“Let us read, and let us dance;
these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Monday, 31 January 2011

Return to Labyrinth

I made this: Unknown at 6:21 pm 0 comments Links to this post
Have you ever been at a party and had someone mention... the macarena or something similar, and before you know it, a whole pile of 20-somethings are on their feet, singing along, doing all the movements, generally making right eijits of themselves, and loving it?

Well, my version of that occurs at least twice a year. I'll be at some do or other and someone will say 'You remind me of the babe...' 
And before I know it, we're replying:
'what babe?', 
'the babe with the power...', 
'what power?', 
'the power of voodoo, 
'who do?', 
'you do, you remind me of the babe!'

If you've seen the Labyrinth, and loved it, chances are you knew what I was typing before you read it! 
If you've seen it and didn't like it...then this might not be the blog post for you(but you'll probably find something else you like!).
If you haven't seen it...yet... I envy you!!! 

The Labyrinth is a 1986 film, directed by Jim Henson (The Muppet's!), produced by George Lucas (some space based trilogy, twice), and designed by Brian Froud (who created the good faeries/bad faeries book, amongst others). 

More importantly, it stars a be-wigged, all singing, all dancing, all Lycra wearing David Bowie, as Jared, alongside an enchanting and enigmatic Jennifer Connelly as Sarah.

The film follows the adventures of Sarah Williams, a 15 yr old girl struggling to come to terms with the death of her mother, her father's remarriage, and her relationship with her baby brother Toby. During a fit of rage, she wishes the baby away with the goblins, and to her shock, the baby vanishes. 
He has been kidnapped by Jared, the King of the Goblins, who is in love with Sarah, but has a rather strange way of wooing her. She has only 13 hours to learn the tricks of the labyrinth or she will lose her baby brother for ever (such a pity...)

On her journey, she meets the weird and wonderful, makes some true friends and finds that life is not always as it seems. It's all very surreal and wonderful (gotta love the MC Escher inspired ending), and there is singing and dancing galore, by creatures of all sorts and shapes. For years, it has been one of my favourite films, and I would have happily chewed off my own arm for some sort of a sequel. 

Turns out, they didn't need my arm!

The wonderful people at Tokyo Pop have released a four part comic series, designed to bring the legendary world back to life, and up to date. 
It is set some 15 years in the future, and little Toby - now a rather blase, yet hapless teenager - is the hero of the books...though Sarah does make her presence felt too!

The characters that we know and love are all present and correct (Jared, Ludo, Sir Didymus and of course, Hoggle), though the focus is on new ones. Though very different (in that durr, it's a different format completely sort of way), I do think that the spirit... the heart of the original lives on in a glorious fashion!

Everyone that I have lent these too has loved them, almost as much as the original film. So, if you are a fan, I can't recommend these enough! If you merely liked the film, but are looking to explore the world of comics more, this is a great introductary set. I know that it's contrary to all comic conventions, but these are set out in western linear fashion - you don't have to read em backwards. I find reading backwards disorientating with comics. My eyes automatically move in the wrong direction, so this was fantastic.

If you fancy em, I know that OK Comics have had em in the past, and are rather super about ordering stuff in (and lending a patient ear when you want something but can't remember the name!). I imagine that they will be available competively priced online, though I obviously haven't looked (never understood that tendency myself) - I have mine now!
(As for me, I've started collecting the sister series - a sequel to the Dark Crystal! 2 down, 2 to go)

Richard and Judy - Decade's top 100

I made this: Unknown at 5:27 pm 5 comments Links to this post
So, Richard and Judy have just released their list of the 

Top 100 Most Inspiring Reads of the Decade
Personally, I think it's a bit of a silly name as list names go, but the books seem to be fairly representative of the styles of books that have been on offer the last ten years.

So, I've only read 36 of the 100 listed here - to be honest - I thought that it might have been a bit more, but I guess I can always take on one of these if the Booker Challenge becomes too exhausting, and work my way up! 
Funny thing is, I'm so entrenched in my ways! The books I've read, are pretty much the ones I liked the look/sound of, and the ones I haven't are ones I probably wouldn't have chosen for myself anyway! Still, expanding repertoire and all that!

