the comments!