Category Archives: Poetry

What’s So Hard About Animal Farm?!

The Good People

Good evening, fellow Bookworms!

Back again with another blog, and it was nice to have four of us at book club on Thursday. Nick and Diane had returned, and one of my council colleagues, Michelle, came along, so there were four of us and it made for a much better book club meeting than I’d had for some time! It felt as though we were able to have some proper discussion and bounce ideas and book suggestions off each other, which is what book club is about, and that’s bloody hard to do if only two of you turn up and the other person is just happy to go along with your choices. So, much better, as I said. We decided on The Good People, by Hannah Kent, as our next book, and our meeting will be on Wednesday 6th December.

As I’ve said previously, Hannah’s first book, Burial Rites, was a book club book of ours about 4 years ago. When the novel was first published, Hannah and her publisher came to Waterstone’s to promote the book, and as we were due to have book club that night, Emma from Waterstone’s had said to us “Would you be happy for this to be a book club event?” so we said yes, and Hannah talked to us about her book and how it came about. She’s from Adelaide, Australia, but had gone on an exchange programme to Iceland and, in learning about the country and its history, became intrigued with the story of the last woman to be executed in Iceland, hence the story behind Burial Rites.

She’s gone from Iceland to Ireland with this one, but yet again it is a work of historical fiction based on Irish folklore. I have started it, so let’s see what it’s like! It’s a handbag book, anyway, although it’s not the only reading matter which has been making a home in my purple Kipling bag. Currently sharing the handbag space with The Good People are What Light, by Jay Asher,  which is a Christmas novella, and The Outsiders, by S E Hinton. I was kinda hoping that short books, and possibly some short stories, might get me feeling fictional again.

This year is 50 years since The Outsiders was first published. Not one I’ve read before, but it is a book which has been read by many in the last half century, especially teenagers. It has often been a set book for literature classes at school, on the syllabus for the old O Levels and CSEs and then GCSEs when those came along in my high school days. My year were the second lot ever to sit GCSEs, way back in the summer of 1989. Perhaps one of the other English sets, 2 to 4 read this book? Not sure. All I know is what we read in set 1 with Mrs Walsh. (There were eight sets, but only the top four studied literature as well as language.)

Our play was Macbeth, it was always going to be something by the Bard as our teacher was a total Shakespeare nut, lol! Our novel was Pride and Prejudice, so we were introduced to Mr Darcy long before Colin Firth played him in that adaptation! Animal Farm, by George Orwell, was our novella which we looked at both as a straightforward story and as a political allegory, and our poetry, rather appropriately for Remembrance Day weekend, was from the First World War, as we studied a fair few poems from both Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Not sure which book Mrs Walsh used for our poetry, but I always recommend The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry should you be looking to read what I read at school!

Right then… back from my high school reading to the present day, and yesterday I was at St Paul’s Church in Monton for our Christmas fair. While we did have one or two little kids’ books, Mum and I don’t have a book stall, but there is one, and I managed to get five books for a mere £1.50 so I think we should class church fair book bargains in the same category as charity shop bargains for the purposes of this blog.

Church fair book purchases 2017

As you can see, this haul includes two large books about Abba! Abba The Book, by Jean-Marie Potiez, and Mamma Mia! How Can I Resist You? This is the inside story of the making of the musical and film based on Abba’s songs. Bit irritating that I can’t see the exact edition of Abba The Book for my List Challenges list. I have put one on for now, but I shall keep trying for the white cover edition. Grrr! It annoys me, that! It’s all very well if I haven’t got a copy of a certain book, but if I have, I want the right edition on List Challenges. Except for The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, as I prefer the US cover anyway, as I’ve said before!

My other books are Prophecy, by S. J. Parris, The Tenko Club, by Elizabeth Noble, and The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. I have a feeling I do already own a copy of the latter, but as I’m not even sure where it is or whether I could get my hands on it easily, I chanced getting a copy yesterday at the church fair.  I remember seeing the film version when I was at uni, and then again some years later, on telly late one night, and it’s brilliant. It’s mostly in black and white, but the portrait is in Technicolor!

