Saturday, 28 February 2015

Sofa Shelf

This week I have started a new book

In Cold Blood - Truman Capote

I've read this book before, when I was a student, and I've always wanted to read it again without the pressures of having to write an essay afterwards. It's about the murder of four members of the Clutter family in the 1950s and the hunt for their killers. As far as I remember it's quite a chilling account. Maybe not one to read just before bed! 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Sofa Spotlight - Les Miserables, Victor Hugo

Finally. That's what went through my head when I finished this book last night. Getting through it all has been a triumph and I am pleased, but not as pleased as I have felt when I have finished other long novels. I think that, as much as I enjoyed the story, I didn't have the connection with the main characters that I did in the other beasts of novels that I have read.

The narrative follows the story of Jean Valjean, an ex convict who turns good and who changes the fortunes of a little girl called Cosette. On the trail of Valjean is the policeman, Jalvert, who will not quit in his quest to bring Valjean to justice. There are some good themes about justice and grace in the novel which I found interesting to follow.

But if I am honest, I'm disappointed in the ending. And by that I mean the ending of the storyline, not the end of the book, as the last thirty or so pages didn't add much to the storyline. 

Overall I would say this isn't my favourite book. But I'm glad that I invested the time to find that out. I would probably recommend the abridged version - that way you can avoid unnecessary detail about the Parisian sewers!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Stitching and Prejudice

I've written this post with EG playing music from Pride and Prejudice, which is nice, and also my one literature reference in this post. Anyway while EG was playing the piano I tried to show her my squirrel, because I'm a little bit pleased with it. I have to admit that while she was playing the piano may not have been the best time to show her squirrel but still, it's a cute squirrel.

"What's wrong with it's nose?" Well that was just unnecessary, but she does have a point, it does have a funny nose. I've put a picture below, ten points if you can spot the tiniest French knot! 

EG has also been creative. Yesterday she got her sewing machine out. EG and her sewing machine have an interesting relationship. When I saw that it had come out I retreated to my room. A little while later when I thought it safe to venture out again, EG was fuming and calling her sewing machine a guardian of the gates of hell. So another successful creative afternoon for the two of us. Might just stick to reading.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Reading in a car?

Because I did well and read a book on the train last week I thought that would mean that I would be able to read on a seven hour car journey. How wrong I was. In seven hours I managed just 50 pages. But reading happened so it's not all bad. 

This week I also finished stitching a squirrel. To be honest I didn't realise at first how annoying only stitching in grey could be! But I am pleased with the outcome so maybe all that grey thread was worth it. Poor squirrel also was meant to have a French knot for an eye but that didn't come out too well, apparently I have forgotten how to make them. Which is disappointing as I went through a lot of stress trying to learn them with a shopping channel as background noise. I'm not sure which was more stressful; the French knots or the shopping channel.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Dickens on the Train

Last week I finished a book, which I am pleased about as I have not been doing very well at getting books finished of late. Not a great trait to have when I am about to embark on a new book challenge. Anyway I finished Simon Callow's book Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World. I got it finished on a train journey, which was apt as part of what I read was about a train crash that Dickens was involved in.

This week I hope to achieve more finishing of books. Les Mis is in my sights as is my stitching project. Once Les Mis is off my reading list I am contemplating reading some Rudyard Kipling - I once went past his house on a walking tour of Dickens' London so I think it is probably time that I explore some of his literature. 

Anyway this is how the stitching is looking. 

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Sofa Spotlight - Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World,Simon Callow

I made use of a three and a half hour train journey to get this book finished. There were moments when I got distracted by the lady who was knitting just across from me, but on the whole I remained focused. Which was good or I might have missed the part where Dickens nearly got arrested by the IRS.

As you would expect from a biography it tells the story of Dickens' life, which was in no way a boring life. What struck me most was the energy that he had, and his love for perfoming. Because I have always known bits and pieces about Dickens, this book helped me to piece it all together and get a clearer idea of what his life was like. At about 350 pages it isn't too much of a beast to get through, so I would recommend it if you want to find out about the man behind the stories. 

It has put a different light on the novels, and although I'm not rushing to read one again (they do take effort) I am tempted to watch a dramatised version pretty soon. I just have to work out what it will take to convince EG to watch one with me! 

Monday, 9 February 2015

Best Dickens Novel?

Reading a biography of Dickens begs the obvious question - which is the best novel that he wrote? I have a short list of some of my favourites, which I have listed below. But do you have a favourite? If so what is it and why? 

My favourites are:

A Tale of Two Cities - because who wouldn't like a novel that has a character who records the names of traitors in her knitting?

Barnaby Rudge - a tale that includes some great characters, a duel and my favourite pub in literature - The Maypole.

Our Mutual Friend - contains an intricate web of characters and, in my opinion, the best delivery of justice to a villain.

Martin Chuzzlewit - I grew up watching the BBC adaptation of this but I love the story and the eccentric characters of Mrs Gamp and Montegue Tigg, and the main character has a cool surname. 

I could add others but I suspect I may end up adding them all, which would sort of defeat the object of having a short list! Comment below and let me know what would be on your list.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Reading out Loud

In between dreaming up crazy challenges I've been reading the biography of Charles Dickens. I know that I should really just read Les Mis and get it over with, but it's not going anywhere and I like Dickens. I'm up to the point where Dickens has just started doing readings of his works to various audiences. Anyway it seems that Dickens rather enjoyed these readings, as did those who heard them. Which makes me wish that I could have heard them.

If I could go back in time to any point in history I would choose to go to one of those readings. I can't quite decide what I would like to hear him read, but a definite contender would be A Tale of Two Cities. It's one of my favourite books of all time, but then again I would love to hear Dickens do the voice of Mrs Gamp from Martin Chuzzlewit. 

So if you could go back in time to any literary moment, where would you go? Comment below and let me know.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

A Sensible Challenge

It's been a while since I have had chance to write a post, and what makes it worse is that I didn't finish a single book in January, so no book of the month either. Before you begin to despair let me tell you about the brilliant plan EG and I have devised. In my head it is still a bit vague, but I'm sure it will all work out in the end. 

So the plan is to read all the Jane Austen novels and then watch all the TV adaptations (preferably the BBC ones but in some cases ITV will have to do). We were going to start this week but it dawned on me that my copy of the complete Austen novels isn't on my shelf. With no idea where it was, I had to spend a lunch break scouring the charity shops for another copy of Sense & Sensibility. It was successful in the end, but I was alarmed at how few Austen novels were available for purchase. EG then discovered that she can't find her copy, which delayed the challenge further.

We are still working on a time frame, a small part of me wants to do it all in 24 hours but I doubt that EG will be in favour of that. What we didn't really think through is that we have just finished watching Sense & Semsibility, may be overkill to read then watch it again in such a short space of time. If you feel inspired you could always join us in our challenge - the first part is to find a copy of the book, and if you can beat the price I had to pay for my new second hand copy I will be impressed. It was 25p so all the best with that (and a penny off Amazon doesn't count unless you can get free postage!) 

Nearly forgot to say, while we were watching Sense & Sensibility I was stitching like a mad stitching person. I still am stitching away most evenings as I try to finish my first commission. If you look at a previous post you will see the picture that I am working from, but below is a picture of how it is going so far.