One for the College Mums!

As 2013 drew to an end, I made the decision that I would not be reading ‘school books’ over the holidays BUT – just for a change – what I truly wanted to read. I started with Luminaries by Eleanor Catton for obvious reasons. After two chapters, I must confess that I was struggling. Chapters 3 & 4 took me a very long time and then I put it down!  I doubt that I will ever pick it up again. It is beautifully written and the subject matter is interesting. It simply takes Catton TOO LONG to complete a sentence and I really didn’t have the time and never will. It will reside with Catch 22 and Moby Dick – books I’d love to say I have read but feel life is too short to bother!

The gap girls at school recommended Caitlin Moran; a British broadcaster, TV critic and columnist at The Times, where she writes three columns a week: one for the Saturday Magazine, a TV review column, and the satirical Friday column “Celebrity Watch.” I started with Moranthology.

It is a compilation of her columns where she writes about absolutely whatever springs into her extremely intellectual and witty mind. In her own words;

‘In my new book MORANTHOLOGY – as the title suggests – I am set free to tackle THE REST OF THE WORLD: Ghostbusters, Twitter, caffeine, panic attacks, Michael Jackson’s memorial service, being a middle-class marijuana addict, Doctor Who, binge-drinking, Downton Abbey, pandas, my own tragically early death, and my repeated failure to get anyone to adopt the nickname I have chosen for myself: ‘Puffin’.

I loved it. And I laughed and laughed. I got nudged continuously by my husband on holiday for ‘laughing out loud’. Then my eldest son nudged me on the plane, where he couldn’t escape, for giggling uncontrollably and really embarrassing him. I quickly moved on to How to be a Woman. Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 11.51.52 AM

It is probably not appropriate to quote but it is a must read that had me laughing and crying as I remembered my own tortured adolescence.

Next on my holiday reading list were several books that I had downloaded from the College eBook platform  so that I would have plenty to read in England. Sarah Turnball who wrote Almost French, carries on her adventures in All Good Things. She moves to Tahiti with her Parisian husband Frederic, lives next to an idyllic lagoon and carries on her attempt to start a family. It is a moving tale.

After this I could not resist the urge to return to my favourite genre – the supernatural and slightly macabre. Neil Gaimen, if you have never heard of him, wrote The Sandman comic, but is is an all round great guy and he LOVES LIBRARIES. He had also written lots of novels and films. I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane – a book that had me pondering some people’s amazing imagination. It is:

A groundbreaking work from a master, told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

And because Neil loves libraries so much I then moved swiftly on to CoralineTerry Pratchett said of it;

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This book Will send a shiver down your spine, out through your shoes and into a taxi to the airport. It has the delicate horror of the finest fairy tale. And you will never think about buttons in quite the same way again.

Apart from Neil’s brilliant writing,.

I think every person in the world who loves libraries should support him and buy his books. Recently, he wrote an extended essay on how important libraries are. And to again quote;

I wouldn’t be who I am without libraries. I was the sort of kid who devoured books, and my happiest times as a boy were when I persuaded my parents to drop me off in the local library on their way to work, and I spent the day there. I discovered that librarians actually want to help you: they taught me about interlibrary loans.

Here is the link if you would like to read the whole essay!

Lastly, yes phew, my husband cannot believe how many books I can read in one week, I read and am still reading Beauty from the Inside Out by Dr Libby Weaver. Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 11.48.33 AMIf you are going to buy one book this year, I would highly recommend that you buy this one. I have found it so life changing that I gave up caffeine immediately. I am now on day six and feeling good.  And as one staff member said to me today; “Wow, that would be soooo hard for you Lisa – it’s COFFEE!”

So College Mums – happy reading and start with the last one.

Afterword: I lied, I actually snuck in The Evil Seed by Joanne Harris, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Juno of Taris by Fleur Beale and Bone, Ash, Sky by Katerina Cosgrove…


Holiday Teen Fest

I have never been so tired! I started the holidays with a need to sleep, eat and read – much of this I managed to do without moving from my chair in the kitchen. The books had to right. I love Kate Atkinson so I started there – it was far too dark for my tired brain.

