Friday, February 20, 2015

Comfort Reads

Over the past couple of months I have found myself needing time to myself.  Last year I took quite a lot of time off work to grieve my mother's passing, and on top of that there have been a couple of times when I have just been sick.  Since being sick is usually an unusual thing (maybe once a year), this illness after illness left me just plain worn out and not able to cope with anything of an emotional nature.  I was just broken, and I desperately needed space and time to heal.  My theory is that the grief from last year and subsequent stressful events at work had weakened my immunity so I have been, unfortunately, susceptible to whatever has been going around at work, and whatever DH has brought home with him. 
Months later I have managed to construct some semblance of equanimity and I have been able to cope with most things... but I still manage to get sick easily (rebuilding my immunity has not been so easy to do).  Which has left me with a lot of free time on my hands (at home, sick, on the sofa) and not a lot of energy to do many active things.  Reading was also a somewhat difficult thing to do as some subjects were just too emotionally weighty for me to even attempt (as wells as being too weak to be able to hold up a book).  So for most of this year I have been skirting around the more emotionally evocative novels knowing that it wouldn't take much to have me in tears, though I was still taken by surprise by one or two which had me bawling, but I managed to deal with it.
Which brings me to my next topic, what to read when you are feeling low.
I spent considerable time on my sofa, under a quilt and my little Samsung tablet on my chest, reading Pride and Prejudice fan fiction.  I actually had quite a lot of time to sift through what I had already read, favourite any that I thought I might like to go back and read sometime, as well as blog about at a later date.  It was almost therapeutic to read such fluff, about a beloved story, and just enjoy without being too emotionally engaged. You can find lots at this link:-  Pride and Prejudice Fan Fiction 
Hopefully I won't get sick again this year, I am making attempts to improve my health, but it will be some time I think, before I reach the level of health I was enjoying before last summer.  It is a small comfort, but after I have finished working on the fan fiction for Pride and Prejudice there are so many other books to have a look at, that even if I do succumb again to illness, at least I have something easy and absorbing to do.
And if you can't read too much, there is always Pemberley Digital to keep you entertained.

Monday, February 9, 2015

City of Stairs ( I love you Robert Jackson Bennett!)

I meant it... I really do love Robert Jackson Bennett (love song link at the bottom!).  After reading American Elsewhere year before last I have been keeping an eye out for his other works, this book being the next one out.
How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  1. Your stories are fresh, original and freaky!  2.  I don't think I have ever encountered anyone who does that niggly "This  world is familiar but not really" alternate universe thingy like you do.  3. You are brilliant, that's all, just brilliant!

Seriously, I could/have do/done the crazy fan girly thing about his latest book.  From someone like me who has gotten to the point where new stories and fantastic universes are just leaving me cold, uninterested, and let's admit it, a little jaded, Bennett's work has me excited in a new and wonderful way, and I can't believe that I haven't bought the rest of his works yet (I'm working on it though). 

For you, Robert Jackson Bennett!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Seven Little Australians

This was a part of the little collection of books that I bought in Australia last summer.  The box that I sent my collection home in took the full three months to make it here to Canada, and I nearly cried when I saw it. 
It was a pretty humble collection as far as my shopping goes, but I had to restrict myself to the one box, so I was really selective about what to buy and I was really lucky to come across some new Penguin editions of Australian classics.  Seven Little Australians was one of them. 

I had not actually read this when I was a kid, so I was pleasantly surprised on beginning to see how easily the story just flowed, kind of like an Aussie Wodehouse.  I loved it, all of it, and at the end I burst in to tears. 
Next time I go home I will be looking for more by Ethel Turner, because I want to know what happens next!
I might have to compile a list. 


The Martian Chronicles

It was irresistable, I had to buy this.  I opened it up and saw the first story Ylla and I just had to have it!
But the enthrallment pretty much stopped there...
Because I love Ray Bradbury so much, and because I love this book the best, I thought that this adaptation might be good. It is the authorised version which makes me wonder who else might have done something along these lines. There is something lacking however. Something that didn't translate as well from the written word to this graphic format. I still like it, I think it was well done, I especially liked the artists image of the Martians...it's just that the dialogue seemed a little chunky and arranged in such a way that it didn't flow as well as Bradbury's prose always has. Perhaps it was too difficult to do so, after all Bradbury was a master of metaphor. I still highly recommend this book, from a fangirl/collector's point of view, it will be placed amongst my Bradbury collection.


