Books I Got for Christmas

Books I Got for Christmas

Really looking forward to reading them.

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Writers I Should Have Read But Haven’t

So, classics. Or at least classic writers. I’m definitely not an advocate of reading nothing but what is generally regarded as classic literature – some of my favourite novels are crime novels, or fantasy, which have been mocked by those who only believe in “proper” literature.

That said, the classics I have read are classics for a reason, and mostly I’ve enjoyed them – Austen is one of my favourite writers, I loved Anna Karenina (although I would like to re-read it now), and of the more modern writers who are considered “worthy” I’ve recently enjoyed Orwell and Graham Greene.

So, there are quite a few writers who I think I probably should read. If I don’t like them, fair enough, but I should give them a go. Here are my current top five unread writers.

1. Charles Dickens – I’ve read “A Christmas Carol” but I don’t think that really counts as reading Dickens as it’s really short. Dickens is supposedly one of the greats, I generally enjoy Victorian literature, so I really should give him a go. I also feel it’s pretty shameful that I’ve got past 30 without reading him.

2. George Eliot – Again, I feel like this is pretty bad on my part. Especially as I’m really interested in women’s writing and how women were marginalised. Everything I’ve heard about George Eliot makes me think I’d really like her. I think I even have a copy of “Middlemarch”, and yet it remains unopened.

3. Angela Carter – I’ve read the odd short story of hers and really liked it, but no more than that, and I really should. She’s so important in feminism and women’s writing, and I feel like I’m missing out.

4. Jules Verne – I got “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” from the library last week so this should be remedied soon. I really like the adventure story, I’ve enjoyed all the Robert Louis Stevenson novels I’ve read, so really should read Verne. Plus it’s a bit rubbish to have watched “Around the World with Willy Fogg” as a child and not read the book it was based on!

5. H.P. Lovecraft – He’s been recommended to me by a few people, and the fact that I enjoy gothic-type horror makes me think I would really like him. I’ve got some stories of his on my Kindle but haven’t got round to reading them yet.

I hadn’t noticed this until I put this list together, but I probably own works by each of these writers, either proper books or Kindle, so it’s only being distracted by other books that has stopped me reading them. Perhaps my goals for 2013 need to include reading these writers, it might motivate me to get on with it.

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The Daylight Gate – Jeanette Winterson

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I can’t really write an honest review when it’s Jeanette Winterson, because I LOVE her. She’s one of my favourite writers ever. I’ve been reading her ever since I got “Oranges are not the Only Fruit” out of the library when I was about 14, and I’ve read every book she’s written since. Some are better than others, but I love her consistently poetic prose, so many lovely sentences that I want to read out loud and savour.

The Daylight Gate is about the Pendle Witches, and the real-life trial and execution, which I know very little about despite coming from Lancashire. I’ve never even been up Pendle Hill which is clearly not good enough. I read the book around Hallowe’en which seemed perfect, and it was just what I expected – atmospheric, beautifully written, bringing out the injustice of women who wanted to live differently being persecuted. I think this was my favourite sentence:

“Something about the way she looked at him made him feel less important than he knew himself to be”

How can you read that and not just go “Yes!”.

My only problem with the book was that it was a novella, and therefore didn’t go on for long enough. I read that it was commissioned by Hammer, as in Hammer Horror, and I’ve also read “The Greatcoat” by Helen Dunmore which was also Hammer – if their books are going to be this good, then I can’t wait to read more as that was wonderfully atmospheric and ghostly too. And nowhere near as cheesy as the old (but fantastic) films were.

In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with Jeanette Winterson. This didn’t grab me emotionally as much as “Why be Happy When you Could be Normal?” did, but as that was a much more personal book, I didn’t expect it to. If you like slightly creepy, atmospheric, Hallowe’eny stuff, then definitely give it a read.

And I’ll try and make the effort to go up Pendle Hill some time soon.

