Wednesday, 30 June 2010

June Book Review

Apologies to those of you who dread these massive long blog posts about the books I’ve read each month. I’ve tried to leave them in the past, I really have but the truth is I made a promise to myself to make a record of each and every book I read this year and damnit I’m going to do it!

So I’m afraid you’re just going to have to grin and bear it when the end of the month comes round.

And you never know, there might just be something in here for you.

This month is ridiculously long. I think along with burying my head in my wool and furiously crocheting, I also found solace in books and this month has been the best yet, a whopping SIX books in one month. Oh how I wish I could read this much every month....

Wetlands – Charlotte Roche

Sometimes curiosity can get the better of you and this would be one of those times. I’d heard reviews about this book which had said it wasn’t for the faint of heart. Hell I even read The Curious Cat’s review (In fact there is one comment on that post and it’s from me. I knew I’d end up buying it in the end! And it took me almost exactly a year.) I should have listened to her, I did listen to her, but still I couldn’t reign the curiosity in.

So really I deserve everything I got.

I’ll make no bones about it. This book is shocking. It is shocking from page 1. It is most certainly not for those of a nervous disposition and definitely not for those who are easily offended. It’s pure filth.

And I just didn’t really get it. Maybe there was some message on a higher level that I wasn’t quite reaching, but for me it just seemed to be an exercise in writing just the most foul book ever written. Maybe that was the higher message? Maybe I shouldn’t be so revulsed when all she’s talking about are bodily fluids and parts of the body that we all (well the female portion of the world) have? I don’t know.

I made the huge mistake of starting to read this at the bus stop. Half way to my destination I realised I was sat with my hand clapped over my mouth and my eyes bulging out of my head. I cannot wait to see someone else in public reading it because I will give them a knowing smile that says “I know. I should have known better too mate.”

Dead Famous – Ben Elton

I would like to say I was being a clever clogs and decided to read this the same month that the last ever Big Brother came on to our screens, but unfortunately I’m not that suave. This was pure coincidence, I didn’t really know what the book was about.

The story surrounds the contestants of a reality TV show called House Arrest. On Day 27 (I can’t say that without a Geordie accent you know, oh how you have entered my inner psyche Big Brother!) one of the housemates is killed and you follow the police on the outside and the housemates on the inside as they try to unravel who the murderer is.

It’s pretty clever. Even though you know from the outset that someone has been killed, you don’t find out who until halfway through the book as Elton employs the ever glorious flashback technique as we begin to build a picture of the housemates.

Yeah it was good. Yeah I guessed who had done it and how. But it was still a good read.

And yes I think we all wonder how far reality television is going to go to pull in the ratings. Does anyone remember Fight Night from BB5? Epic. But I think the fact that this is the last series of Big Brother shows that we public are a fickle lot, it was yesterday’s news thank you very much and good night.

A Debt to Pleasure – John Lanchester

Oh John Lanchester you are a funny man. I’ve read three of your books now, one quite recently, and you have achieved something remarkable...every single one of them has been completely different. You sir, are a legend.

This is the toughest of the three though (the best? Fragrant Harbour in my humble opinion). Luckily I had geared myself up for a challenge as this book came my way via Gill (give everyone a wave Gill) who couldn’t get into it and noticed that I’d read some of his other work.

It. Is. Weird.

The book is narrated by Tarquin, a rather pompous bloke who appears to regaling you with the contents of a cookbook. He waxes lyrical about how to make aioli, he bangs on about curry. In short it is food food food. Too much food. You’re reading it and thinking to yourself, “Whaaaaaaaaat is he on about?!”

And then suddenly you catch something in the text. In the middle of his soliloquy about cheese you realise that he’s mentioned that he’s had to duck in to a shop to escape someone’s attention. Then he mentions that he’s wearing wigs. Then you realise he’s bugging someone’s hotel room.

As the book progresses, Tarquin becomes ever more dangerous and sinister, this book really reminded me of Sebastian Faulks’ Engleby in that respect. I can’t say more without giving away the premise of the book, but it is bizarre.

To be honest some of the food rants I began skim reading, blah blah blah, as they are a little bit much, but I see that they are kind of essential. You need this kind of intense prose on food because you know what? Tarquin is kind of an intense guy.

Good – but you will need to make the effort with this book, it’s not an easy read.

Unchained America – Dave Gorman

I missed out on the whole Dave Gorman Googlewhack adventures here. I’ve never seen any of the programmes he’s made or read any of his other books but I caught a glimpse of the film he made of this journey and knew I had to buy it.

The premise is simple. Gorman planned to travel coast to coast through America without giving any money to The Man i.e. chains. So petrol couldn’t come from Shell, they couldn’t sleep in a Best Great Western motel, couldn’t eat at MacDonalds – get the drift?

This book is the story of that adventure. And it’s hilarious. Dave Gorman has the most brilliant writing style, as you’re reading you feel as if he’s in the room with you, just telling you about what happened, it’s pure genius.

To tell you more would be to spoil it. To tell you if he actually made it would spoil it even more. You should read this, it will make you laugh, probably out loud in public which will be embarrassing. I really want to see the film now.

Brixton Beach – Roma Tearne

I wanted this to be good. I really really did. And the thing is it was good at the beginning. For the first half I was absolutely revelling in it, it was a beautifully told story and Tearne did a fantastic job of transporting me to Sri Lanka. It felt very vivd, I could see all the colours and felt I was living there with them, it was just brilliant story-telling.

