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

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Maeve Binchy has passed away.

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I've just this minute learned that this iconic Irish journalist and writer has passed away after a short illness at 72 years.


PHOTO FROM THE GUARDIAN
It feels almost like a personal loss. 
Certainly it marks the demise of a National Treasure and (according to Wikipedia) Irelands most recognisable author. Whether you enjoyed her works or not (and who wouldn't!) - Maeve Binchy was a personality and a talent to be reckoned with!


Like most of her fans, I was lent my first Maeve Binchy novel. A mate from school - a 'Convent girl' - was of Irish descent and wanted to watch the soon-to-be-released Circle of Friends movie with a native (this was 1995 I think). We - naturally - had to read the book before we took a trip to the fil(u)ms. My mother - as ever - rose to the occasion with a flourish. She provided not one but three different Binchy novels for us to devour!


What a wonderful gift Ms Binchy had. Not for her grand statements on politics and 't'economy'. She focused instead on the small scale - familiar settings, constant humorous observations on/of/about people and by providing detailed sketches of men and women the length and breath of Ireland; she more than made obvious her deep understand of the society around her and her opinions of it, if you chose to read between the lines!


More than that, she created people that you believe in. As she put it “I don't have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks.”
Ideal for every teenager I think.


Though eventually I stopped reaching for her novels as regularly; I've never underestimated her as an author. Yes, she wrote romps; funny and silly and wise in equal measure. But damn, our Maeve crafted them beautifully! And some of those can't-spot-them-coming shock endings were...well...shocking! And extreme! And did I mention shocking!!


Reading these books in Zimbabwe didn't necessarily paint for me an accurate picture of the scene back home. Rather, her witty and wry view convinced me that people are pretty much the same wherever you go. Traditions, belief systems and laws vary from place to place - but that unique spark within each of us - our personalities and our hopes and our dreams - well they seem to provide a sort of universal constant. As I will always associate Anne McCaffrey with my longest successful relationship (SF); I shall always think of Maeve Binchy as the author who allowed me to pull back the curtain for the first time.


More recently; I borrowed (yes, still from my mammy!) Convent Girls - a collection of short stories from women on either side of the V2 divide (if you don't know, count yourself lucky & read on!). Maeve Binchy contributed one of the essays provided. Reading her very brief piece had the same emotional impact on me as bumping into a friend you haven't seen in over ten years in a cafe unexpectedly, ordering a coffee and discovering that they as are warm, as entertaining and as comfortable as your fondest memories suggest!


To the family and friends of Ms Binchy I offer my condolences.


Maeve Binchy
28th of May 1940
30th of July 2012






Read a detailed biography and obituary on The Guardian or RTE website. 


Favourite Quote


“We're nothing if we're not loved. When you meet somebody who is more important to you than yourself, that has to be the most important thing in life, really. And I think we are all striving for it in different ways. I also believe very, very strongly that everybody is the hero/heroine of his/her own life. I try to make my characters kind of ordinary, somebody that anybody could be. Because we've all had loves, perhaps love and loss, people can relate to my characters”


Maeve Binchy

Monday, 30 July 2012

The Lainibop Challenge - Book 9 - Treasure Island - GUEST

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READ!TO GO!
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The LainiBop Challenge

TREASURE ISLAND
ROBERT Louis Stevenson

* * * * *
* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
* * * * *


Robert Louis Stephenson originally wrote this story for his nephew who had drawn a map of an I
island. Stephenson was inspired by this map to create the well known Treasure Island the pirates to go along with it. I really enjoyed this book, it is a proper adventure book, and I can see why it has lasted the test of time.

The story begins with Jim Hawkins, a young boy who lives with his mother in the Admiral Benbow Inn. A mysterious old seaman Billy Bones becomes a lodger at the Inn, and Jim is fascinated by him. He talks to Jim of a man with 1 leg and warns Jim that if he sees this man, Billy must be notified immediately. Unfortunately for Billy he has a slight drinking problem which eventually leads to him becoming very ill, during this time, he confides in Jim that he used to be a pirate with the infamous Captain Flint. Soon he is visited by a blind man called Pew who gives him a piece of paper and leaves, after which Billy Bones dies.

Jim and his mother search Billy's room and find lots of money hidden in a chest along with a package. They must then leave as the Inn is being attached by Pew and his men. Jim brings the package to the doctor and magistrate who he trusts and inside it they find a log of all the money stolen by Billy and the pirates and also a treasure map. And so the adventure begins. The magistrate and doctor decide they must go and search for this treasure and of course want to bring Jim along for the trip. They organise a boat and a crew, including Long John Silver the “ships cook” who just happens to only have one leg.