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Coffee and Cake: Cafe W

I had this idea a while ago of writing about coffee and cake, since I spent lots of time sitting in cafes writing or reading, while eating cake and drinking coffee. I figured I’d review them briefly, and try to visit lots of different ones. So here goes with the first in the series.

I went to Cafe W, the new cafe in my local Waterstone’s, since Costa no longer have the franchise. I’m not massively fond of buying books from big chains, but they’ve done up our local Waterstone’s branch recently and it’s looking good – lots of local touches and some great book cover posters on the walls. I also like that the new cafe has piles of books lying around so you can have a read while you drink without buying anything.

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When I went: A Saturday afternoon, 1:50pm, which I’d expect to be fairly busy but there were a few free tables, which to me is a plus point. Anywhere that’s totally packed I don’t feel I can relax and take my time over my coffee, and it gets too noisy anyway.

I had: a cappuccino and a pecan and butterscotch cookie. The cookie was OK, but came from a jar and was a brand I’ve seen in other cafes, so obviously not their own stuff. The cappuccino was good, not that strong but tasted good, and in a very stylised, cool looking mug. It had a giant handle, which is what I look for on a good coffee cup (like the saddo that I am) so I was happy.

I read: Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You, by Marcus Chown

I liked the literary decor, it made for a good atmosphere and the staff were friendly. I was feeling all writerly and cool when I looked across at the next table and the man there was writing in a notebook too, clearly feeling cool and writerly himself. It made me laugh at myself, but the cafe did feel like somewhere you could sit and do that and not be rushed. They also had a list of book recommendations from their staff on a chalkboard behind the counter, which I thought was a nice touch.

Would I visit again? Well, I did the week after, and had a really nice almond croissant, so can’t complain.

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Return

I hope I’ll be posting more from now on. I’m back from an amazing holiday, and the clocks go back this weekend, perfect time to start reading and blogging more now it’s too dark and cold to sit outside a pub all evening. Plus half of the people I know seem to have started blogs, so it’s spurring me on.

I’ve updated twitter and even linked it to the blog!

Currently reading – The Daylight Gate, Jeanette Winterson (perfect for this time of year) and Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You by Marcus Chown, which I’m enjoying but reading in small chunks as it makes my brain feel like it’s melting out of my ears.

 

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Dislike

I don’t know why, but I very rarely read books I dislike. Whether it’s that I know my own tastes, or get my recommendations from decent places, I’m not sure. But it’s not often I dislike a book, or that halfway through I feel like I’d be wasting my time finishing it.

However… recently I read “One Day” by David Nicholls. I know it’s been made into what looks from the trailer to be an awful film, but the book came covered in recommendations from publications and authors, and I saw it in the library and thought I’d give it a try.

It was tedious. Halfway through I almost gave up but was assured that it got better. It doesn’t, not really. I had no problem with the quality of the writing, I thought it was well-written. But that made it more disappointing really – he can write well and the concept is quite an interesting one – following the two characters over twenty years of their lives – but the issue was that the two main characters were awful. If you’re basing your entire story on two characters, then you’d better make sure that they’re either likable or interesting. These two were neither. They’re tedious and irritating. One of them is selfish and I felt like if I met him I wouldn’t want to spend ten minutes with him. The other is pathetic and has no self esteem. Neither were interesting. 

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Also, the ending was extremely predictable. And seemed kind of lazy, like he couldn’t think of a way to end the book so decided to use the predictable plot device. I won’t say what it is, in case you really want to waste hours of your life reading it yourself. I wouldn’t advise it.

 

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Questions I Ask Myself While Watching Lord of the Rings at 2.30am

How come, although they’re supposedly on this long and arduous journey, Sam never loses any weight?

If the elves are immortal, how come they can die during battle?

Why didn’t Elrond just push Isildur into the fires of Mount Doom? Seriously? It would have saved so many problems.

When Gandalf rides to Isengard for advice and sees that his boss is really Christopher Lee, surely he should know that he’s evil? Hasn’t he seen Dracula??

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