Actually, going back to List Challenges for a moment… I was on there in the past week or so, and there was a list of “difficult to read” books, but I have to say that some of them weren’t what I’d call difficult at all! The Picture of Dorian Gray was one of them, but I fail to see what’s so difficult about this book! SPOILER ALERT! Well-to-do good-looking young bloke has his portrait painted, as people did in those days when they were well-off, and he’s gone to see and admire the finished product. While he’s admiring his portrait, he makes a wish that he could stay young forever and that the portrait would grow old instead. This wish comes true and Dorian remains young and handsome. However, this goes to his head, and he becomes a right arsehole, and he does some pretty nasty shit to some people. As his behaviour deteriorates, his portrait grows not only older but uglier too, so he hides it away.

Anyhow, that’s enough Dorian spoilers! A couple of the other books on the “difficult to read” list were Jane Eyre and Animal Farm! Seriously?! Those are seen as hard to read?! As I have already said in this blog, I read Animal Farm for my GCSEs when I was at high school, so it’s not that bloody hard! If we’re discussing Orwell’s writing, I could see how people might find 1984, with its newspeak, difficult to read, maybe, but what’s so hard about Animal Farm?! I was about 15 or so when I read that! And I was even younger when I read Jane Eyre! I was in the third year at high school, 13 going on 14! If Jane Eyre was a difficult book, I doubt very much I’d have read it at that stage of my education!

Well, I think that’s about it for now. I had a bit of a book tsunami earlier, but then again, the previous one was in early February, so it’s not too bad considering the huge piles of books I have, lol! Quite a lot of book mentions in here for you tonight – I know some of you like it when I have a big long list at the end as it gives you reading ideas! Until next time, take care and Happy Reading!

Joanne x x x

Books mentioned in this blog entry…

  • The Good People – Hannah Kent
  • Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
  • What Light – Jay Asher
  • The Outsiders – S. E. Hinton
  • Macbeth – William Shakespeare
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • Animal Farm – George Orwell
  • The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry – Various
  • Abba, The Book – Jean-Marie Potiez
  • Mamma Mia! How Can I Resist You? – Benny Anderson, Bjorn Ulvaeus & Judy Craymer
  • The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  • Prophecy – S. J. Parris
  • The Tenko Club – Elizabeth Noble
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
  • 1984 – George Orwell
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Filed under Authors, Books, Charity Shop Bargains, Handbag Books, Historical Fiction, List Challenges, Literary Issues, Music, My Bookworm History, Poetry, School, College & Uni Reading, Uncategorized

The Right Books

Right Book

Good afternoon, fellow Bookworms!

Well, we lost another author at the weekend, didn’t we?! 2016 has got a lot to answer for. Barry Hines, most famous for A Kestrel For A Knave, which was made into the film “Kes”, passed away yesterday. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2009. He wrote several novels and television scripts, but it’s probably A Kestrel For A Knave for which he will be best remembered. I have never read that one, but I do know it has long been a set text at high school, so plenty of people will have had to study it for O Levels and GCSEs.

Before we go much further with this blog, let’s remember the authors we have lost so far this year and ask that there be no more departures during 2016!

Harper Lee

Umberto Eco

Louise Rennison

Anita Brookner

Barry Hines

Thank you for your contributions to the world of literature, and may you all rest in peace.

Now, on the more positive side, as well as my lads winning the derby yesterday (I think we’ve discovered a new star in Marcus Rashford!), I also got a couple of books finished off! Sound Bites, by Alex Kapranos, is now out of the handbag. A really good read, especially if you’re a foodie! If you love eating out, and trying interesting grub in interesting places, I would search out Sound Bites. It’s not a long read, but it’s a good one. Kapranos was himself a chef before he formed the band Franz Ferdinand, and in his book, he mentions Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain – one of my other favourite books! Another one to read if you love your food!

I also finished off Look Who’s Back, by Timur Vermes. A brilliant read and very funny! At times you have to think “Hang on a moment, this is Hitler…” but he has a hard time getting others to believe it’s actually him. Most of them just think he’s a brilliant impersonator!