This was really a gripping read, made better I think by the fact that I knew that Long John Silver was more than the jolly cook he makes himself out to be. I was just waiting in suspense for the moment where he would give himself away and betray our heroes.

I really liked all the characters too. Jim was brave and adventurous and despite the fact that he kept running off and getting into trouble, I admired his bravery rather than being annoyed at his rashness. Even Long John Silver managed to get into my good books, even though he is the baddy of the piece, he is also kind of loveable. Part of this may be to try to win the crew and the captain over at the start of the voyage but I also think that this is a genuine trait, cheerful and jovial. He also seems to take a liking to Jim, and tries to take him under his wing.

It was an exciting, enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone looking for some adventures on the high seas.

Fancy a read? Get FREE ebooks below!
Project Gutenberg: Treasure Island
Amazon: Treasure Island
iTunes: Treasure Island


The Muppets Treasure Island - Timy Curry - A Professional Pirate:

SCORE       8/10


* * * * *
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!
* * * * *
Table of Contents - Guest Stars

* * * * *
Table of Contents - Laini's Book Shelf

* * * * *

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Laini Challenge - Book 08 - Glamour by Louise Bagshawe

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The LainiBop Challenge

Glamour 
by Louise Bagshawe

* * * * *
* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
* * * * *


The story opens with a scene of chaos outside a huge department store, press and fans are waiting outside to see one of their idols enter. 

The store is called Glamour and the hustle and bustle is for the 3 girls who own this store, these 3 girls have become some of the most famous names in America and their beauty and style is renowned. Unfortunately, today could be the end of all that as rumour has it that a disagreement between the former best friends could mean the shares going public. 

As this is all the information the reader has to go on, the first thing we question is who are these girls, how did they become so famous and so rich and most importantly what happened to ruin their friendship? Luckily at this point we meet the flashback!

Back in time we go, to when the girls were just 16 years old and in a very expensive private school in California. We have Sally, a beautiful blonde, who is very popular and confident. We also have Jane, who is a plain, shy bookworm from England. Soon to join them is a new girl in the school, Helen from Jordan, who immediately gets bullied by a group of so-called popular girls, and is rescued by Sally and Jane. Sally takes the 2 girls under her wing, and gives them a makeover bringing out the beauty hidden away behind Jane's thick glasses and Helen's shyness.

Their worlds are about to be rocked, as all 3 girls have to face their own trials. Jane discovers her father, a British Ambassador has committed suicide after scandals were uncovered. Sally's father has a heart attack when he finds out that he is about to go bankrupt, and Helen finds herself in Egypt after her parents trick her into marrying a man she has only just met. The girls lose contact as each go their seperate ways, and the story follows each of them in their struggles to claim back their broken lives.

I find that Louise Bagshawe's novels and heroines are very formulaic. Generally speaking we have a girl, usually more than one which have some unknown connection to each other. The rich one, because there is always a rich one, loses her fortune and or family, and must work her way up from the bottom, eventually becoming the President of the world or similar. 

But you know what? Predictable and all as it was, her writing is quite enjoyable, and mostly I like her characters, maybe they're not the most easy to realate, I mean, I've never heard of anyone being promoted from Greeter to Vice-President of Personnel just because the top dog heard them being treated badly in the store by the girls who used to bully her, but how and ever, this is make believe which is what I have to remind myself. Her novels are sort of like modern fairy tales for the strong powerful woman. Instead of Cinderella being mistreated by her ugly stepsister, she is mistreated by life, and instead of ending with a wedding dance and a happily ever after, it ends with a happily ever after and Cinderella in a penthouse apartment in New York reaping the gains from her multinational company. It's kind of sweet really.

(NOTE FROM LEEDSBOOKCLUB - Louise Bagshawe is the alter-ego of Conservative MP Louise Mensch - where does she find the time?)


SCORE       7/10


* * * * *
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!
* * * * *
Table of Contents - Guest Stars

* * * * *
Table of Contents - Laini's Book Shelf

* * * * *

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

What I read during my holiday Part 7- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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I have been lusting after this book ever since I first saw it as part of the Orange longlist, then shortlist, then winner this year. I cannot believe now that I would have actually read this book otherwise this year, no one has mentioned it on Twitter, and no one has recommended it to me off the Internet.

And I want to know why.

Why are we not talking about how incredibly good The Song of Achilles is? Why? Seriously, I've read most of the Orange prize winners and admired them as good books, but I read this book in six hours. Six glorious, sun struck hours. It is marvellous. I cannot praise this book enough.

