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

Friday, 29 June 2012

Mount TBR 10# In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner

I made this: BookElf at 10:25 am 0 comments
I read Good In Bed when it got donated to the Travelling Suitcase Library a couple of years ago, enjoyed it, but wasn't fussed enough to learn more. I only realised In her Shoes, one of my favourite go-to films when I want to sob, was based on a book by the same woman when I saw this in The Works in Huddersfield shopping with my G-Ma last Autumn. They were on two-for-a fiver, so I got that one and she got an Emma Blair and we both left happy. I love my G-Ma.
I love In Her Shoes because a) it gave me the line '1994 called, it wants its scrunchie back', which can be brought out for any occasion and b) teeny weeny girl crush on Toni 'Muriel' Collette. The book, which to be honest isn't as good as the film, is a nice slice of chick lit that would make a perfect beach read. Fans of Marian Keyes take note: she might be Pennsylvanian Jewish instead of Irish Catholic, but the wit, and the warmth, is exactly the same.
Rose is the frumpy, but bright, older sister to the slim, beautiful Maggie, who has men, wrapped around her little finger. I in no way empathised with Rose's character.
When Maggie gets evicted and looses her job again, it is up to Rose to put her up. This goes horribly wrong and the sisters fall out, only to be reunited when a box of letters their mysterious grandmother is found.
After their mother died when they were children and their father remarried the dreadful Sydelle Rose has always covered up for Maggie's mistakes. Maggie, who has severe dyslexia, was badly done by at school and has never had a job lasting more than six months. The way that the world is run means hardly any support for her. She cannot read the teleprompter when she otherwise nails an audition for MTV, she cannot do maths in her head quickly and so struggles whenever a cash register fails on her. These frustrations exacerbate her and drive her to feeling worthless about everything but her looks, which she then judges other by. What I liked most about Maggie was who sympathetic Jennifer Weiner made her, she could just have been the skinny girl the reader could bitch about, but by showing her being assaulted, struggling with the world, I wanted her to succeed. I eventually ended up rooting for Maggie a lot more than I did for Rose, who would have been fine anyway.
Then there is the girl's estranged grandmother Ella, who lives in an active senior's retirement complex in Florida. Her amazing friend Mrs Lebowitz was by far the best thing about this novel, but Jennifer Weiner successfully showed the difference between generations and how love is not just reserved for the young with Ella's story.
There are parts of this book that drag slightly, but I think only because I've seen the film, which cut them. But I really enjoyed this book as a nice bit of fluff the week after something heavy (The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric, which N has already reviewed, and require some serious soothing fluff afterward) and I would recommend romance and chick lit fans to get into her.

3/5, a lot of fun.

Thursday, 28 June 2012


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That is all. 

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

MedusaLBC A Prayer for Owen Meany - Guest Write Up!

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Medusa LBC

Date:  Wednesday 13th June 2012
Time:  7:30pm
Address: 8-10 Town Street, Horsforth, Leeds 

Discussing: A Prayer For Owen Meany - John Irving

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This month's write up has been provided by the hilarious, pop-culture referencing, Gentleman tweeter that is -  @Mr_Hainsworth As though he could be any more awesome; he is also a book clubber extraordinaire and (I predict) writer-upper! Thanks so much fella - we laughed, we cried and we hurled - mostly we really appreciate it!

THE BLURB (from the GoodReads website ) 
John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany is the inspiring modern classic that introduced two of the author’s most unforgettable characters, boys bonded forever in childhood: the stunted Owen Meany, whose life is touched by God, and the orphaned Johnny Wheelwright, whose life is touched by Owen. From the accident that links them to the mystery that follows them–and the martyrdom that parts them–the events of their lives form a tapestry of fate and faith in a novel that is Irving at his irresistible best.

Ok kids, here we go! The fabulous and talented [ ;) ] LeedsBookClub has left me, a Science Graduate, in charge of the write up! This is going to be great, as words good with I am.