I now need to choose more books, lol! Maybe get some more finished. I am still reading The Story of Music by Howard Goodall. I regularly read posts on Facebook from Book Riot, and they have some good blogs about how it matters not what kind of reader you are, the important thing is that you are a reader. There are books out there for everyone. I am a Random Reader, I guess, lol! I read fiction and non-fiction, and I don’t really go off genres and authors. I just read whatever I fancy. Sure, there are some authors of whose output I have read several works – Roald Dahl, J. K. Rowling, Paulo Coelho, and Sue Townsend spring to mind here. However, I mostly read anything which takes my fancy, and I couldn’t care less who wrote it!

Anyway, today is World Poetry Day, so let’s think about poems we’ve read and enjoyed. A favourite of mine, which I discovered when I was at uni, is Poet For Our Times, by Carol Ann Duffy, the current Poet Laureate. It’s from her anthology, The Other Country, and is about the headline writer for a tabloid newspaper, and the eye-catching headlines he comes up with for the news. When I was at high school, I had to study some war poetry for my GCSEs, a fair bit of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. If you’re interested in that, I can recommend The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry. I would also recommend Selected Poetry by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, even if it’s only for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. That alone is worth reading! It’s a long one, as is Goblin Market, by Christina Rossetti. Try Goblin Market and Other Poems for that one, although I’m sure it’d be in most anthologies of her poetry.

Going right back to when I was young, though, I discovered the books of Roger McGough’s poetry which my dad owned, and bagsied Watch Words for myself! I am pretty sure I was still at primary school when I claimed that one, or very early on at high school. I loved the way McGough strung words together in his poems. When Dad was caught playing away from home in 2004, and my parents split up, I claimed the rest of his poetry books as well, plus Catch 22, by Joseph Heller! He didn’t bother taking any of his books with him, so I helped myself to those I wanted.

We moved house in the July of 1983, a few months after I had turned ten.So, that September, I started my final year at primary school. There is thus still a chance that I discovered that Roger McGough book before I started high school, as I’m fairly sure we were at our new home when I found the book in the dining room book case. I still have it – in a cupboard in my room, with most of my other poetry books, although the Coleridge anthology is right here near Computer Corner!

Anyway, as you can see from the above photos, another bookmark was finished at the weekend! I completed the stitching of the actual design on Friday, and finished the bookmark completely on Saturday with the border, buttons, and beaded tassel.As I think I said previously, it was a filet crochet chart originally, which I discovered on Pinterest, but I converted it to cross stitch. At the moment, the knitting Dutch lady bookmark is in my copy of The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton, although I have yet to decide if I am going to start that one. I probably will, even if I have got plenty of half-read books around already! The dragon bookmark, another recent creation, is in Eragon, as I hinted it would be.

I was going to bring this to a close, but I just thought I’d mention that I was catching up with Pointless on my Sky+ box the other day, and they often have literature rounds in that quiz show. There was one such round the other day, and it was about World Book Night books! They didn’t mention The Book Thief, which is what I gave out in 2012, but they did mention plenty of books I knew, including Girl With A Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier, which I read in the past year or two and really enjoyed. Perhaps, next time, we could have a look at what’s being given out this year, as it’s getting close. April is not too far away now!

Until then, though, that is about all for now on the book front, so take care and Happy Reading!

Joanne x x x

Books mentioned in this blog entry:

  • A Kestrel For a Knave – Barry Hines
  • Sound Bites – Alex Kapranos
  • Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain
  • Look Who’s Back – Timur Vermes
  • The Story of Music – Howard Goodall
  • The Other Country – Carol Ann Duffy
  • The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry – Various
  • Selected Poetry – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Goblin Market and Other Poems – Christina Rossetti
  • Watch Words – Roger McGough
  • Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  • The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton
  • Eragon – Christopher Paolini
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  • Girl With a Pearl Earring – Tracy Chevalier

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Filed under Authors, Autobiography/Biography, Books, Cross-Stitch, Food & Drink, Humour, Music, My Bookworm History, Poetry, Television, World Book Night

Essential Reading

to kill a mockingbird

Good evening, fellow Bookworms!