If you fancy it, post your 'results' in the comments section, and at the end of the year, we'll see if we've moved up any!

A Place of Secrets Rachel Hore
Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years Townsend, Sue
Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman: The Mo Macintyre, Ben
Alone in Berlin Fallada, Hans
American Wife Sittenfeld, Curtis
Angel's Game, The Zafon, Carlos Ruiz
AtonementMcEwan, Ian
Bad Science Goldacre, Ben
Before I Fall Oliver, Lauren
Book Thief, The Zusak, Markus
Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Boyne, John
Brisingr Paolini, Christopher
Case Histories Atkinson, Kate
Change in Altitude, A Shreve, Anita
Child 44 Smith, Tom Rob
Children's Book, The Byatt, A.S.
Cloud Atlas Mitchell, David
Corrections, The Franzen, Jonathan
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, The Haddon, Mark
Da Vinci Code, The Brown, Dan
Duma Key King, Stephen
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Gilbert, Elizabeth
Elegance of the Hedgehog, The Barbery, Muriel
Engleby Faulks, Sebastian
Exit Music Rankin, Ian
Five People You Meet in Heaven, The Albom, Mitch
Ghost, The Harris, Robert
Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest,The: Millennium Trilogy Larsson, Stieg
Girl Who Played with Fire,The: Millennium Trilogy Larsson, Stieg
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,The: Millennium Trilogy Larsson, Stieg
Greatest Show on Earth,The: The Evidence for Evolution Dawkins, Richard
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Shaffer, Mary Ann & Barrows, Annie
Half of a Yellow Sun Ngozi Adichie, Chimamanda
Help, The Stockett, Kathryn
Host, The Meyer, Stephenie
House at Riverton, The Morton, Kate
Interpretation of Murder, The Rubenfeld, Jed
Island, The Hislop, Victoria
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell Susanna Clarke
Kite Runner, The Hosseini, Khaled
Labyrinth Mosse, Kate
Lacuna, The Kingsolver, Barbara
Last Fighting Tommy, The: The Life of Harry Patch, the Only Surviving Veteran of the Trenches Patch, Harry & Van Emden, Richard
Lieutenant, The Grenville, Kate
Life of Pi Martel, Yann
Little Stranger, The Waters, Sarah
Making of Modern Britain, The Marr, Andrew
Memory Keeper's Daughter, The Edwards, Kim
Most Wanted Man John Le Carre
Murder Room PD James
My Sister's Keeper Picoult, Jodi
Never Let Me Go Ishiguro, Kazuo
No and Me Delphine de Vigan
No Time for Goodbye Barclay, Linwood
Noah's Compass Tyler, Anne
Norwegian Wood Murakami, Haruki
One Day Nicholls, David
Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story That Changed the Course of WWII. Ben Macintyre
Other Hand, The Cleave, Chris
Other Queen, The Gregory, Philippa
Outcast, The Jones, Sadie
PS, I Love You Ahern, Cecelia
Reluctant Fundamentalist, The Hamid, Mohsin
Remarkable Creatures Chevalier, Tracy
Restless William Boyd
Road Home, The Tremain, Rose
Road, The McCarthy, Cormac
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen Torday, Paul
Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic, The Kinsella, Sophie
Secret Life of Bees, The Kidd, Sue Monk
Secret Scripture, The Barry, Sebastian
Sepulchre Mosse, Kate
Shack, The Young, William P.
Shadow of the Wind, The Zafon, Carlos Ruiz
Short History of Nearly Everything, A Bryson, Bill
Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, A Lewycka, Marina
Sister Rosamund Lupton
Small Island Levy, Andrea
Star of the Sea Joseph O'Connor
Starter for Ten Nicholls, David
Suite Francaise Nemirovsky, Irene
Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance Levitt, Steven D. & Dubner, Stephen J.
Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, The: The Murder at Road Hill House Summerscale, Kate
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built McCall Smith, Alexander
Tenderness of Wolves Stef Penney
The Crying Tree Naseem Rakha
The Observations Jane Harris
The Snowman Jo Nesbo
The Wilding Maria McCann
Thirteenth Tale, The Setterfield, Diane
Thousand Splendid Suns, A Hosseini, Khaled
Time Traveler's Wife, The Niffenegger, Audrey
Tipping Point, The: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference Malcolm Gladwell
Very Thought of You, The Alison, Rosie
Waiting for Columbus Thomas Trofimuk
We Need to Talk About Kevin Shriver, Lionel
White Tiger, The Adiga, Aravind
Winter in Madrid Sansom, C. J.
Wolf Hall Mantel, Hilary
World without End Follett, Ken

Sunday, 30 January 2011

First big book club meeting...