Firstly, it is beautiful. Ancient Greece is real, a hot sandy place full of danger and sweat and blood and men and grrr and centaurs. The Gods and Men live side by almost side and in this book, it makes perfect sense. What was almost in Alcestis by Katherine Beutner is fully complete in Achilles.

Secondly, it is erotic. The story of the burgening relationship between former outcast Patroclus and golden boy Achilles is like reading a boarding school romance without the sly digs in the ribs. Her descriptions of lust are so on key, understated but just so right. She sums up desire in a word. Although she safely gets the heros over the age of consent before any hanky panky the longing that the two display is so beautiully evident that I, a straight woman, was more turned on by two boys than any thing else I've read this year apart from possibly Frenchman's Creek. Honest to God this book is seventy times more erotic than Fifty Shades of Grey and it is a travesty that this book, which isn't hard to read, which is first person, accessible, and is printed in a gorgeous decent sized font isn't being read by more people. This book makes you want to lie in the sun and watch beautiful men swim. This book makes you feel the honey drip from the ends of your fingers. This book makes you feel sexy.

And it's about war! The Illiad was never the easiest book in the world to read, but this retelling makes the battle alive. The characters are funny and vivid and living and damn but it makes you want to see more of them. Odysseus especially, I really do hope that she does the Odyssey next cos that would be mint.

This book made me put off everything for a night, meaning I'm about six hours behind in chore-time this week and I don't care! It has been a long long long time since I've found a book as hard to put down as this one and if you don't read it, you're a fool and I pity you. This would be perfect  beach reading, in fact I'm quite envious of people who get  to read this as a beach read. This book made me flick the V's at it in the end and be gutted it was over. I cannot stop thinking about it and I want the year to fly by so I've got a decent excuse to read it again.

5/5. Stunning.

Monday, 23 July 2012

What I Read During My Holidays Part 6- State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

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Mostly due to incredible laziness (and a bit to do with something else that I'm already getting teased enough about...) I only managed to read a couple of books in the whole 10 days I had off owing to Holidaygeddon with no money last week.

State of Wonder has been staring at me ever since I blew quite a bit of my budget on the Orange Shortlist (the 17 year olds love them some high-end literary fiction...) and seeing as it is set in the Amazon jungle,  I figured a narative structured in rains would be perfect for the Great British Summer. I've never read any Ann Patchett before, but have heard Good Things so thought the book would be cracking.

And it was, the first half anyways. The story of Dr Marina Singh, middle aged pharmacologist with a past, who is recruited to travel out to Brazil on the trail of her colleaugue Anders, who has been reported as dead, who himself was on the trail of the mysterious Dr Swenson, Marina's old professor, who is doing a study into female fertitility with a tribe living in the very depths of the rainforest. Marina is reluctant in taking on the task, not least becuse of her uneasy relationship with Dr Swenson and her hatred of the malaria tablets she is forced to take that give her reoccuring nightmares about her childhood in India.

The writing is beautiful, well paced, and Marina's character slowly emerges, you honestly feel like a stranger is telling you the story of their life-the maxim 'show, don't tell', almost waves over this book like you can see it in Patchett's studio, embroidered over her desk. Once she arrives in Brazil the book gets a little pacier and for a moment I thought was going to turn into a Talented Mr Ripley. It is then ultimatly dissappointing as the book trundles off into the jungle. Although the Amazon is alive in every sense of the word, the book never quite showed its full potential for me. I wanted thriller, I got a thought piece on scientific ethics and a character study. However, if that's your bag, this is a well written, well structured for the most part good book. A book club would eat it, and Marina Singh is one of the more real characters I've read this year. If I hadn't immediatly read The Song of Achilles afterwards, which blew me away (of which more tomorrow...) I'd have rated this book a lot more highly.

As it is, 3.5/5. I shall be looking up more of her stuff.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Laini Challenge - Book 07 - The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

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The LainiBop Challenge

The Taming of the Shrew 
by William Shakespeare

* * * * *
* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
* * * * *

It's been years and years since I read a Shakespeare play - last time would probably have been for a course I did in college. 

However I have been very slowly building up my collection of them and keep meaning to pick it up again. As I finished a book the night before Shakespeare's birthday, I thought what better time to start reading his plays again?

I chose The Taming of the Shrew for a couple of reasons. 

1)I knew the general story and thought it might be an easier one to start with 

2) it's the play that 10 Things I Hate About You is based on.......ok those 2 reasons may be actually one and the same reason, but still!

So, there are 2 sisters, Katherina and Bianca Minola, both beautiful, but while Bianca is kind and sweet and caring - Katherina is described as a Shrew - in other words, loud and aggressive and generally disagreeable. 