All My Puny Sorrows

A Christmas gift from DH.  I have always been a little leary of prize winners/nominees for the Giller Prize as contemporary fiction has, for the most part, always been a bit of a bummer for me.  I am made for other stuff, some brilliant, campy science fiction, some Greek philosophy, historical tales or some fantastic fiction that transports you to somewhere else and makes you want to stay there...
All My Puny Sorrows kept me firmly right here and in my head (the parts where the bad stuff lurks). 
It was a hard read, because it was about suicide, a subject I really balk at because I know what it's like to have someone you love try to take their life.  It happened to me twice, and the second time she blamed me for not wanting to live anymore.  Like my presence was so disgusting to her that I made her want to die.  I don't think that's something that anyone can really recover from, there are scars.
So this book was hard, and in the beginning I was mad at the sister (Elf) who was trying to end her life.  But this changed.  Toews writing is so poignant, it changed my mind about Elf as her own sister was reaching the same conclusions.  Which makes Miriam Toews a powerful writer in my eyes, because after reading her story I could feel compassion for the woman who wants to leave, instead of anger.

Doctor Zhivago

                                           
I must admit that I was disappointed when I finished reading this book.  To begin with I had a hard time reading it straight through, I had to take breaks and look at something else for a while, and in the end I made myself finish it.  I had expectations.  I was biased perhaps.  I had heard so much of this wonderful movie (which I have not seen yet, and seriously doubt if I will), and the book itself was referenced in certain other movies making me believe that this was some great Russian epic which was romantic and beautiful.
There was the potentiality there...I liked some passages (which incidentally were not about Zhivago),  but the politics (or as I think of it to myself, the historical lesson / social commentary) actually detracted from this already weak story about a weak man who was, in my opinion, repugnant.  Honestly, at the end I didn't even have the stomach to read the poetry collection, I just wanted to distance myself from this character. 
Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about, perhaps if I watched the movie I might see it differently.  I know there is still much that I don't know about Russia, and I haven't read nearly as much of it's literature as I wish to.  It is a work in progress.  But when you have masters like Tolstoy, Pushkin, Gogol,  Solzenitsyn, and Bulgakov, who provoke deep emotions of  awe, wonder and even tears, I want to know, whats so damn special about this book?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Blackout/AllClear

Imagine if you were a historian that could travel back in time to observe particular time periods.  Imagine getting stuck there for some unknown reason...
It's not a new idea, and after reading and watching Doctor Who, there are many examples of time travelling gone wrong, and of the sometimes terrifying consequences.
I read the first half of this dynamic duo a few years back as part of a selection of women authors who have won Nebula Awards.  I loved it until I got  to the end, when I thought,"What's going on here, isn't she cutting it a bit close?"  The book begins with a lot of almost harried activity...there is just so much going on, and underlying is this tension and an uneasy sense that things are tragically going to go to pot, the suspense is just building up with no real release.  Anyone who's read my blog knows just how annoyed I get when I make these discoveries (I hate to read a book and then have to wait for the sequel), but I take all the blame because I didn't do the research.  I was left hanging after finishing Blackout!  I have done the research now.  As a matter of fact I have bought several of Connie Willis' books in preparation for reading this pair, and it works to my advantage because in another of her books Firewatch  (a collection of short stories) is one about this particular universe, so it was with a smug feeling that I began the books, first with the short story Firewatch and then on to Blackout and finishing up with All Clear.  

Naturally I chose November to read this as during this month I usually read someting that has some relation to the World Wars, and these two did not disappoint.  I got an unusual education about an era in our history that is already so well documented.  It was a true homage to the English people, those folks who lived through the Blitz and afterward.  If you want to step in to history, this is a good way to do it.  I loved the books from beginning to end, and since there is over 1100 pages, there's a lot to love. 
I look forward to reading more of Connie Willis' books as these two were so well researched and written, I can understand why she has won so many awards for her genre.