I made this: Unknown at 7:48 pm 2 comments Links to this post
...will be up later this week. This is not THAT blog.

I just wanted to say that I was thrilled by the meeting that we had tonight! It was brilliant to put faces to twitter names...and actual names, and I always love being connected with other bookie people, so even before the meeting had started, I was in hog heaven!

So, thanks so much to those who made it, and look forward to meeting you in early March (date to be confirmed here)! Our next book choice is 'The Shadow of the Wind' by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

And if you are half thinking about coming along - DO SO! 
You'll meet some great people, and we'll natter about lots of different types of books. 

Also, there is the wonderful travelling suitcase library at the same event, so bring any books you want to swop, and feel free to take your pick of the books on offer! (blog linked on the top bar!)

Monday, 17 January 2011

Falling For A Dancer

I made this: BookElf at 10:03 am 0 comments Links to this post
If you've read any of the Steelathon you may be forgiven for thinking me a heartless, emotion-free freak heart-made-of-stone balls-to-love-er. This would be a pretty fair assessment of my attitude towards a certain myth, that of "romantic" love, the one-look-into-their-eyes-lost-forever love (that's lust. Once againLust. .

I do, however, believe in Actual Love-that is a combination of respect, lust, appreciation, trust, and friendship between two persons that leads to them regarding each other above all others.

This albeit highly cynical and unromantic viewpoint doesn't stop me from squealing like a hamster that's being held too tight whenever I see "love" acted out in front of me. Being a Hormonal Wreck a good 40% of the time I literally cry at anything. Pictures of cute baby elephants? A slight tightening in my chest. The "True Life" bits in That's Life magazine? Eyes welling. The bit off Love Actually where he's standing at Keira Knightly's door with the cards and the Silent Night and the 'you to me are perfect'? Sobbing. Three hours of constant, wrenching, dehydrating sobbing. True Story.

When helping N with her book shelves a couple of weeks ago, I (of course) borrowed a fair few. One of which was Falling For A Dancer by Deirdre Purcell. Now N's collection is as eclectic as mine, don't get me wrong, but a floaty-fonted front cover with Colin Farrell looking all kinds of lovely in white shirt and waistcoat combo was not what I was expecting to find.

The book tells the story of Elizabeth and here's when I insert the ***CONTAINS SPOILERS*** warning cos I'm going to to talk about the the end of the book and I really really want more people to read this one

Elizabeth is 19 in 1937, living in Cork City, the only daughter of prosperous, middle class, respectability. When she meets George, an actor in a travelling theatre she falls head over heels in what she believes to be love with him. He is, of course, a Bastard, married, who sleeps with her and allows her to follow him around like a lovesick puppy for a summer ruining her reputation in the process and then drops her for the bright lights of Hollywood.

Elizabeth soon realises she is pregnant. This is handled beautifully by the author. Living where she does at the time she does her options are limited and in the end it her parents who make the decision for her; she must marry, and fast.

A Man is found in the shape of Neely Scollard, who lives with his four children out on the West Coast of Ireland, in a slightly dilapidated farm. The television adaptation, which I have also watched this weekend, shows the gritty awfulness of the countryside beautifully. The rugged landscape, steep-as hills (and having spent a very wet week on the West Coast I can testify both to the beauty, and the thighachingly steepness of the cliffs), randomly placed farms next to even more randomly placed ruins of old farms, the roads, the muck, it's all there. And the men walk around in the ol' white shirts and waist coast combo, which I have No Problem With but seriously have these people never heard of coats? A cardigan at least? Brrr.

Neely is predictably awful, though far far worse on screen than on paper, but the community accepts her and her Bastard Child, and Elizabeth settles into 'making the best of things'.