And then it just all got weird. And boring. And there were ginormous huge gaps in time which left me feeling a little bit cheated, hang on, what about character development? It seemed a shame, the first half of the book focused on this tiny amount of time in the main protagonist’s life and the next half of the book dealt with the next 30/40-odd years. It was so disappointing. At the end I found myself not really caring anymore, it was like she’d given up. Or starting telling a story and then realised half way through “Oh my goodness this is going to be too long” and just missed massive chunks out of it.

Not terrible and I would recommend it, if only for the first half but I did finish it and feel a little confused about what the message was supposed to be.

A Good Yarn – Debbie Macomber

Someone sent this to me while I was in hospital in May. I wish I’d read it then because it could have stayed there.

It’s just poor, crappy chick lit. The kind of chick lit that gives chick lit a bad name. Hastily and scrappily drawn up characters, two-dimensional, sort of tries to deal with hard-hitting issues but only in an incredibly superficial way.

Just. Bad really.

But if you were in hospital this book wouldn’t be a bad way of getting through the time. But then that doesn’t say much to be honest.


This month's winner? Has to be Unchained America. Man that book was funny.

Yeah I do know that the photos only show the first 4 books but I took those photos BB (before break-up) I haven't had the time to gather all six together for a group shot. Try and not be disappointed.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Welcome distraction

Sometimes at a time like this you need to take a step back.

I’ve been ridiculously wrapped up in myself lately, my problems, my troubles, my feelings, how I’m being horrible to people, how I’m not a nice enough person etc etc.

I needed to stop thinking about myself. It’s most certainly not healthy. I needed a diversion.

And I found a brilliant one.

I heard about SIBOL through Domestic Doris and knew that this was something I could get behind.

Basically Mrs Twins (also known as Sue) collects crocheted and knitted squares from lovely people all over the world and makes them up into blankets to give to charities and care homes. There are many times that I’m blown away by how kind and generous people are and this was one of those times. Where do these people come from? How are they so good? How do I get to be like that?

She accepts any kind of crocheted square as long as it’s 6” x 6”, although there are some themed blankets that you can contribute to. I wanted to join in but was more than a little intimidated, some of these squares that people send in are uber fancy. The kind of fancy that makes my head hurt a little bit. I wasn’t sure if my bog standard granny squares would be enough. A couple of quick e-mails later and I was assured I could send in my offering, even if it wasn’t amazingly intricate.

I set to work immediately, mainly in an effort to keep the demons at bay but also because I thought it would be good to do something for someone else. Yeah, ok, I was attempting to ease my conscience.

And so today I sent off my offerings to Sue. I decided to contribute to the blue and white squares blanket (they’re probably going to just miss the 30th June deadline, sorry Sue!) and also threw in a square for the ‘Male square’ blanket. Those men might not want a pretty pastel number so Sue has asked for squares in a darker shade, I thought this baby was pretty manly, what do you think?!

So I would like to thank Sue. Thank you first of all for being the rather marvellous person that you are and devoting your own time and energy to a project like this and secondly for providing me with a welcome distraction during this period. You can be sure to get more squares from me as the time passes – especially something for those Christmas blankets I see you’re working on!

And if you would like to contribute to a worthwhile cause, (especially if you want to do something that will make you feel like less of massive bitch for breaking someone’s heart) then pop over to SIBOL and e-mail Sue who will be more than willing to tell you anything I’ve missed out.

Monday, 28 June 2010

The new ladies in my life.

And so things have changed somewhat in my life.

I have moved out of the flat I shared with the boyfriend and am now sharing a house with a friend.

It's been difficult.

There have been times when I could have cried, when I would stop and really think about what I'd done and the changes I'd made. But I know that I've made the right decision.

Still, even though you've made the right decision it doesn't mean it's not hard. I have felt almost permanently guilty over the past few weeks, guilty for the pain inflicted on other people, guilty if I found myself enjoying life, guilty if I felt a little self-pitiful. After all I'd made the decision, I didn't have a right to be upset about things.

But I've got through it eventually. For the most part anyway.

And how could I not get through it when you consider that not only am I sharing this house with a friend, but also with 2 rather special ladies...

Meet Maggie and Maud.

Maggie. She is the original basement kitteh (for those of you that go on And if you don't, why the hell not?!). She's a little grumpy face and she yabbers away at you in a most disgruntled fashion but she's nowhere near as scary as she looks, it's all a front. She doesn't really go out of the house too much, and if she does she doesn't go far, she'll join you in the garden just to see what you're doing. But really she just wants you to sit on the sofa so she can sit next to you.
Maud. The uber beautiful feline. And teeny tiny. She's a delicate little number, I've decided to call her Kate Moss because she's like a model kitty. Love love loves the outdoors and can mostly be found yelling at me to open the door for her to go out and have a little wander. She'll come out and join you in the garden, dropping down in next door's garden (currently unoccupied) and then yowling at you to come and join her on the other side. Maggie does not like the Maud - most likely jealous of her looks and figure.

But these are just the ladies that live here with me. It turns out that where I'm living at the moment is a haven for the cats. And we all know how I feel about cats. (Don't you?!) I have set to work immediately trying to befriend all and every cat that passes my way. There are 2 in particular that hang about the garden that I have made friends with, we have named them Eddie von Grumpy Face and Professor McTufty, haven't got photos of them yet but we're not far off, our relationship is developing as we speak.

Life is starting to look good.