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{Long-term Reading Challenge} The Classics Club

The aim is simple: read and write on your blog about 50+ classic books over the course of 5 years.

Simple stuff, right? Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

{Reading Event} Waiting on Wednesday

{Reading Event} Waiting on Wednesday

Counting down the days until a particular book (or seven) gets published?

This weekly event, hosted by the book blogger, Breaking the Spine, gives you the chance to share that anticipation with others.

This week’s pre-publication “why-does-time-move-so-slowly” pick is:  Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

WWW Wednesdays:


Happy Wednesday, world!

Thanks shouldbereading for hosting this awesome meme!

I’ve just realised that apart from the odd review, I don’t really talk about the books in my life. So ‘ere we go…

 

 

 

What are you currently reading?

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
It’s one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for donkeys’ years but never got hold of a copy until last night. I’ve just finished chapter 5 and am amazed at how readable it is (so far).

What did you recently finish reading?

Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett.
A fun, quick and easy read. It’s Pratchett, after all!

What do you think you’ll read next?

Temeraire by Naomi Novik.
Fantasy AND ships AND dragons? That’s me sold.

Feel free to post a shortlink to your WWW Wednesday and I’ll see what you’re reading. 🙂

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2014 in Books, Uncategorized

 

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{Review} The Dark Side of Light – K. L. Jordaan

My flat-mate won a copy of this book off of goodreads and put it in our communal bookshelf. The cover looked interesting, if slightly New Age-y and so I borrowed it.

Blurb (from goodreads)
An inspiring tale about birth, death and the fraction in between we so loosely term life. Falling into an abyss of questions and seldom having the privilege of sensible answers, life gets lost in translation. Sam’s journey into the wasteland of imagined life takes a wild twist when Luke joins her.

Review
So… Firstly, if a novel purports to have an answer “to the question of the secret of life”, I expect it to deliver either scientific evidence that cannot be refuted or a coherent, logical theological argument that can be followed by the reader, even if said reader disagrees with the conclusions of such a piece.

Sadly the arguments lack coherency and jump from one impossible starting point to a perplexing conclusion that seems impossible to have come about from the facts presented. One such example begins with the statement that Eve was made of one of Adam’s rib bones and from this one statement draws the conclusion that this alone is proof that “our bodies were designed to live forever”.

Sam later concludes that the reason people no longer live for hundreds of years (as they used to according to some sections of the Old Testament) is that in the 21st Century, people have stopped believing they can live forever. Even after setting aside my own beliefs on this matter, I found this particular argument to be weak. Surely a purely Creationist conclusion (-and I’ve gone for Creationist here as it seems in keeping with the earlier literal interpretation of parts of Genesis- that sin’s presence in the world has shortened our lives) is at least easier to explain than the ‘loss of belief in our immortality’ line.

Sam’s hypothesis that ‘incorrect’ beliefs hold humanity back from achieving its full potential does not just apply to the length of human lives but also to other more scientific things such as being able to breathe in space. All we need do is “[f]orget what you’ve been told” and we should be able to breathe whilst orbiting the Earth.

This leads me to the second disappointment in this text. To say it in the most terribly British way, the science is at times a little off. Explosions, for example, were poorly explained. Tides on the other hand were well researched and accurately explained. This did however make the other scientific inaccuracies stand out more.

Thirdly, the language of the novel was, at best, unclear at times with some images that did not really work, such as “a smile played hide and seek on his perfectly formed lips” and some typos, such as “the elevator began it’s decent” that had me reaching for my post-it notes and a pencil. In addition to this, there were many instances when conflicting ideas that seemed to undermine previous passages were included. This could have been intellectually stimulating if presented in a Luis Buñuel La Vía Láctea way but a seeming lack of structure and purpose removed any potential thesis.

Finally, the adult Sam did not convince as a character. Whilst presented as an intelligent woman who desperately wanted answers to questions that had burnt away in her brain for years, she did not seem to have gone looking for these answers. Her arguments showed a lack of extended reading, quotes and sources that I’m certain a character such as hers would have accumulated over the years.

Overall
I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it is to write original and challenging philosophical texts and have a great deal of respect for K. L. Jordaan for attempting to write and publish a thought-provoking book. Nonetheless, I feel thoroughly disappointed with it.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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{Review} Doll Bones – Holly Black

I received a free copy of this book as part of a goodreads giveaway. Huzzah! 😀 By way of thanks, here’s a review.

As Doll Bones has won many prizes, such as Kirkus Review’s Best Book, School Library Journal Best Book, Booklist Editor’s Choice Books for Youth and People Magazine Best New Kid’s Book (among others) this review’s going to go towards this year’s Eclectic Reader Challenge.

Blurb
Zach, Poppy and Alice’s friendship is centered around the imaginary world they’ve created together and have been playing in with their toys for as long as they’ve known each other. When Zach turns 12, his father bins his toys in the hope that this will help him to grow up and become manly, the distraught boy ends his friendship with the girls. Poppy has other ideas and attempts to re-start the game by creating what seems to be an irresistible quest line for the three of them to play. One that involves the Queen- a bone china doll that has long scared the three.