Anyway... moving on! Full disclosure, I didn’t finish the book! (Shocker for all those who know me from book clubs). I was therefore a little lost with some of the plot points (Spoilers you might say) that people were mentioning throughout the meeting, so if there are any factual errors the editor (say hello...HEY ALL!) will have to edit them out.

So to the meeting. It was nice to see regular faces in the crowd, along with new ones who add to the experience! But it was a regular face to all book club members that got us underway(THAT'S ME!!!). 
A huge fan of John Irving’s work, they were glad that this book had been picked (though going from discussions on twitter, not when they saw the length!!) having read 3 of Irving’s other works. 
And it all started off so well! 

One of the feelings that permeated the meeting from people who had read Irving before was just how well he uses language to describe the world within the book. In this book, the sparse and evocative language meant that many could picture the town of Gravesend just from the words Irving was sketching with.

And then...HE arrived.

Anyway, enough with the capital letters! I’m sure that many of you who are reading this in your head had a shouting voice reading the last bit. 
Another member then mentioned that, even though they found Owen’s speech pattern annoying, they did feel that it seemed to fit in when they were performing the nativity - adding humor into the section. Of all the characters, Owen seemed the most disliked by many of the members, some feeling that he was a bit of a snob and obnoxious, some finding him irritating (and not just for the capital letter speech) and one member described Owen as ‘asking for it’ with the way he was treated in Sunday school. 
For some, the only way through the book was to picture Owen as someone else. There were then descriptions of Owen being pictured as E.T or a Hobbit just to help members through the sections containing him. 
Owen’s death was then discussed as many members had been waiting for it (one even described how they were nearly driven mad by how long it took to come). In the end it is a very noble death, sacrificing himself for others and this was fine but it was then spoiled for many with a very trite last line, and this upset and angered members.

With many members disliking (or indeed HATING) Owen, it was then confusing to find that many of the characters in the book liked him. He was the voice of the school paper (God, could you imagine a paper shouting at you with capital letters, that would be awful... hang on... Isn’t this what the Daily Mail does?), people listened to him, girls chased after him. There was talk about
whether Owen had some kind of spell over people. Was Owen the second coming of Jesus? 
According to Owen’s mother, she had had an immaculate conception when getting pregnant with Owen. This though was written off by the Catholics in the book, though the narrator of the book seemed to believe it. One member put forward that Owen could be Damien (of 666 fame)! 
This spell over people could be seen
by many members throughout the book, as Owen seemed very well accepted by other characters even after accidentally killing someone’s mother with a baseball and literally disarming an armadillo. One member then pondered upon the fact that maybe Owen suffered from aspergers.

We then moved onto the other characters in the book. Starting with Owen’s parents - whom one member described them as reductive. They seemed to be written as derogatory stereotypes and this seemed to go for many characters in the book. Only 5 characters seemed to get fully fleshed out and developed by the author. One member also felt that one character (I only caught that it was a female one, and
molester was in the name.... help editor??)HESTER seemed to be being written off by the author, but in the end they had turned their life completely around and this was felt by the member as almost like a mini-victory. One of our new members then joined in, saying that they actually felt that the narrator was far more annoying than Owen. They felt that Owen had more substance to him, he would make decisions for himself and others, whereas the narrator was too soft and passive and needed, no relied on, Owen to make decisions for him. There was then a discussion on the narrator’s celibacy, and the fact that it was maybe not through choice, but through the fact that Owen had never said to him to ‘GO SPEAK TO THAT WOMEN’.

The character of the pastor was then brought up. One book clubber had asked whether it had been Owen that had held onto the ball after it had struck the mother down (and she became more powerful then you could ever imagine...no wait, that’s Obi Wan in Star Wars...carry on). 
It had turned out that it was actually the character of the pastor that had held onto the ball, and that he had done this because he was in love with the mother. Having had an affair (and was thus the narrator’s father, more in a minute) and broken it off, he had, upon seeing her again at a baseball game, fired off a quick prayer to God to strike her down so he wouldn’t have to see her again. It was then Owen (more evidence for the second coming theory - Owen acting as a ‘hand of god’) that hit the mother with the baseball and killed her. This causes the pastor to stop praying. Many members were then bemused by how the pastor was then ‘scared’ back into his faith through the narrator haunting him with his mother’s dummy. They were then further bemused by the scene where the pastor tells the narrator he is his father (again, having not read the book, I imagine Star Wars episode 5: Empire Strikes Back) saying it was absolutely unbelievable.