Actually, it’s quite a sad day in the literary world, with the news breaking  yesterday that Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird, had died at the age of 89. I really must get round to reading that. Perhaps next up once I’ve finished one of the books I’m currently reading. I have to admit I have never read it, although I do know that it has been on the curriculum for years, so many others have read it at school. I think it was on the syllabus when I was doing my GCSEs at high school years ago, but four out of our eight English sets studied English Literature as well as English Language, so the set texts were divided between the four sets. I would have to find out which books, poems and plays others studied, but I’m pretty sure Harper Lee’s novel would have been one of them.

For the record, our main novel in my set was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and our play was Macbeth, about which I am sure our Shakespeare-mad teacher, Mrs Walsh, was delighted! We also studied Animal Farm by George Orwell, and quite a bit of First World War poetry, particularly by Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. The poems were not from a specific anthology, but I can recommend the Penguin Book of First World War Poetry should you wish to read any poems from that conflict.

I have put a question out on Facebook, both on my timeline, and on the book group I run, so we shall see if I get any responses about what other people studied when they were at school, and whether anyone read To Kill a Mockingbird as one of their set texts. I am sure quite a few people will have done so.

Reading, however, has to start years before you’re in an examination hall at high school. A love of books needs to start at home before you’ve even started school! Doesn’t matter what your background is, you don’t have to be well-off. We weren’t particularly flush when I was younger, but I had books of my own and also used to go to Eccles Library. My sister and I were regular patrons of the children’s library there when we were little! In this day and age, despite cutbacks, there are still libraries around, and there are also charity shops, so you can still borrow books for free or buy them pretty cheaply. My link is for a blog by the author James Patterson, and his blog entry about how a love of reading needs to start in infancy.

http://www.jamespatterson.com/about_we-can-get-kids-reading.php#.VscvnfmLTIV

There are a couple of provisos to that, I’d say. Firstly, that it depends on the age of the child. Even if they are an advanced reader for their age, there are some books which wouldn’t be suitable for them until they are older due to the subject matter. For example, I wouldn’t advise that they read erotica until they are of the age of consent.

Obviously, they will need factual books about the facts of life long before they are old enough to put some of them into practice. I think my mum gave me the book she had had on this matter when I was about 9 or 10. Everything from how you came into this world and how you changed from boys and girls into men and women, to relationships, courting, and some sexually transmitted diseases to watch out for. However, this book had come out years ago, so there was no mention of HIV or AIDS, which was unknown until the 1980s when I was a kid! I was a teenager when the whole “don’t die of ignorance” campaign hit our TV screens in around 1987.

The book I’d been given, The Facts of Life by Cirrel Greet, was very helpful to an extent, but a couple of books which came out during my teen years were really good at giving a more updated message and information on the birds and the bees… The Diary of a Teenage Health Freak, and I’m A Health Freak Too, both by Aidan McFarlane gave us the essential facts, as far as they were known, presented to a teenage readership in the late 1980s. Sex, drugs, alcohol addiction… the same stuff you get at school in Personal, Social and Health Education lessons, but without the cringing that such classes induce! I’m sure they’ve probably been updated further for today’s teens, or that teens today have similar books to help them through life. Chlamydia would need to be mentioned in today’s facts of life books.

The other matter is that I would be against stereotyping when it comes to subject matters kids might want to read about. Not all boys want to read about typical “boy” subjects, and not all girls want to read about typical “girl” subjects, and one girl recently caused publishing houses to have a rethink about their books and put an end to the gender-based titles they were putting out. Whether they are a girl or a boy, find out what interests them and encourage them to read books on those themes. Girls might be just as likely as boys to want to read books about football these days! This is 2016, not the 1950s! Plenty of us women and girls go to matches these days, and do so of our own choice. We are NOT dragged there unwillingly by fellas! This September, it will be 25 years since I first became a matchgoing Red! Yep, I will have reached my quarter century of going to Old Trafford on 7th September 2016!

I like the sound of the “Knowledge Is Power Program” which Patterson mentions in his blog, and would easily have been able to go along with that, reading at least 20 books a year and carrying a book around with me at all times! Indeed, I carry three books round in my handbag at present, although I’m getting towards the end of Fight Club, so I’ll need another Handbag Book soon! He is also right about rewarding kids for reading non-fiction books, such as books of world records and suchlike. Whatever gets people reading, as I have said previously, is a good thing. You have to find out what floats their boat and encourage them to read books on the matter.