As the three try to set the Queen free, the lines between the real world and the imaginary blur and Zach, Alice and Poppy end up on a journey they’re not sure they’ll be able to complete.

Review
First things first: the cover and illustrations are gorgeous and complement the story well with their atmospheric shading (for the illustrations) and the dead-eyed stare of Eleanor-the-doll (on the cover) and so deserve special mention. The artist’s portfolio can be found here.

I started out with high hopes for this book and, for the most part, Doll Bones delivered. From the beginning, Black juxtaposed the grandness of quests and stories that take place in other books and the realm of the imagination with the often humorously anti-climatic reality of ‘real world’ adventures.

Despite ticking all the right boxes to fit the ‘paranormal bildungsroman’ category, I personally didn’t find the story too bone-chilling, nor the main character’s development to be too profound. However a younger reader (aka. one of the target audience) would probably be able to enjoy the mild spookiness without being truly terrified.

The only part that really jarred was the love/ romance element. Yes, it created a convenient motive for one of the character’s actions which in turn moved the story along. Yes, Zach’s evident discomfort at finding out about Alice’s feelings for him went a long way towards making its inclusion feel more realistic but it still felt too forced to sit comfortably with me. Additionally both Poppy and Alice felt rather underdeveloped (read: a little bland and indistinguishable from each other) as characters.

Overall
Whilst well-written, this wasn’t entirely my cup of tea. Nonetheless younger readers may be interested in this as it touches on some of the changes that adolescence brings. I’d be interested in reading more of Black’s work in the future as it was an enjoyable read, if not one that I’ll be raving about to others.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Post 16 – Most thought-provoking book

As ever, thanks to Blogs of a Bookaholic for creating this challenge.

Goodness I’m sleepy but can’t bring myself to get into bed yet as I feel as though I’ve not achieved anything today. A sad state of affairs that I hope to rectify by blogging. As you’d expect, a post about A Clockwork Orange comes with a trigger warning.

Well, my little droogie friends, this takes me back to my teen years and one of the most disturbing but brilliant books I’ve ever read: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. The post-’86 version with a 22nd chapter, that is. Even now I have more thoughts and questions about the issues raised in the novel than answers.

Incidentally, “Ultraviolence” is the working title of Lana del Rey’s new album…

So what about this dark, gratuitously violent dystopian world is thought-provoking? Well the horror of the droogs’ violence (and later the government’s as they ‘treat’ Alex) made me wonder about which type of violence is ultimately more terrifying: that of gangs or of a state’s. I felt that A Clockwork Orange explored the necessity of free will and freedom of choice humans need in order to feel human. What methods should a government be allowed to use in order to ‘control’ criminals?

Does choosing to persistently be violent mean that one forfeits one’s right to non-violent and fair treatment later? My initial instinct is to say that the law and those who endeavour to abide by it, should be above violence. That we should avoid to continue that cycle of it and aim to eliminate it.

Yet after the violence of the first 7 chapters, in which among other things, the droogs beat up a man, rape a woman and two 10-year olds (in the former case, she died of injuries caused by the gang-rape, in the latter cases they were injected with drugs beforehand), it’s impossible not to have a gut response to those actions, and not want to wish them pain, however brief, in the hope that they’ll stop hurting others.

But then hurting people sounds like a horrible thing to do and would surely mean that their violence would only beget more violence.

It made me wonder about redemption- is it possible to change one’s character and to live a ‘full life’ with the shadow of one’s earlier actions looming behind a curtain somewhere?

One final (slightly happier and slightly less thought-provoking) aspect of the novel was the droogs’ slang, Nadsat. Language can date pretty darn quickly and can put me off an otherwise awesome novel when I’m reading for pleasure. Burgess felt that slang was pretty important in languages and so it’s interesting to work out how he created slang that I felt worked really well within the novel- Russian, the main language it was based on added extra associations with a certain totalitarian state that was kicking around at the time of the book’s publication- and that still feels alive enough when read.

 

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Time Goes So Quickly… when you’re studying

Wait one cotton-picking second… it’s 2013? What’s that? It’s been 2013 for almost a week?!

But that means I only have five days until my first exam!

*Twitch*

I normally make my resolutions for the year in September as it’s the start of the academic year. It’s easier for me to set goals that I can see myself keeping over the “study year” as it were. This year, however I may have to change this.

Currently my New Year’s resolutions run thus:

1) Study more
2) Sleep more
3) Read more
4) Hoop more
5) Stress self out less.

Hope everyone else is well and that they saw in 2013 in joy and beauty. 🙂

I shall update soon. As soon as I can sit down and type for fun without feeling guilty about not doing more Russian/ French/ Spanish learning or revision.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Summer so soon has glided by

At the start of the summer, I had so many plans as to what I’d do over the last few months: read ‘World’ Literature by the shelf, learn the violin, travel, learn basic Polish, watch over 20 films… Basically making my last summer as a student as memorable and exciting as humanly possible!