Six years on and Elizabeth is bored, repressed, depressed and frustrated. Three living children later, she is no more than a drudge, with no excitement past the occasional church "do". Neely tries his best but doesn't understand her and it is only her friendly neighbour Tilly that offers any true support. When Tilly invites her to go see a travelling theatre company it is nothing more than an innocent excursion, until it turns out that George is one of the company.

The seeing of George again after all that time re-awakens something in Elizabeth. She tells him he has a son, and to go to hell, but it doesn't matter, she has Been Seen and returns to her husband brandishing her a slut.

At this point I was about halfway through the book and no closer to figuring out what Colin Farrel had to do with any of this when Elizabeth meets Danny McCarthy. Nineteen, handsome, and desperately in love with Elizabeth, she completely looses her senses. Flattered by his attention, she once again believes herself in love with someone when actually, its lust. A dance in the town leads to trouble as Elizabeth allows herself to have fun in the arms of a man that isn't her husband. The town in scandalised, Neely goes berserk and tragedy unfolds.

And thus starts the second half of the book. Having taken one million words to go through the first half, I'm not going to do the second. Its very complicated involving murder, deceit, another pregnancy and the most tragic fall off a horse since Gone With The Wind's Bonny croaked 50 pages before the end on the book.

The TV version is veeeeerrry different from the book, not always in ways I disapprove of. I am going to talk about one last thing though, and that is the ending.

Throughout the book there is one character who is always a bit of a mystery. Mossie, Neely's neighbour, is just "there" for most of it, so when he proposes to Elizabeth it comes as a bit of a shock. Its very very funny (and this bit in the TV version had both N and myself cringing into out pillows), but also kind of tragic. It is only at the very end that Mossie, played with smouldering brilliance by Liam Cunningham (snarf snarf one of them please. (Must Not Objectify Must Not Objectify)) comes into his own. When invited to have his birthday tea at there's by Elizabeth's daughter, he interrupts proceedings by pinning her against the wall, confessing undying love for her, snogging her brains out and then shagging her, after she's realised that she's been a dumb-ass for long enough of course!

The last scene of the book had me squealing with joy. As a woman who knows that there's a side to herself that wouldn't have been acceptable in 1930s Ireland either, if you know what I'm saying, I identified a lot with Elizabeth. I can't even begin to imagine how awful it must be not to be able to make choices about if you should be able to become a mother, no choice as to who you marry, where you live or how you live. And no idea that its OK to just fancy someone. Its OK to just have sex with someone (as long as its safe and enthusiastically consenting). The problem with quite a lot of "romantic fiction" is that is always has to be love, no matter what. Danny McCarthy, gorgeous and highly shaggable though he is, is not Elizabeth's equal when it comes down to it, but there's nothing wrong with that.

When Mossie does his Thang (at which point the Bar for all Future Possible Interests was raised once again, sorry All Men), Elizabeth realises that he is in love with her because he loves her, and he also wants her. There's is a meeting of minds, and bodies. The last scene is them in bed together, spent (horrid word but highly appropriate) and is just so perfect in the completion of Elizabeth growing from naive young girl thinking herself in love to mature sexually awoken woman who is comfortable with her best friend and lover.

The TV version ruins this. They get married (in the book they already are-told you it was complicated), and do a weird little dance-floor kiss watched by their neighbours. Pathetic. What makes this even worse is that Liam Cunningham is so ridiculously fit I feel I was denied a serious investment in the bank watching him ravish Elizabeth Dermot-Walsh (perfect casting all round). I spent a good five minutes shouting at N's television at this betrayal to possibly the most sensory awakening love scene I've read in a bloody long time. Not Pleased.

Read the book. I know I've already told you the ending, but read the book. It's too good to miss out on and I am once again flabbergasted I've not read it before.

Just don't watch the last five minutes of the TV version. Use your imagination. I guarantee it'll be better.

Happy Reading!
BookElf xxx

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Big Announcement the First!

I made this: Unknown at 5:07 pm 0 comments Links to this post
BOOKELF and AVIDREADER are delighted to present....

the LeedsBookClub podcast!

We're arrogant enough to believe that our ramblings on books, life and the world arround us might be of interest to other book minded people!

Each month or so, we're going to record a podcast on the books that we've been reading. 