Bianca has many suitors but their father wishes for the elder sister Kate to be married off first. Lucentio decides to disguise himself as a music tutor to get closer to Bianca, and he and some others hire Petruchio to woo Kate. Petruchio is looking for a rich wife with a big dowery and Kate is exactly what he wants, he doesn't seem to care about her temperament in the slightest.

To complicate things even more, Lucentio's servant Tranio must pretend to be Lucentio as he is expected to be there, and this will also distract Baptista from Lucentio's tutoring.

When I started reading this, I have to admit, I was looking up some notes as I went along, things that didn't quite make sense to me, such as the line 

“She is your treasure, she must have a husband,
I must dance barefoot on her wedding day,
And, for your love to her,
lead apes in hell”, 

leading apes in hell was an unfortunate fate for spinsters in those days or so I found out and Katherina had at this moment realised that Bianca was his favourite, and the one he wanted to see married. However once I got about halfway through, I realised I had slipped back into the lingo, and was mostly able to make my way through - while not understanding everything exactly - I was able to grab the jist of the meanings of sentences and understand and enjoy it quite well on my own.

As much as I enjoyed reading this there was one big aspect which made me raise my eyebrows a touch. Kate is the epitomy of everything a man should not desire, apparently. She speaks her mind, she has no interest in marriage or suitors, and she has little good to say about anyone. 

Then along comes Petruchio, now we know that all he is looking for is a rich wife, and when he hears about Bianca's suitors proposition to pay him to wed her, nothing can dissuade him from meeting her. Even when they meet, he seems to be able to ignore everything bad about her and turn it to good, but all the while, you suspect that it is just the money he is after. 

This is bad enough I suppose, but I could overlook this small indiscretion, however, it soon becomes clear that not only will Petruchio force her to marry him - through persuasion only I should add - but he also wants to drastically change her character. 

To do this, he must make her obey him in everything. And so he starts playing a game with her, a game which involves starving her of proper food until she succumbs to his “rule”, and also plays severe mind games with her. 

For example he tells her the moon is looking very bright, and when she disagrees and says that it is not the moon it is the sun, he will not relent until she agrees with him and consents that yes it is the moon. 

At this point he basically makes little of her to everyone and laughs at how she could think it was the moon when clearly it is the middle of the day. Now while I can easily explain this away, the time it was written and also the fact that this part is supposed to add comedy to the play, it did make me a little uncomfortable at times. Having said that, I suppose, if the Shrew wasn't tamed during the play then really it should have been named something else!!!

One last final note, as unfortunately I find it hard to not talk about Ten Things I Hate About You in the normal course of the day, let alone when I'm discussing The Taming of the Shrew, I must mention briefly the film. 
I have loved the film for years, ever since I fell in love with Heath Ledger, who does a brilliant but less misogynistic version of Petruchio and now that I have finally read the play, I must compliment the screen writers for bringing a very modern but yet quite true interpretation to our screens. 
All that is good about the play is brought to life, Kat luckily retains her strength and ambition in the film but I could identify the characters perfectly while reading.

I would recommend The Taming of the Shrew if you are new to Shakespeare and especially if you know the story from the film. If you haven't seen Ten Things I Hate About You, then shame on you, go read it, then watch it, then read it again... then watch it again, just cos Heath is beautiful.


Listen to the LeedsBookClub soundtrack on Spotify here!
And a few You-Tube videos here!


SCORE       6/10


* * * * *
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!
* * * * *
Table of Contents - Guest Stars

* * * * *
Table of Contents - Laini's Book Shelf

* * * * *

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Table of Contents - Laini's Book Shelf!

I made this: Avid Reader at 3:44 pm 0 comments
So, we all knew it had to happen.

Though all of our Guest Stars are AWESOME BEYOND THE SAYING OF IT - one in particular has been has been reviewing like a superstar and we think that deserves her own little space on the blog!

As many of you know - @Lainibop is one of my best friends and a HUGE reader and book lover. 
Visit her blog at Fizzy Elephants 
Where she chats about cookery, books, geek stuff and more!

This year she read about BOOKELF's To Be Read Challenge and set herself the task of reading the books on her shelves that she hadn't yet. All 130 of them!

Read more about Her To Be Read Challenge.

Now you all know me - as soon as I saw an opportunity - I exploited it. After a night of chatting, a bottle or two of wine down, I pounced!! 

And now you'll be able to follow her progress below as she's reviewing as she goes!! There's a real mix of books in her too - something for everyone!


* * * * *
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!
* * * * *
Table of Contents - Guest Stars

* * * * *
Table of Contents - Laini's Book Shelf

* * * * *

 

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