As a result, I’ve not had an internet connection from mid-June to August and am only now starting to plug myself back into the ‘super info-highway’.

I’ll re-start posting on a regular basis from the start of next week: it’s been 5 years since we enjoyed such a perfect (relatively rain-free) summer in the U.K., so I’m loath to come inside and sit in front of the computer for any real length of time.

Keat’s Sonnet X expresses what I’m feeling so beautifully that I have to include it.

To one who has been long in city pent,
‘Tis very sweet to look into the fair
And open face of heaven,—to breathe a prayer
Full in the smile of the blue firmament.
Who is more happy, when, with heart’s content,
Fatigued he sinks into some pleasant lair
Of wavy grass, and reads a debonair
And gentle tale of love and languishment?
Returning home at evening, with an ear
Catching the notes of Philomel,—an eye
Watching the sailing cloudlet’s bright career,
He mourns that day so soon has glided by:
E’en like the passage of an angel’s tear
That falls through the clear ether silently.

Hope you’re all having superb summers! Looking forward to catching up on all your thought-provoking and fun blog posts.

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Beautiful Blogger Award

Well, I am back again after weeks of frantic dissertation/ research project writing. 🙂

The first thing I saw was a message from the wonderful Katy Brandes of http://katybrandes.wordpress.com/ saying that she’d awarded me the Beautiful Blogger Award. If you haven’t checked out this multi-talented, original thinker’s blog then you should give it at least quick shufti. Katy doesn’t only review books but has also had a novella, Contained published.

I’m honoured to receive this as I’ve only just started blogging and am still finding my way around the community. Knowing that someone thinks that I’m not writing gibberish (at least not all of the time 😉 ), is very reassuring and flattering.

My two choices for the Beautiful Blogger Award are:

1. The Lupine Librarian: http://thelupinelibrarian.me/ A librarian whose passion for reading and making the world a more beautiful place comes through in her posts and thoughtful comments. And she has the most adorable cat called Katniss.

2. Roof Beam Reader: http://roofbeamreader.net/ A book blogger whose reviews are everything that mine could never be (but I wish they could!) and gives so much to the book blogging community.

Congratulations to you both. 🙂

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Awards, Uncategorized

 

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Hey, fast-talker… hush!

Apologies for not updating recently, but I’m wading through my thesis, cutting out bits and – more importantly – writing bits for it. I also have over 100 hours of recordings and interviews that I probably should have transcribed as soon as I got back from wherever I went to talk to people. I don’t need all of the material that I’ve gathered (I’m sitting on much less than 100 hours of pertinent data that’s hiding in sentences and behind loud music and I only need transcribe the lines that I need. But first I need to find it all).

I had to write out an interview (with a 30-something year-old man) last year for class. It was 10 minutes long and comparatively easy to transcribe. These interviews are so much more difficult. Especially as I had the wise idea of bribing people to take part in said interviews with chocolate. Most of my recordings consist of groups of hyper-active 19 year-olds giggling and interrupting each other in my 3rd language. I mean, I knew the facts about average spoken WPMs (thanks, Gilmore Girls) but I’ve never felt just how fast around 190 WPM is.

What makes it worse is that transcribing is more than just writing down the words that people say. It’s basically reproducing every sound that comes out of the person’s mouth. If they make a strange, R2D2 noise, you have to mention the number of high-pitched whistles and beeps that they’ve emitted. If a person hesitates, you have to include it in the text. Beautiful example forth-coming:

If they have a stutter= =or stumble over a word you have to wr/ to wr/ (2.6) to write it out the way it happened, hh baby.

One interviewee spoke exclusively in my 4th language, which is very beautiful to listen to, but the thought of transcribing it makes me break out into a cold sweat and grab my IPA sheet. Another has a penchant for throwing Greek words into the mix. He was fun to talk to and interview, but I’m scared about screwing up the transcribing part and not doing his wealth of knowledge justice.

At the same time, it’s a brilliant way of analysing the way in which people speak. Reading some transcriptions makes me feel as though I’m reading a character sheet or page from a script. Listening to a group conversation is a good way of analysing the way that people interact with each other in certain situations.

There are also enlightening moments when people of different cultures interact. For example, New Yorkers (and North Americans) tend to have shorter pauses between one speaker saying something and another replying. Compare that to a conversation between Vietnamese people and the pauses between when one person finishes speaking and another starts and the results are interesting.

I love ethnography.

Has anyone noticed things like that when they’ve heard people from different places conversing amongst themselves? Feel free to leave general ethnography-related comments. 🙂

And now, back to transcription… go and check out http://eljeejavier.com/2012/03/01/new-challenge-15-minutes-of-transcription-for-30-days/ who

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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