Our first podcast will be released via the blog, and itunes (as soon as I figure out how to do that exactly).

First up:
'Better bring a torch, it's going to get dark'

We will be looking at the following YA series
  • The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver
  • His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  • The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper

Book Club the Tenth - or Let there be light

I made this: Unknown at 4:35 pm 0 comments Links to this post
Book Club the Tenth  - AvidReader - 14-01-2011 - Lemon Meringue Pie
Agreed on:
- The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson 
- The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz
- The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty
- Falling for a dancer by Deirdre Purcell
- The Dark is Rising Series by Susan Cooper
Special Topic:
- Podcasting Goodness!
- Expansion of the book club!
- Too secret for mentioning stuff...

Alas, this was only a mini-book club, as the Silent Partner has tonsillitis! Feel better soon sweet pea!!!
Fortunately, she has text me her thoughts on this months read, so we were able to proceed for the most part. 

Additionally, the electricity had faulted on my street that afternoon, so book club was hosted in front of a fire, surrounded by candles. T'was lovely actually...

The Finkler Question
- Another choice that she looks forward to forgetting all about.
- found all the characters to be irritating as hell, especially Treslove. She felt that he was meant to be annoying, but the result was that she disliked the book more. 
- the style of writing however, was not too bad, and she would read something else by the author.
- would NOT recommend this to anyone. 

- haunted by one question - HOW WAS THIS A COMIC BOOK?
- it wasn't funny, bits of it were funny, but the overall impression? Not funny. 
- I found the women to be totally reactive characters, neglected until death and picked up and dropped on a whim. 
- Especially Heza...Hessa...Treslove's love interest, who was created only to epitomise all that Treslove looked for in a partner of Jewish descent. (I still don't get the whole Jewess issue, so am avoiding that word like the plague in future. Nothing worse than inadvertent offence.)

BOOKELF - shockingly didn't finish the book
- considered the book to be a waste of her time
- didn't relate to a single character
- couldn't respect any of them, or the decisions that they made. 
- more importantly, she didn't care about any of them
- really disliked that loved ones were only cared about on point of death
- what exactly is the point being made?

- agreed about the characters
- thought the writing on the other hand, was very well put together

BOOKELF summed it up succinctly by noting that this book 'is a middle aged man book, written by a middle aged man, for middle aged men. 

BOOKNOOB               AVIDREADER                    BOOKELF
4/10                             5/10                                     3/10

Then she took it all back saying that she'll probably read it again at 40 and love it! And that she would try something else by the author. 

Unusually, BOOKELF had been the recipient, rather than the distributor of books recently, and had borrowed a mini-pile from AVIDREADER. Her thoughts were as follows:

The Long Walk - 9/10
- actually lent by my fella, not me - I haven't read it yet. 
- a fantastic first class book that she will be recommending. 
- she also really enjoyed the film. 
- pretty much the only reason that she had seen the film was because her route to work each day took her past a large poster with Bill Sturgis staring out at her. 
- parts of the book were painful to read, as the events depicted were so horrific. 
- is going to purchase her own copy to re-read and lend out to people. 

The Optimist's Daughter 7/10
- good, but in that 'I-should-have-read-it-during-my-GCSE-years' sort of way.
- the mere act of reading it resulted in her 'english literature' head switching on. 
- a very good book, one that she shall re-read and no doubt, appreciate more. 
- again, really enjoyed this. 

Falling for a Dancer (to be scored)
- the BBC version from 1998 was also watched over the weekend (apparently BOOKELF will be writing a post on the whole reading/watching experience soon!)
- lovely, if a little over-long in parts
- the beginning and ending of the book were the strongest parts by far. 
- hated Danny though aware that Colin Farrell was playing in, so also acknowledges that he was very pretty. 
- thought it was so romantic, the Irish Pride and Prejudice. 
- identified with Elizabeth as a sexual beings. 
- loved that she met her match, her equal. 
- reckons that it is my 'Forever Amber'

The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper
- has now read the first three books in the series. 
- will be discussed later, once BOOKELF has also read them

Finally we discussed the future of the book club.
BOOKELF and I have agreed to run a monthly podcast and post it on the blog, and see if people enjoy. 
We have also decided to run a larger book club, from Arcadia Bar in Headingley. The first meeting will be held towards the end of the month, in conjunction with the Travelling Suitcase Library (linked on the right margin!). More details in an upcoming post!
If there is an interest, we will also have the facility to run an online book club, for people who are interested in reading along with us, but can't make it to the physical event. 

