Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Snippet

Page 1: 'A man with small eyes and a ginger moustache came and spoke to me when I was thinking of something else. Together we walked down a street that was lined with privet hedges.'

'The Vet's Daughter'- Barbara Comyns

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

This is a bit off topic but seeing as it's Halloween, I thought that I would show you some photos of my sister's fabulous pumpkin cravings. Every year, my sister pulls out all the stops and has a Halloween party at the pub she runs in England. She is known in her village for her original pumpkin carvings and spends 2-3 days solidly crafting them. Here's a taster of this year's creations:

Hello Kitty


Mario



Spongebob SquarePants

Carl Fredricksen- The main character from the Pixar film 'Up'


The Mad Matter

Edward and Bella from 'Twilight'

The photos are courtesy of my niece.

If you are doing anything for Halloween have a great time, I shall be staying in and keeping warm! Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

'The House at Otowi Bridge- The Story of Edith Warner and Los Alamos'- Review


Publisher: University of New Mexico Press

ISBN: 0-8263-0281-5

Length: 149 Pages

Opening Line: 'My father, Ashley Pond, grew up in Detroit, a delicate boy who suffered through his school days and even through college with bronchitis.'

Review:

I admit, that I'm not much of a non-fiction reader. I'm more or less willing to read anything. However, I have avoided this genre because I was under the assumption, that non-fiction involved reading about the lives of famous people and I don't particularly want to read juicy details of the exploits of the rich and famous.

However, when I was given the recommendation of reading 'The House at Otowi Bridge- The Story of Edith Warner and Los Alamos', I decided to break my fiction habit.

The true story of Edith Warner is told by Peggy Pond Church who, with the help of her memories of her friend and extracts from Edith's diaries and 'Christmas Letters', pieces together the life of this fascinating woman.

Edith Warner was a woman who needed to be away from the hustle and bustle of life. She felt a stranger in the modern world and knew that she was destined for something different. So, after falling into ill health in around the 1920's, a friend John Boyd takes her to the isolated, but magnificent landscape of San Lldefonso in New Mexico. It is there, that Edith finds the place she is destined to be.

Edith discovers a small house by Otowi bridge by the Rio Grande, in a place the Indians call 'Po-sah-con-gay', (the place where the river makes a noise). There she runs a small shop, selling goods to trains and visitors, crossing the bridge.

Times are often hard for Edith, finance is often tight and sometimes the isolation of the house is almost impossible to bare. However, what she gains during her stay at the little house, is a sense of being at one with nature and a peace that she has longed for. The story highlights the deep friendships she makes with members of the neighbouring Indians at San Lldefonso pueblos and how, even though both Edith and the people are from completely different cultures, they come to have a deep understanding of each other.

Years pass peacefully for Edith and the San Lldefonso residents, until war breaks out and with it, brings the world outside of the plateau, closer to Edith. Scientists researching into atomic energy, take over parts of surrounding area and Edith provides them food and peace, away from the stresses of their potentially destructive work. Through Edith and the beautiful surroundings, the scientists are forced to rethink the motives behind their work, resulting in them using both their knowledge and the ancient teachings of the people of San LIdefonso, for less destructive uses.

Left to my own devises, I probably wouldn't have chosen to read this book to be honest. However, I'm so glad that I did, because 'The House at Otowi Bridge- The Story of Edith Warner and Los Alamos' is a wonderful book. It is beautifully descriptive and is as good as any fiction novel. The descriptions made me want to go and live in the peace and tranquility of the plateau. The story is compelling and I thought that the information about the traditions of the Indians was very interesting. I love how, even though scientists tried to influence the tranquil life at the plateau, it was the plateau that influenced the lives of the scientists and indeed, everyone who visited it.

I really enjoyed 'The House of Otowi Bridge- The Story of Edith Warner and Los Alamos' and would definitely recommend this. I'd also like to read some more non-fiction, so I'd love to hear some more of your recommendations.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sunday Snippet

I was reading 'Dizzy C's Little Book Blog' the other day and was interested to see that she was participating in something called 'Whatcha Reading Wednesdays'.

So, inspired by this idea, I've decided to begin a regular feature called 'Sunday Snippet'. This is where every week, on a Sunday, I will post 2 random sentences, for a random page in a book that I'm currently reading. I'd be interesting in having a glimpse at what you are reading, so don't hesitate to post 2 random sentences from you current read on you blog, then send me the link to your post. Also don't forget to give a spoiler warning, in case the sentences give away any information about

Anyway, here's the first 'Sunday Snippet' :

P106- ' By the well she watched a bud unfold upon a slender stalk, wondering if she had dreamed the exquisite cream-colored Mariposa lily, three-petalled, with its center of bright gold. She had seen them bloom before only on the high mesa west of the river.'

'The House at Otowi Bridge- The story of Edith Warner and Los Alamos' - Peggy Pond Church

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Giveaways and Letter Writing

I love blog giveaways. I have entered a couple now and have been lucky enough to win twice. The latest giveaway I have won, involves a selection of lovely Parisian goodies, on the 'My Castle in Spain' blog.