We then rounded up with a description of the undercurrents in the book. Yes there was comedy in there, descriptions of a Grandmother with lots of wigs and one jumping out at a character in a corridor of jam (I assume I missed something, or it was lost in translation), and of a kid getting stuck as a flying angel in the nativity. But the main undercurrent was that of the politics of the Vietnam war. One member described the writing about it as beautiful and also interesting, and how it seemed to analyse the whole atmosphere of the time. They also felt that that the book was more significant as an ‘antiwar’ book than as a ‘contemporary fiction’ book, and that it may possible be more significant now because of the Leveson inquiry. The book also looked at the politics of the Nixon and Reagan administrations, linking in immigration which then lead to comments on segregation in American schools during the 1960s. One book clubber then provided us with an anecdote about their late partner working as a governor of a faith school in this country not long ago to remind us that this still may be occurring. It was then brought up by a member that maybe Irving was an English teacher as there was a classic ‘English teacher rant’ in the middle about how kids these days ‘don’t read the writing’. It was then pointed to that maybe the book was preaching to us about how stereotypical Middle America is. Some felt judged by this.

All in all, it seemed that most members didn’t enjoy the book though to be fair most didn’t finish, with only one or two enjoying it (or indeed finishing it). One member then rounded it up nicely by describing the non-dialogue writing as very beautiful - allowing them to fully imagine the world the story took place in and that Irving’s writing could take you anywhere throughout the history of the book with ease. They felt that this was needed due to the size of the book needing you to be fully immersed in it, and the fact that when there was dialogue it seemed to be like, and I quote, 
‘...wading through old porridge that smells like vinegar’
Although not a bad book in any sense, some felt that some of Irving’s other work may be a better read with ‘Ciderhouse Rules’ being mentioned. There was also a warning for Kindle users. When reading capital letters, the kindle could become confused between letters and numbers(A PR0BL3M W1TH 0W3N MEANY) and also that there were no line breaks which added to the wading sensation.

Discussion then wandered off as it can do to loosely related topics. Tonight’s topics were a member’s dads backpacking adventures, the Irish civil war, and Nikes special edition Guinness coloured trainers (they had been given quite an ill-thought out name). There was also a film recommendation for ‘The Guard’ staring the Irish actor Brendan Gleeson.

We then came back to do the scores (which I’m sure the editor will add below) and pick the books for September and October (again added below). So, that was the write up! I’ve been me, you’ve been you, and I’ll leave you with a reminder that ‘this is not the twitter you’ve been looking for….. move along!’



Book the Next: 

Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes

Venue: Medusa Bar
Date:  Wednesday 11th July 2012
Time:  7:30pm
Address: 8-10 Town Street, Horsforth, Leeds 

For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub!

Contact the bar on @MedusaBar

And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #MedusaLBC!

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2012 - MedusaLBC

14 - Mar - Started Early, Took My Dog - Kate Atkinson
13 - Feb - The Black House - Peter May - Postphoned
12 - Jan - The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - GUEST

11 - Nov - Empire of the Sun - JG Ballard
10 - Oct - Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell (not *that* one)
09 - Sep - Before I go to sleep - S.J. Watson
08 - Aug - 9 Lives - Clive Rusher
07 - Jul - Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes
06 - Jun - A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving - GUEST
05 - May - The Life of Pi - Yann Martel
04 - Apr - Diary of a Nobody - George Grossmith 
03 - Mar - We need to talk about Kevin - Lionel Shriver
01 - Jan - Ragnarok - AS Byatt
An exciting new project! - Medusa LeedsBookClub

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Book Club - Table of Contents

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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Mount TBR 9# Virgin Widow by Anne O'Brien

I made this: BookElf at 11:28 am 0 comments
Anne O'Brien started off writing Harlequin historical romance books set in Regency England, and graduated to 'big' books based on historical characters in 2010. This, her first 'big' offering, was recommended to me by a mature student who loves historical fiction as much as I do, so much so I bought it first hand in a WHSmith Bad-Day-Bollocks-To-Everything-But-Books station binge last November. Knowing that I was going to be seeing Anne speak at the Leeds Big Bookend last weekend (CRACKING effort guys, WELL DONE) I bumped it up the pile, thinking I've read enough books set in the First World War for now...