Flicking through I found Paper Towns by Jojohn+green+bookshn Green.

I didn’t look up for hours. I finished this ‘page turner’ in two days and then embarked on Looking for Alaska followed by A Fault in our Stars. Three books in seven days! All by John Green. I had to stop there because I didn’t want to go to school to get the others out of the library. But Will Grayson is being read this weekend.

I loved them all.

Paper Towns is a bit of a mystery. Quentin Jacobsen, known as Q has been in love with the girl next door as long as he can remember. The girl next door, Margot is ‘uber-cool’ and a bit of a bad-ass. They are tied together by a grisly event from their childhood; they find a dead man in their local park. Anyway, Q and Margot spend a night together righting a few wrongs and then she vanishes. This happens just when you have become fascinated enough with her character and want to know what she will do next. Q and his geeky mates try to find her.

Margo always loved mysteries. And in everything that came afterward, I could never stop thinking that maybe she loved mysteries so much that she became one.

The characters were recognisable – I see many Q’s, Radar’s and Ben’s in the library everyday. I laughed out loud and commiserated with them, the teenage angst  leapt of the page and kept me entertained from start to finish.

Next, I read Looking for Alaska. Green wasted no time in getting me hooked. Miles or Pudge as he is renamed, leads a sad existence with no friends. It all changes when he goes to boarding school in Alabama. He meets Alaska on his first day there. Again, Green creates a female character who is fascinatingly clever, funny, sexy and screwed up! Of course Miles fall in love but this is not a love story by any means. I was hooked for two reasons.

Firstly, the book is on countdown to ?? It starts on ‘One Hundred and Thirty-Six Days Before’ and I had to find out as fast as possible what was going to happen. Secondly, Miles has memoreised famous people’s last lines and the novel is peppered with them – in fact the last line of the novel is Thomas Edison’s last words:

It’s very beautiful over there.

Miles doesn’t know where, ‘there’ is but is full of hope and knows it is beautiful somewhere. I loved his hope, and how he breaks all the rules and how the novel tackles the idea of invincible teenagers.

I did not want to read The Fault in our Stars as Hazel, the main character has terminal character and I hate crying when I read as my sons laugh at me. But I was having a John Green reading fest so I took a deep breath and got on with it. And how glad I am that I did. I tweeted after page 25, I think – Geez #johngreen I won’t be able to finish the book for all the crying. But I laughed too. And although the book is about cancer and is also about teenagers living their lives and all the dramas that are so funny – when you are an adult. It was my favourite of the three and I can’t wait until the movie is released.

Check out this link: to see live footage from the filming. The film is set for release on June 6 2014.

Now I am off to hide in the library to read Will Grayson…see you in two days.


The Rights of the Reader

2. The right to skip

As a reader are we meant to read every single word that the author writes? If we are honest, we don’t always want to read a lengthy description of a place or an explanation of a character’s motives. We want action, adventure, mystery and murder!

I  first remember ‘skipping’ sections of a novel when I read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres. It wasn’t that I was totally uninterested in his descriptions of soldiers trudging across forests into Italy, avoiding Nazi attacks – I just wanted to get to the central story of Pelagia who falls in love with an Italian Captain. The tale of war torn love on the Greek Island of Cephallonia spoke to me in ways that the devastating tale of Italian defeat, did not. Not only did I skip – I missed entire chapters! I quickly scanned the pages and moved on! So, even now, I can only confess to having read half of the novel.

Daniel Pennac uses the example of Moby Dick – which I still have not read – the whale-hunting explanations are painful. So in his words, ‘skip those pages and, without bothering about the rest, follow Ahab as he pursues his great, white reason for living and dying.’

Why is this important?

If children can’t decide what they’re capable of reading by choosing which bits to skip, the great danger is that other people will do it for them, and, armed with outsized scissors of imbeciles, they’ll lop off everything they decide is too difficult. The results are ghastly. Moby Dick and Les Miserables reduced to 150-page summaries, mutilated, stunted, mummified, rewritten in some kind of bare-bones language thought to be for young people.

So, my advise is to skip. Especially if  it means that you read War and Peace. I might even try Moby Dick and Catch 22, again, over the holidays.