Hmmm…. now here’s a challenge for James Patterson… perhaps he could find out what, if anything other than himself, interests Kanye West?! The rapper has stated he is a proud non-reader of books. I personally believe there are books out there for everyone. Yes, even Kanye! Perhaps he had crap books foisted on him at school, ones which didn’t appeal to him. That has been known to put a lot of kids off reading. Whatever the root of Kanye’s book-related issues, surely there must be SOME books he might like?!

Charity shop book bargains Feb 2016

Anyway, been a busy old week on the book-buying front. All cheap ones, I must add. The top row in this photo were all purchased on Tuesday, and the bottom two on Thursday. Ranging in price from £1.50 right down to 25p! Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Sisters Brothers will probably end up as duplicate books. I am pretty sure I might already still have copies of those two somewhere. It’s just that I am not sure where the hell they are. I didn’t see them in my recent sort-outs in my room and the garage, so they are not somewhere where I can put my hands on them easily. Therefore I decided it was reasonable to get copies in at charity shop prices (I paid £1.50 for Breakfast at Tiffany’s and just a quid for The Sisters Brothers) so I have the books to hand. I know where one Truman Capote book is, it’s on the landing, near the bathroom, but that’s In Cold Blood, which I have already read a few years ago.

The Book Lovers’ Companion is one of those book recommendation books. It has a forward by Lionel Shriver, but it’s basically just a list of 200 other books you might want to read if you’re stuck for ideas. That one set me back £1.50 like the Capote, so those two were the dearest of the five books. The least expensive of the five books, setting me back a mere 25 pence, was The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I picked that up at Start in Salford where I do my crafting twice a week. I have given them some of my books for their shelves.

Then we come on to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, the book I ummed and aahed over a bit in the St Ann’s Hospice shop on Monton Road. It’s a chunky one! A VERY chunky one! Good job I was sitting down last night when I decided to see just how long it was… 1006 pages! But it only cost me £1. That’s a lot of book for a quid, isn’t it?!

I also bought three books when I was at Bents Garden Centre on Wednesday. Not really quite the bargains which charity shop books can be, although The World To Come by Dara Horn was only 99p, but the other two were in a two for £5 deal, and I chose Saving Agnes by Rachel Cusk, and Wolves In Winter by Lisa Hilton.

I should not really overlook books in other formats, though. I have never actually listened to an audiobook, other than a brief sample the other day, when I listened to an excerpt from The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon. Not sure I’d get round to listening to them, though, unless I end up commuting some distance on a regular basis. Might have come in handy when I worked in Chorlton for three years, or, previously, the three years in the early 90s when I was a student in Bolton. My bus journeys in those days took around 45 to 50 minutes.

I do, however, have a Kindle, and I also have a Kindle app on both my mobile phone and my iPad, so I shouldn’t really ignore the stuff I have on there, and I recently purchased and downloaded Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithian. Of the various themes and subject matters I like reading about, music is very high up on my list! Perhaps, in my next blog, I should have a look at some of the stuff I have on my Kindle…

Anyway, for now, that is about all, otherwise we would be on for another epic blog, and I guess you are still recovering from the one I posted the other day! So, until next time, take care and Happy Reading!

Joanne x x x

Books mentioned in this blog entry:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • Macbeth – William Shakespeare
  • Animal Farm – George Orwell
  • The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry  -Various
  • The Facts of Life – Cirrel Greet
  • The Diary of a Teenage Health Freak – Aidan McFarlane
  • I’m A Health Freak, Too! – Aidan McFarlane
  • Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
  • The Sisters Brothers – Patrick de Witt
  • In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  • The Book Lovers’ Companion – Lionel Shriver (forward)
  • The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke
  • The World To Come – Dara Horn
  • Saving Agnes – Rachel Cusk
  • Wolves In Winter – Lisa Hilton
  • The Trouble With Goats and Sheep – Joanna Cannon
  • Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Rachel Cohn & David Levithian

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