Anne Neville is the youngest daughter of the Earl of Warwick-known as 'the Kingmaker', who I know from Philippa Gregory's The White Queen as a turncoat bastard whose jealousy extended the War of the Roses for another twenty years.

Anne O'Brien writes her heroine as feisty and spirited (because it's historical fiction and therefore ALL women are feisty and spirited) and more than a little romantic. Her Mills and Boon past comes through a bit, and it takes a while to get going, but when it does, this book is fun.

The problem is, this book is set in the Middle Ages, and I've read 10,000 pages of a popular fantasy series that might as well be set in the Middle Ages this year, so distinguishing between the two is a bit difficult. When Anne is married off to Joffrey, aka Edward of Lancaster, I couldn't get the Sansa comparisons out of my head, which made her eventual pairings with Richard of Gloucester, whom I'd instantly cast as Jon Snow (because, at the moment, all heroes are Jon Snow. Not only does the man know where to put it, he also knows what to do with it once it's there. You have no idea how much I'm looking forward to series 3). I was quite glad when Anne O'Brien suddenly turned Richard into Mr Darcy crossed with The Black Moth, as it made my imaginings of their longings all the easier on the brain.

Yes, this book is silly in places, the sex is very much 'he brought me to such heights' in-your-end-o and the characters are a little stock; but it is FUN, easy to read, and tells a different side to the Neville myth, although having Richard III (how many killings?) as a romantic hero is a little odd at first. I am truly gutted that Philippa Gregory has now got round to writing about this character, her Anne Neville is out in September. Pretty soon, however, they are going to run out of Medieval Babes and then we can all go back to what we do best and start reading about the Tudors again.

3/5 and a good beach read in the making, I've ordered her others.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Women, Sex and History, and panel discussion as part of the Leeds Big Bookend, Saturday 16 June.

I made this: BookElf at 11:02 am 0 comments
As Anne O’Brien, one of the four authors speaking at Saturday’s ‘Women, Sex and History’ talk as part of the Leeds Big Bookend quoted, Jane Austen was not a fan of history as she saw it. In Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland quips “The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all”. Fortunately, this is no longer the case, and historical fiction continues to be a genre that grows and grows.

Saturday’s talk was a panel discussion chaired by historian and former curator Hallie Rubenhold, wearing a fabulous pair of bright red wedges, and included authors Gabrielle Kimm, Jane Borodale and Anne O’Brien. These women write about a wide range of subjects that all happen to be in the past, from Anne O’Brien’s Medieval Ladies of Court, to Gabrielle Kimm’s Renaissance Courtesans and Jane Borodale’s Georgian firework makers. One this that unites them is a passion for their characters, and the lives which they would have led.

There was a lot of focus throughout the discussion on ‘forgotten’ histories. With the success of things such as Horrible Histories and People’s Museums there is, I believe, a growing awareness of the history of the everyday. Fiction reflects on this trend, and these authors, through their research, reveal a side to history that might not be in the text books.

As Jane Borodale pointed out, historical fiction has a role to play especially in bringing out women’s secret history. I had no idea until this panel discussion that before the Victorian moralist times abortion was a standard rather than contraception, with one in five of the herbs in popular herbals of the time ‘bringing on the menses’ or ‘clearing female blockages’. In public gardens and parks, herbs were grown that would end a pregnancy for the public to help themselves to. What a difference 200 years of misogynistic ‘morality’ makes!