Original LBC

Meeting 08 - A Chat
Meeting 05 - Firman - Sam Savage

Monday, 10 January 2011

Sucked In to Books

I made this: BookElf at 8:17 pm 0 comments Links to this post
Some books you start knowing exactly why your reading them. Whether this be because the review is two weeks overdue, book club's in two days, its been staring at you for the past three years or you just want to, at least there is a reason.

Some books you start and think, why am I reading this? I'm not interested in this book, the cover or blurb (how do people not read blurbs automatically upon picking up any book? How? What is wrong with people?). Its not even been recommended to me. I'm just reading it.

These are the Books that Suck-not in a bad, American Teen in the Nineties way, but in the pull you in before spitting you rudely back out sense of the word. When you look up from the sofa and think, wow, did I really just spend two days reading that? Was that a waste of time? I don't know! I didn't particularly learn anything from the book; there was no massive emotional response from me towards it; in fact I'd almost say, it passed the time.

But I know exactly who I'm going to lend it to next...

The book I've just finished, "Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo" by Julia Stuart, is one of these. Telling the story of the residents of the Tower, Beefeaters, bar staff and clergyman alike. The plot meanders along, although it is fairly serious in its subject matter. The setting is delightful, jumping between Balthazar's home at the Tower and his wife's place of work, the London Underground Lost Property office. Both have The Most Interesting Jobs In The World, both are grieving for their son who died unexpectedly two years ago. When the Palace decides to put the Queen's collection of exotic animals in the Tower instead of London Zoo, it is Balthazar's task to look after them. Meanwhile his wife Hebe is charged with finding the owners of various things lost on the tube, from gigolo's diary (always an easy laugh) to urns, to pot plants.

A huge and varied supporting cast, each with their own ridiculous names (both first and sur are always mentioned, its a bit like reading Facebook, or an account of Primary School) floats around the main action, conjoining with the plot for comedic effect every now and then.

The best thing about the book was the randomly assorted Facts about all thing Tower/Lost Property related. I really hope they were all true, cos some of them really impressed me in a "remember that for Pub Quiz" way.

Reading this book is a bit like drinking Lilt; you know full well its just Coke, but it tastes like pineapples so can't be completely bad for you. If you enjoyed The No.1 Ladies' Detective series by Alexander McCall Smith and the like, then I'd recommend it to you. "Cozy", I think the word is. "Makes you glad to be alive" would be used. I have now a long list in my head of people I'm going to lend this book to, but if you want a gentle January Read, I'd recommend it to you.

Happy Reading!
BookElf xxx

Interested in joining our book club?

I made this: Unknown at 7:24 pm 6 comments Links to this post
There's been a few requests via twitter and the blog for information about joining our tiny but enthusiastic book club!

So we're thinking about organising a little meet up (likely at the ever-obliging bar in Headingley that's been so gracious in the past) in the near future, and setting something up. More details once we sort them!

If you're interested, feel free to drop me a line on twitter (@LeedsBookClub or @BookElfLeeds) or leave a comment here, or send an email to LeedsBookClub@gmail.com.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Scarlett vs Amber

I made this: BookElf at 10:06 am 1 comments Links to this post

Scarett O'Hara and Amber StClare... both are good, but which is better? There's only one way to find out..... FIGHT!!!!

OK so first off this is a bitch fight I would love to see. And I used to work in a Yates, so I know a good bitch fight when I see one. Not that either of these fine ladies would ever stoop so low as to exchange blows, you understand. But still, they would hate each other, and be competition from the off. So fight they would and fight they must.