I recieved my prizes last week, but have not been able to share any photos of them up until now, because I lost the cable to my camera! Luckily though, I found it hidden in a completely random box and so now, I can show you:



























As you can see, the items are beautifully presented and the parcel itself, was equally well wrapped, with lovely purple paper inside the box.

I LOVE the cutlery pens, as they are so quirky and even though I can't understand French (learning Spanish is enough at the moment!), the book will look exotic on my bookshelf.



I have been thinking about doing a giveaway and I'm planning one for around Christmas time, so watch this space! Do you enter many blog giveaways?

Another thing that I wanted to talk to you about, seeing as this blog is about all things papery, is the difficulty that I have had finding decent writing paper.

Last week, around the same time that my prizes arrived, I received a letter. This letter was from a very good friend of mine who lives in Canada. As I hadn't heard from her in ages, I was really pleased to receive it.

When I first moved to Spain over 5 years ago, I encouraged all of my friends to send me letters, as I really enjoy receiving them. In my opinion, they are more personal than an E-mail, as someone has to sit down and think about what they are writing, rather than typing a quick message and then pressing 'Send' (however, don't get me wrong, I still like receiving E-mails).

My friends wrote letters for a while, but gradually, these were less frequent and now, most of my friends only sent me E-mails. Now, I only receive letters, from my friend in Canada. Anyway I digress..

As I don't have letter writing paper left, I decided to buy some more. Since then, I have had so much trouble finding any that I am starting to think that letter writing paper exists any more!

Due to the lack of writing paper in the shops, it made me think whether or not people actually write letters anymore? Or has society become so busy, that they don't have time to sit down and write? Do you write letters or do you prefer to E-mail?

As a child, I also had a lot of pen pals. You could find adverts requesting pen pals in most teen magazines, but in today's society, do you think that this is now too dangerous? Have you ever had/have pen pals?

Letter writing is a little old fashioned, but I love the idea of receiving a handwritten note in the post. I hope that this method of communication hasn't completely been replaced by technology.

Monday, October 18, 2010

'Started Early, Took My Dog'- Review


Publisher: Doubleday

ISBN: 978-0-385-60802-2

Length: 350 Pages

Opening Line:

'1975: 9 April: ' Leeds: ' Motorway City of the Seventies'.

Review:
Since Kate Atkinson's latest novel 'Started Early, Took My Dog' came out a few months ago, I have read many reviews about this novel on different book blogs and have been disappointed at not being able to read it myself and give my own opinions. However, now I can.

'Started Early, Took My Dog' is a multi-stranded story which involves Tracy Waterhouse, an ex-policewoman who buys a 4 year old girl from a prostitute, a actress called Tilly who is in the twilight years of her acting career and is showing the first signs of dementia and the murder of a woman in the 1970's. Revolving around all of these elements is Jackson Brodie, a private investigator who is embarking on his own case, trying to find the biological parents of Hope McMaster and, on a personal level, his money swindling ex-wife. If he hadn't got enough on his plate, he also comes into possession of a dog named 'The Ambassador'.

Kate Atkinson is my favourite contemporary author and someone who I greatly admire, in fact, I would love to be able to write like her. Why? Well, Kate Atkinson has the ability to weave many threads of story together, without confusing her readers. Not only that, she doesn't simply add different elements and then tie up some of the ends, but is able to tie up every strand without the reader being left searching for answers. Also what I found with 'Started Early, Took My Dog' was despite having created a complex plot, Atkinson still managed to throw in a few surprise twists which I had not seen coming.

Something else that I think stands Kate Atkinson apart from other writers, is her impeccable characterization. In many of her novels, 'Started Early, Took my Dog' included, there are many characters involved. However all of them, including minor characters, are fully formed and I didn't feel like any of the characters were just 'bit parts' who were only there to carry the story forward. Each character had equal attention to detail.

Kate Atkinson's novels, can be read as stand-alone novels. However what I love about the 'Jackson Brodie' series(this book being the latest installment), is that throughout each novel, the reader learns more about Jackson, his private life and his tragic family history, including the murder of his sister and the suicide of his brother. Atkinson creates a life for Brodie away from each case, so that it doesn't just feel like Jackson is a puppet that she takes out of his box with every investigation and then puts him back when the case is resolved. This is really effective, because if you read the series, then it's like you're on a journey with Jackson and it creates realism and empathy for him as a character.

If Kate Atkinson wasn't just brilliant at crafting convincing characters, her way with words is equally as good. Atkinson conveys humour and subtlety, whilst making the plot easy to understand and all this, encapsulated in a few carefully selected words. What I also love about Kate Atkinson's writing, is her attention to detail. For example, her observations in the character's surroundings, both in the past and present, draw the reader into the world that she creates within her novels.

Kate Atkison's style of writing is clever and accessible to both sexes, I have felt that sometimes, the crime/mystery genre is mostly aimed at men; you may think that this is sexist comment, but that is just my opinion.

'Started Early, Took My Dog' is one of Kate Atkinson's more 'conventional' novels, but her quirky, humourous style shines through. This is a brilliant novel and I would recommend this to everyone, not just readers of crime and mystery.