Gabrielle Kimm also had me clenching my thighs discussing 500 year old diaphragms made of hollowed out halves of lime that apparently work (not that I’m going to be testing this theory…), and the discussion on motherhood and how attached, or otherwise women were with their children (when Anne of Neville and the Duke of Gloucester lost their nine year old son, their mourning for him was seen as excessive by the Plantagenet Court) was fascinating.

So were women as oppressed as history makes them out? The authors seemed to agree, this depends entirely on their class. Whilst a daughter of an Earl might have very little choice as to whom she marries or where she lives, the Renaissance Courtesans, Gabrielle Kimm boldly claims, were the first feminists, a statement which I don’t entirely agree with. Hallie Rubenhold rightly pointed out, ‘history’ is the history of the rich, the poor were the majority, and the rules that applied to one set did not necessarily apply to the other. The history of women, however, is the history of how we survive. In a world where the only chance of upward mobility is prostitution, education, property ownership and medicine are barred, and one in three children dies before their fifth birthday, this is a hard slog, but makes for a good story.

What really came out from Saturday’s discussion was how universal emotion is, and how much work goes into writing historical fiction. Jane Borodale actually did a Tudor Dairy course in order to learn which muscles would be aching at the end of her character’s day. This again makes you rethink how we see history-the corsets that I see as constrictive fashions actually support your back whilst doing manual labour when fitted properly.

This was a fascinating and worthwhile discussion, and an excellent addition to this debut festival and I will definitely be looking up more of these author’s work in the future.

The Laini Challenge - Book 04 - The Turn Of The Screw

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The LainiBop Challenge

The Turn of the Screw 
by Henry James

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I hate to admit this, but I found myself a little disappointed with this book. I have always heard such wonderful things about it, and it's a book which is very well known for being a chilling ghost story. 

I'm not sure why, but I didn't find this scary or really all that chilling.

The story begins with a group of people gathered in a house telling ghost stories. 

One gentleman offers to tell a true story which was told to him by a good friend, who experienced the events first hand. 

There is a long section where he must get the manuscript sent to him from his home and he puts off telling the story for a couple of nights. 

The heroine of this story is a governess who takes up a position taking care of 2 children, who have been adopted by their uncle. This uncle would prefer to have nothing to do with the children and makes it clear that the governess will have full responsibility and control over what happens with them and that he does not want to be bothered.

After the eldest, a young boy is expelled from his school, however, strange figures appear around the house. After describing the figures to the housekeeper, Mrs Grose, we discover that the male is Mr Quint and the female is Miss Jessel, both previous employees of the house, and both are dead.
The governess becomes convinced that the children can see these ghosts and the ghosts themselves have some interest in the children. Despite having no evidence of this at all, she becomes obsessed with the mystery in the house.

I found the writing at times to be quite difficult to get through, there was a lot of re-reads of certain passages. This unfortunately dampened my enjoyment a little, as did the fact that I was expecting much more scares and shivers than I got. 

The ending also failed me I must say, it was very abrupt, and I felt it was extremely vague and open to interpretation, not necessarily in a good way. I'm not sure I would recommend this book as it let me down quite a bit. 

Much of that may have been my fault, but it won't be going on the to read again pile.

There is a 1961 film version based on this book, named The Innocents, trailer below!

SCORE       4/10

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Say Hello to @Lainibop

Her To Be Read Challenge - The Countdown Begins!

Book 30 - ?
Book 29 - ?
Book 28 - Sexing the Cherries by Jeanette Winterson
Book 27 - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Book 26 - Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
Book 25 - Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Book 24 - From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne
Book 23 - Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Book 22 - Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffery Archer

Find more reviews HERE

If we've used any videos, you'll find them on the LeedsBookClub YouTube Channel - 

Visit LainiBop's playlist HERE 
Visit Fizzy Elephants HERE
The 10 Things I Hate About You playlist is HERE!
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Table of Contents - Guest Stars

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Table of Contents - Laini's Book Shelf

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Thursday, 14 June 2012

What I Read During My Holidays Part 5- My Dear, I Wanted To Tell You by Louisa Young