If you don't have a clue what I'm on about then Where Have You Been? Scarlett O'Hara is the heroine of Gone With The Wind, which I read over the last weeks of December. It would be one of the best books I've ever read but there were parts where the racism made me so angry I wanted to stamp on it. I know, I know, its the period, but COME ON it states over and over again that slavery was *good* for black people as they cannot think for themselves. I'm sorry but I can't five star that shit, no matter how fucking affecting the last fifty pages are or just how damn addictive a read it is. Anyway. Scarlett starts the book the county Belle, growing up on a plantation in Georgia. Then the civil war breaks out and she ends up a widow, refugeeing herself and the wife of the man she secretly loves (who is a twit) from bombed out Atlanta, with the aid of the dashing (and smart arsed) Rhett Butler. She returns to the family plantation, where she finds her mother dead, her father lost and her sisters sick. And all her slaves have been freed. Slowly, through hard work and mean tricks, Scarlett manages to turn the families' luck around. She marries her own sister's beau for his money and starts her own successful business. This makes the town hate her for her unladylike conduct. Eventually her husband is killed "defending her honour" (apologising for the Ku Klux Klan there, are we?) and she ends up marrying Rhett, who is making money hand over fist by being nice to the invading Yankies. They should end up happy together, but don't, because she is still madly in love with Ashley, the husband of her best friend, and the only redeemable character in the book, Melanie Wilkes. The disintegration of Scarlett from flirtatious, naive, self involved County Belle to alcoholic materialist vulgar desperate woman is beautifully done, you hate her,and she definitely gets whats coming to her, but you don't half route for her throughout.

Amber StClare is the heroine of a very different, but instantly comparable novel Forever Amber, which I first read Many Moons ago, and have waxed lyrical about ever since. Born the illegitimate daughter of star crossed English Civil War aristocratic lovers, Amber is brought up by a boring village couple who took in her dying mother. Hated by the other girls in the village for being a self-promoting little flirt, Amber loses her heart, head and everything else when cavalier Bruce Carlton, returning with the Merry Monarch Charles II, rides through her backwater one day. Following him to London, sixteen year old Amber is soon dumped, pregnant and penniless. Fortunately for her she is extremely beautiful and very resourceful. I can't go through the entire plot because it is extremely complicated but she goes from beggar to thief to actress to rich lady to titled lady to even greater titled lady to King's Mistress in about 900 pages. Like Scarlett, Amber has her 'great test' when she is trapped in London during the plague, and then the fire, and like Scarlett she remains desperately in love with a man who isn't remotely interested in her for anything other than the obvious. Unlike Scarlett though she does not learn any of her lessons and the ending sees her riding off into the supposed sunset where you know she is going to fall flat on her face.

Both in it purely for the advancement of themselves and the man they love, both use their Allure to ensnare week men, both will lie and cheat and take what does not belong to them. The main difference is that Scarlett has her home and values to cling on to whereas Amber has no moral compass to guide her and has no yearning to be anything but better than she is, whatever her current circumstances might be. This is not surprising though, they are both a product of their time and situation. I'm pretty sure if you put Amber in Georgia in 1864 she would do as Scarlett did, and visa versa.

So, which one would win in a fight?

Well, both are small and skinny so there isn't a physical edge. Both grew up with girls who hated them, so childhood fighting experience probably about equal. Both commit murder in the book, though Amber's is pre-meditated so she's got the Evil angle, but Scarlett would probably be better in a rage. Amber marries four times, beating Scarlett's three, though she has a multitude of lovers including the King so probably has some serious heavies looking out for her, but then again Scarlett's second husband is in the Klan, and ignorant scared racist nutters in sheets brandishing flaming crosses do have the slight edge over a load of pistol tooting fops with tiny dogs named after them. Amber survives the plague in tact, which means she is pretty hard, but Scarlett outruns Sherman. Scarlett definitely beats Amber on quotability, but ever single woman I've ever lent Amber to has loved the book so much they were loathe to part with it, so for readability it has to be her. Both have equally ridiculous names. Both have three children. Both have absolutely no tastes in furnishings. In fact, its pretty much a draw!

Still would love to see the fight though!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

BookElf Reads 2010

I made this: BookElf at 7:17 pm 0 comments Links to this post
In the Great Tradition of last year...

Not published this year, just read this year, savvy?