Similar titles you may enjoy:


Saturday, October 9, 2010

'The Elegance of the Hedgehog'- Review


Publisher: Gallic

ISBN: 978-1-906040-1-85

Length: 320 Pages

Opening Line: "Marx has completely changed the way I view the world," declared the Pallières boy this morning, although ordinarily he says nary a word to me.'

Review:

Firstly, I want to wish all of my Spain based readers happy fiestas over the next few days. If you need any food, then I'm afraid that the supermarkets are closed so you will have to eat out!

Also, apologies for the lateness of this review, my mum's laptop suddenly died. Luckily we have a PC too, but the Internet has also been playing up.......technology, you can't live with it, but you can't live without it!

Anyway, back to the review. 'The Elegance of the Hedgehog' is written by French novelist Muriel Barbery, and translated into English, by Alison Anderson.

The novel centres around Renèe, a concierge of a posh apartment building in Paris. To the residents, Renèe is a bit of a nobody. To them she has no importance and they believe that she should be regarded as 'lower' class, because they think that their lives are more important, because they have high powered jobs and they are more culturally educated than a simple concierge. However, Renèe is living a secret life.

Whilst Renèe puts on this facade of a poor, unintelligent concierge by buying bland, cheap food and having her television blaring in the background, when she enters her sanctuary in a room at the back of her flat, Renèe cooks herself richer, more decadent food whilst the 'peasant' food she buys, is given to her fat cat Leo. Also, Renèe lavishes in art, literature and having tea with her only friend Manuela, a Portuguese cleaning lady who sees the 'real' life of her rich employees and knows that they are the same as everyone else.

Another character which is central to the story is Paloma, a 12 year girl who lives in the same apartment building. Paloma is naturally clever, but like Renèe believes that she should dumb herself down because she is destined for a 'unreal' bourgeois life, which in her opinion, is pretentious and unfulfilled. So, she decides, that on her 13 birthday, she is going to commit suicide by burning her apartment down when no one but her is around, in order to escape her fate. In the meantime, she decides to use the remainder of her life by documenting all her observations of why the world is worth living in, through simple actions such as movement and beauty in everyday life.

These two characters seem to be an unlikely pair,but after the death of one of the residents brings a Japanese man named Monsieur Ozu into their lives, they realise that they don't have to conform to what is expected of them and that they are not alone in the world.

I was recommended this novel by a friend, who adores this novel. When I started reading this, I wasn't sure that I was going to enjoy it, because it seemed as if the characters were perceiving themselves as 'better' than everyone else. However, I decided to read it from the beginning again (at that point I was only on the second chapter, so I had the luxury of starting again) and I realised how completely wrong I was.

Renèe and Paloma are not the ones who think that they are better than everyone else, in fact it's the neighbours who look down on everyone else. The two characters are funny, warm and intelligent however any of their intelligence is relative to something, rather than being there because they want everyone else to believe that they are intelligent. I really cared for the characters and I thought that they were original and convincing.

The plot is brilliant, there are not many books that I could say had a plot in which was original and quirky, but this is one of them.

Muriel Barbery writes wonderfully, with subtle humour and I love the way that she gently makes fun of the pretentious people in the novel. I also love the way she weaves philosophy and culture into the story, without alienating the reader.

The main thing that I love about this novel, is Barbery's wonderful observational writing. This is mainly to do with the things that Paloma writes in her journals to do with 'Profound' Thoughts and her 'Journal of the Movement of the World'. Paloma observations are not only funny, but done in such a way to create movement and beauty into your mind and I thought it was beautiful.

There are many novels which I have enjoyed, but there are very few that I could say were special. 'Memoirs of a Geisha' by Arthur Golden is one of them and I also think that ' The Elegance of the Hedgehog' is another one. This novel is so unique and beautiful, that I would quite happily read this novel over and over again without getting bored. I would urge everyone to go out and buy this book, because it will give you a unique reading experience every time.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A lucky Streak

I'm having a bit of a lucky streak at the moment. Not only is our new rented flat perfect for us (despite still having problems with our own flat), but the weather is getting better and better.

Also if this things weren't great enough, in the last few days I've won a stack of goodies from a giveaway on the 'My Castle in Spain' blog and Dizzy C from 'Dizzy C's Little Book Blog' has kindly given me 'The Versatile Blogger' award!



By accepting the award, there are a set of rules I have to abide by.


1) To thank the person who nominated me


2) Say 7 about myself


3) Pass the award on to any blog, I think are worthy.


So to start with, here are 7 things you didn't know about me:


1) I have been on Spanish and English tv more than once.


2) I would rather read than watch tv


3) My favourite food is swede and if I could eat only one thing for the rest of my life, then I would choose this


4) I love pink and purple


5) I hate Baked Beans and tea.


6) I want to visit China and Japan


7) I love Ballroom dancing and Ballet (only to watch!)


So now, it's time to pass the award on! The blogs which I think deserve this award are:








If you receive this award, don't forget to pass it on to any deserving blogs and I can't wait to hear more facts about you!
My lucky day has put me in the mood for writing more of my short story and there will be a review of 'The Elegance of the Hedgehog' tomorrow.