I made this: BookElf at 12:57 pm 0 comments
This has been looking at me for a while now, I got it in for work after seeing it in WHSmith's in the station and desperately wanting it. After my mega Pat Barker-although a couple of weeks ago, I thought the thing I REALLY needed to do was spend my holidays reading another book set during the First World War.
Opening in the early 1900s, this is the story of childhood friends Riley, a working class boy, and Nadine, a middle class girl, who grow up together through Riley being 'helped' by Nadine's family friend, an artist, and eventually fall in love.
When war breaks out in 1914, Riley isn't much interested in the lines of boys queueing up to get out of slum poverty and enlist. However an unfortunate incident with one of his benefactor's artist friends makes him run away from his family and Nadine and join up. He is an excellent soldier, and natural leader, and is soon promoted through the ranks.
The book takes about 80 pages to get anything more that holiday-read interesting, but when it does it really packs a punch. Riley's quick progression from boring boy to fascinating, multi-layered man and his relationship with Nadine soon stop being Mills and Boon boring, and it is a real shame that the slow opening could put so many people off reading this excellent, gripping, sad and beautifully written book.
The characters are mostly middle to upper class, so this fits in with the current Downton Trend, and Young also makes a striking comparison of the growth of facial reconstruction surgery during the war and the rise of plastic surgery beauty treatments for women. One of the most interesting characters, officer's wife Julia, shows how limiting life was for women before the First World War, and how hard it must be to psychologically adapt to shifting sociological change.
All in all, I enjoyed this book just as much as I did Regeneration-although it isn't as 'literary'. One thing though, I am going to start a 'Modern Books About The War' bingo cards as so many tropes were struck.
4/5, would make a cracking holiday read for romance and historical fiction fans, though my advice is to stick with it!

Monday, 11 June 2012

What I Read During My Holidays Part 4- Theodora by Stella Duffy

I made this: BookElf at 2:05 pm 0 comments
I never intended for this to be part of my holiday reading, but I happened to be in town during my week off and found this in the library, and having been recommended it so highly by @sianushka, I thought, why not, I'll give it a go.
The story of the rise of Theodora from dancing girl to Empress of the Byzantium Roman Empire, this novel could be one of those ridiculous wish-fulfilment blockbusters where Our Heroine goes through seventeen different reincarnations reflecting ever aspect of a time and culture, resulting in a rather unlikely ascent to a position of power which the reader is never quite sure they deserve (*coughs* Forever Amber *coughs*). However, this book wins, because it's real, it's based on a real person who is now worshipped as a saint in the Orthodox Church, who really did start out a dancing girl, go through a religious conversion and become one of the most powerful women in the world.
Stella Duffy's Constantinople is epic. Theodora is introduced to us as a clever, but cheeky, child, intent on fame when not being hideously abused in the name of love by her dancing master. She becomes a prostitute at 12, gives birth at 14, and at 18 leaves the city the most famous actress the Hippodrome has ever seen with her much much older lover, all of which makes for fairly squeamish reading and made me question when we consider people adult and our reasons for doing so.
Theodora herself is a marvel, mostly because she is so real. Although the modern language used in the dialogue was strange to me, as most historical fiction tends to shy away from modernising, it fitted well with the fast paced nature of the book and made Theodora a much more accessible character-a 'modern' woman working her way up the chain, being used variously by the men and institutions she encounters along the way.
Knowing nothing about Byzantium Rome (we only ever went up to the end of Roman Britain with Mrs Oldfield's class), Theodora or Justinian I have no idea if this is accurate or a true reflection of how people thought and lived. The explanations of the schism in the Church over the Divinity of Christ I found particularly baffling-being a massive heathen I have but a little knowledge of such things, and reading around the subject this is something I really should have paid closer attention to as the next book in the series The Purple Shroud published later this year (ARC would be LOVELY, thank you) deals more heavily with Theodora as a symbol of faith against religious persecution.
However, this book was fun, and made me think, and if you are looking for some medium-weight holiday reading and are a fan of feisty women from history a bit further back than the current Plantagenet Explosion, then this would be perfect for you.