Discovery of the Year

Jane Smiley- A Thousand Acres, The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton. I got A Thousand Acres, a Pulitzer winning re-telling of the King Lear story, from a book swap and I don't think I read a more beautiful book this year. Smiley's strength lies in her ability to transport the reader to a world totally alien to them in such a way as to make it their home for two hundred pages. Smiley made me want to travel across Middle America almost as much as Fannie Flagg, and that's saying something, and I cannot believe I have never read any of her work before this year. Shows the power of the book swap, if nothing else does.

Series of the Year
The Daisy Dalrymple Series- Carola Dunn
Ooo I'm gonna upset some with this one as I've read some amazing series this year. As well as the unquestionably brilliant Chronicles of Ancient Darkness and the, well, strange, cut and paste shagathons of Anita Blake I've added another to the Shardlakes and recently introduced myself to a certain Inspector Wallander (give it all up to the Mankell Massive). However, I have chosen to celebrate Daisy, purely purely because of how many bloody people now love it! Originally bought the first three off www.thebookpeople.com (evil evil tempting money suckers, lent to N and P, who both loved and continued to buy the whole bloody series. Recommending via Twitter has led to something of a Daisy Appreciation Society amongst my followers and, in a world that loves to take retro to its logical conclusion, it's easy to see why. The Hon. Daisy Dalrymple is the posh of voice and good of heart wannabe journalist and sometime detective living in 1920s London, though she ends up in all sorts of country house scrapes with her trusty sidekick Detective Fletcher. The books are just gorgeous, and lovely to collect, murder mysteries for the most part. The plots are not hard, but do cover several Themes, which I like, and they are just such lovely relaxing books now loved by so many from one throwaway impulsive buy it feels wrong not to honour them.

Up All Night Award
Burial-Neil Cross

Well, it had to be, really. Scariest book I think I've ever read. Got out of bed, checked all the doors and windows, got back into bed, stared at ceiling trying to bring heart rate back to normal. Cannot recommend enough. Addictive reading. Apparently this guy writes for Spooks, I can see this.

Best Debut
A Kind of Intimacy- Jenn Ashworth
Continuing my incessant fangirling of Jenn Ashworth, whose new book Cold Light is due out this May, I have chosen a book that, like last year's Wetlands, spoke to me a woman who likes weird shit. Telling the tall of a lonely, obsessive, compulsive woman who tries desperately to live a "normal" life and gain the love of her next door neighbour, this darkly funny brilliantly up-put-downable book was a clear favorite this year and I can't wait for her next one.

The I-Know-I-Know-It's-Brilliant-But Award
The Finkler Question- Howard Jacobson

I'm supposed to have finished this for Book Club in a couple of weeks and I will but I can't because its so unendingly dull. How is this a comic novel? How? It's a)not funny and b)actually quite depressing. As far as I can figure out a load of boring old men who never appreciated their wives until they died sit around whilst one of them, who has two sons whose mother's name he can't remember (which apparently makes him some sort of libertine hero as opposed to a Bastard) wished he was Jewish because some woman mugged him. Or have I got that wrong? Seriously, if you're a fifty year old Guardian reading "man", you'll enjoy this book. Cos that's what the Booker's there for and a decent book by a girl (urrr they smell) won last year. Sorry if that's a bit harsh but its dull as fuck.

Best Recommended Read

Persepolis-Marjane Satrapi

In fact this entire blog post is dedicated to @Lingmops without whom it would never have come about (mwah love).
Brilliant, is the term graphic novel? True story of a girl growing up in Iran and then in Europe in the 80s, told simply but evocatively in beautiful black and white. Really enjoyed, and will def be getting my own copy.

Worst Book of the Year

The Klone and I- Danielle Steel
My defending of Danielle Steel and why there's nothing wrong with reading "trashy" novels kind of fell apart during September's Steelathon, when half the books I read (ten in two weeks, failing miserably by target of book-a-day, but it was the beginning of term) turned out to be amongst the worst, or at least the ones that made me the most angry. This book however was just bad. The story of a woman who falls for a scientist who leaves her a robot-clone of himself to entertain her whilst he is away on trips which she proceeds to have sex with in the most uncoservative manor, even Steel's hardest fans hate this book and I would avoid it at all costs. Unless you like that sort of thing, obs.

So yeah, good year. Approx 106 books read, most of them Not Shite. Now onto 2011!

Happy Reading!
BookElf xx

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