Friday, 8 June 2012

WTFBC - Much Ado About Nothing - Review

I made this: Unknown at 12:14 am 0 comments
* * * * *SPOILERS* * * * *
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Much Ado About Nothing 
By William Shakespeare

Well, that was all a bit different!

Our initial meet up(? Tweet up?) was a little quiet due to work; holidays abroad; time differences; marathons; not knowing that there WAS a WTFBC due to twitter absences and an inability to get past the first page of the play.
Teething problems. 
Easily overcome.

Though I've been at the book club game for a few years, I've never really organised an online discussion about a book. Sure I participated in one book one twitter a few years ago (@1b1t) but after diligently reading @NeilHimself's American Gods; it all seemed to fizzle out over the summer. 
Besides, it was all so big. There were so many people tweeting all at once; so any different thoughts and concepts flying down the hash tag; so much to think about that I felt a bit abashed. 

I wasn't quite the smooth operator that you all know and love (*cough*) on twitter and couldn't quite build up any steam to join in. (Don't get me wrong - it was still a brilliant idea and I hope that something similar will start up again - what a wonderful way to promote literacy and get a conversation going!)

So to say that I entered into this with a confident and breezy air might be overstating juuuust a touch!
On the other hand, WTFBC is made up mostly by people I already chat with online on a regular basis. We have a bond. We have the same flag flying. 
We are Whedon fans. 
Even if it all went belly up; I knew I'd have a laugh about it!

We took a few moments to get organised and then got stuck into Much Ado About Nothing. 

One person found it just impossible; another hadn't quite finished. The remainder found the play to be fairly enchanting. 

We spent some time chatting about the language - agreeing that while it took a few pages to sink into; we were pleasantly surprised to find how much language considered contemporary actually isn't! The wonder of Shakespeare is how coherent and fluid his writing (and particularly his dialogue) is and how relevant his observations remain 400 years later. 
As soon as we understood how he was saying something, 
we focused on what he was saying! 
We spent some time discussing various characters. Very early on we compared Benedict and Beatrice with Darcy and Elizabeth (from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice). We also found parallels between Claudio and Hero and Bingley and Jane - deciding that Shakespeare had captured archetypal characters - ones whose fundamental aspects would remain constant and relatable throughout the ages.

The story seemed very simple to us - after all; there were merely two strands of plot across three sets of characters. Nowadays; films and tv shows seek to create visible realities for as many characters as possible. Shakespeare on the other hand seemed to delight in assigning his characters one or two rather specific tasks throughout the play. He focused instead on ensuring that each voice was unique - from patterns and rhythms in speech (a theme we returned to more than once!), to puns and humour and beliefs and ideals. Whether they were a primary player or only appearing in one or two scenes, every character is allowed a moment to just be themselves. 

Take Margaret for example. She plays a pivotal role within the play, despite rather appearing on the main stage and only having the most brief of dialogues. Despite that, she breathes as much as Beatrice and Hero. We were delighted to find that this character is to be portrayed by Ashley Johnson. A relatively recent addition to the Whedon family - she was fantastic in the unaired pilot of Dollhouse evoking tremendous sympathy and empathy and was equally excellent in her later appearances as dual character shopgirl and Caroline 2.0. More recently she sparked in two - maybe three - scenes of the Avengers - with only one line of dialogue! 
The perfect pairing of actress to character surely!

Though others found Claudio to be a reasonable and likable character; I've always found him to be very weak. Then I found out that Fran Kranz - Dollhouse's very own Dr Topher Brink and Cabin In The Woods SUPERSTAR - was to portray him. If you know me at all, you'll understand why I suddenly seem to be moderating my language in relation to this character! 

Sean Maher (Firefly's dedicated physician and brother extra-ordinaire) will also be appearing as the bad guy; while Nathan Fillion (Twitter superstar, Cap't Tightpants...I mean Mal from Firefly; the delectably dark and twisted Caleb in Buffy and the bellend Cap't Hammer in Doctor Horrible) will be providing the role of comedy relief. (As an aside - you should totally watch his appearance in the Daly Show. Fantastic!)

By far the longest time was spent discussing three of our collective favourtie Whedon actors.
Amy Acker (Fred in Angel, Dr Saunders in Dollhouse, casually cruel staff member in Cabin in the Woods) was the PERFECT Beatrice in all of our eyes. Capable of combining vulnerability with a steely resolve; both actor and character are very much the 'full package' - capable and confident even when near-crippled with self doubt.
Her paired with Alexis Denisof (the hapless Wesley in Buffy and Angel; real life honey to Buffy's Willow and the unrecognizable 'Other' in The Avengers!) meant that we will FINALLY get to see a happy ending for one of the fandoms most beloved couples! Huzzah we cried, huzzah! 
Also, Benedict is a smart and resourceful man who makes a right ass out of himself on occasion. It's like Shakespeare knew! And wrote the role just for him!

Finally, Reed Diamond (Dollhouse's security officer and tron-suit wearer) - one of our favourite people EVER after his spectacular appearance at Echo 2 (a con for those not in the know) - will be playing Don Pedro. 
This is of course incredibly exciting. We finally get to see Reed as other than the jerk! Woo and Hoo indeed!

Of course Joss Whedon decided to make this film as a result of his infamous monthly Shakespearean sessions (oh to be a fly on that wall!) and we all hope that future installments of the Bard are in store!
Even the person who didn't enjoy the play is looking forward to the film!

Our next book will be Killer Angels by Michael Shaara and we'll be chatting about that using #WTFBC on the 1st of July 2012 from 8pm!

Decided you want to see what all the fuss is about?
Find versions of Much Ado About Nothing for nowt below!
Much Ado About Nothing - Project Gutenberg
Much Ado About Nothing Kindle  (also on PG as free!)
Much Ado About Nothing - iBooks

Find versions of  Pride and Prejudice  for nowt below!
Pride and Prejudice - Project Gutenberg
Pride and Prejudice - Kindle (also on PG as free!)
Pride and Prejudice - iBooks

Find fellow members on twitter by searching for #WTFBC.

Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me @LeedsBookClub, commenting below or emailing me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com

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07 - Nov - Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
06 - Oct - The Joss Whedon Companion - Comics and Films
05 - Oct - The Joss Whedon Companion - Dollhouse and Dr Horrible
04 - Sep - The Joss Whedon Companion - Angel and Firefly
03 - Sep - The Joss Whedon Companion - Buffy
02 - Jul - Killer Angels - Michael Shaara
01 - May - Much Ado About Nothing - William Shakespeare

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Book Club - Table of Contents
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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Giraffe LBC - The List of Potentials!

I made this: Unknown at 8:52 pm 1 comments

#Giraffe LBC

Dystopian Literature - (Definition via WIKIPEDIA)
The utopia and its offshoot, the dystopia, are genres of literature that explore social and political structures. Utopian fiction is the creation of an ideal world, or utopia, as the setting for a novel. Dystopian fiction is the opposite: creation of a nightmare world, or dystopia. 
Many novels combine both, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take in its choices, ending up with one of two possible futures. Both utopias and dystopias are commonly found in science fiction and other speculative fiction genres, and arguably are by definition a type of speculative fiction.

Book the First: To Be Decided!

I'm a great one for recommending different genera's and then failed utterly and totally to come up with any options!

Knowing what I'm like, I've complied the following as inspiration for book choices for #GiraffeLBC!

Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
Richard Bachman The Running Man (1982)
John Wyndham The Chrysalids (1955)
Yevgeny Zamyatin We (1921)
Terry Brooks Armageddon’s Children (2006)
PD James The Children of Men (1992)
H.G. Wells The Time Machine (1895)
William Gibson Neuromancer (1984)
Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games(2008-2010)
Margaret Atwood Oryx and Crake/The Year of the Flood(2003 - 2009)
Aldous Huxley Brave New World (1932) 
Jack London Iron Heel (1908)
George Orwell 1984 (1949)
William Golding Lord of the Flies (1954)
Margaret Atwood Handmaid’s Tale (1985)

Check out the following time line from GoodReads.com

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Book Club - Table of Contents

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