Operation Learn French

Bonjour! I’ve just realised that I’ve been pretty lapse with writing on my blog recently, and for that I apologise. Busy-ness has simply taken hold recently!

As I’m now travelling around a bit for work, I’ve begun to notice that pretty much EVERYONE I work with is multilingual. This is something that I have successfully turned a blind eye too before.

I have decided I am no longer going to be the ‘only one language’ person and get involved.. so as of this week, I am learning… French!

I have got the Rosetta Stone course as well as various apps etc and have thrown myself into it. Rosetta Stone is good because you’re thrown into it, and everything is in French from the beginning. I’m remembering everything I learned at school!

The plan is to be ready for my next trip in April, and to be ‘conversational en Francais within twelve months!

When I get a bit better I may even start blogging in French 🙂

Anyway, wish me luck! (So say Bon Chance, haha)

🙂

My October 2013 in Books

This month has been quite uninspiring for books unfortunately. I was all geared up for London Book Club, but at the last minute could not attend, and that slowed me down a bit to be honest – all that hard work for nothing! And boy, was it hard work.

untitledBook # 1 – Brodeck’s Report by Philippe Claudel

After being blown away by Monsieur Linh and His Child and unimpressed by Grey Souls, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Philippe Claudel’s Brodeck’s Report, but I had read and heard good things. As is his style in Grey Souls, this book is a rambler. He jumps around with dates and people, but it is essentially readable.

Quiet villager Brodeck is called upon to write a special report, surrounding the death of a ‘newcomer’ to the village. This task leads him to thinking about his time in the labour camp, his friendship with the newcomer, and his relationship with his family. The story is compelling, with a mixture of laughter (not that much actually come to think of it) and horror. As the pieces begin to fit together, we get a real feel for the nature of the villagers, the effect his past has had on him, and the weight on his shoulders to invent history.

In this type of novel, having never lived through a world war or anywhere in rural Europe, I found it hard at first to relate to the story or characters. The more I read though, the more I realised that I could relate – to the village. Much like the village in Mick Jackson’s Five Boys, and somewhat like the village I grew up in, the atmosphere is darkly protective and threatened. I felt that the feelings and actions of the villagers reflected a magnified version of most people living in a small community – being weary of the ‘other’. It was quite like Lord Of The Flies in its portrayal of the human condition away from any authorities.

I’d recommend this novel, as though it is quite serious, it is definitely food for thought.

Book # 2: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbackthe art of fielding by chad harback - a review

This was the London Book Club October read this week, and though I had to miss the meeting I did make it through the book. I say make it through because it really did feel like a painful and unrewarding endeavour (and yes, I know I’m in the real minority here..).

I was going to write in detail about why I disliked this book, but I know how horrible it is to read negative things about a book you loved (which the whole world seems to in this case!) so I’ll leave it at this – it just wasn’t my cup of tea. And yes, I did make it to the very end – I rarely give up on a book!

Lovejoy and the Judas Pair - book reviewBook # 3: Lovejoy: The Judas Pair, by Jonathan Gash

If you weren’t judging me for my last review, you certainly will now. I loved this little book. I plowed through it in two days (I’m not a fast reader, was just travelling a. lot. those two days).

I found this book in the book shop in a doctor’s surgery, quite randomly. There were three from the series but I limited myself to just this one, which turned out to be the first in the Lovejoy series!

Lovejoy is such a character. This novel is such a romp, and written so delightfully that I didn’t even mind that I knew ‘who did it’ pretty much from the very beginning. It’s a great story, and moves incredibly quickly. This is a book which I learned a lot from, as Lovejoy is an antiques dealer (you’ve probably seen the BBC series) and he goes into detail about the tricks of the trade. If it wasn’t for this book I never would have known that those codes written on labels in antiques shops tell the owner how much he originally bought them for, so then he can make up the price depending on who he’s dealing with!

This is the only book that has made me scared, too. It’s a real adventure where near the end I became genuinely worried for Lovejoy’s safety! This might have had something to do with my car sickness, but still… felt like real fear! As a result of reading this book I have asked everyone to get me Lovejoy books for Christmas – I just hope they are all as good!

Currently reading: Iceberg, by Clive Cussler (it’s very random)

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde 1920 Film Screening at Temple Church

Watching a horror film in a beautiful churchTemple Church in London

Last night I had the pleasure of going to Temple Church to a screening of the 1920’s film Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The church has recently raised the funds for a brand new organ and the film was accompanied by an organist’s creative improvisation.

I ashamedly have never read Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, or seen any of the films, but had a grasp of the story.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde 1920 filmJohn Barrymore plays the lead role(s) in this film adaptation, and creates an atmosphere of horror mixed perfectly with humour and intrigue. I thought that being a silent film, I would feel somewhat detached from the story line and characters, but if anything the lack of spoken dialogue only gave more weight to the physicality of the actors.

Dr Jekyll 1920 film stillYou probably already know the story quite well, but Dr Jekyll exudes an air of dignity and general good-naturedness (hm… couldn’t think of another way to say it). He is a character who apparently is unable to be evil – often late home because he helps the poor in his free surgery, and is due to be wed to an upstanding lady in the community.

He is only tempted by the dark side when his bride-to-be’s father challenges him that there is a dark side to everyone, and one must give into temptation as and when it arises. Dr Jekyll is now tempted, and plans to make a physical alter-ego..

Mr Hyde 1920 film still

Following some chemical experiments Dr Jekyll finds the perfect potion to transform him into someone completely different, and he calls himself Mr Hyde. As the film goes on, Mr Hyde gets more and more hideous and commits grotesque deeds, in order for Mr Jekyll to remain a spotless individual.

The film embraces the farcical elements of the story, while also capturing the horror of his situation. I was absolutely captivated by this film, and watching it in Temple Church was an amazing experience. The church is by its nature quite cold, which added to the chill in the air!

I know that the organisers behind this screening are planning more events like these, and you can check their website to see. It’s a great thing that these churches are used for a variety of events, as these bring people into the building who may not usually go there. Also, Temple is such a beautiful part of London which is often overlooked, tucked away in the law buildings that feel so exclusive and hidden away.

You can watch Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde on YouTube

I would strongly recommend watching this film, it’s a true classic. Fortunately you can find the full film on youtube here. Enjoy!

We finished off the evening by heading to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub on Fleet Street – what a treat!

The Benefits of Seizing the Day

Over the last few weeks I’ve been getting up earlier and earlier. Setting my alarm ten minutes earlier that the day before, and clawing back some time.

This of course does mean that I am going to bed a little earlier, but I always vow to do that anyway! I am loving waking up early, when the canal is silent (in central London it isn’t a regular occurrence) and relaxing before heading to work.

Most days I just use the time to get a fire going, feed the cat, then snuggle with her and read for an hour. Even this is such a joy – I’m getting through books like nobody’s business! Some days I’m more proactive, cleaning the kitchen or getting some other jobs done early on.

Something I miss about marathon training was ‘having’ to go out at horrid-o-clock in the morning for the weekly 4 miler, when I secretly loved the feeling of freedom that comes from being up and about on empty roads before most people have had their breakfast. Strangely enough, it’s this kind I thing that’s making me consider running another marathon – something I vowed never to do again.

I don’t really know if this entry has a real point, but I know I don’t write enough on here… I just want to show how much even an hour makes in the morning – try getting up earlier and see where it takes you! Even Forbes says that early risers are more successful 🙂

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Five Boys, by Mick Jackson: a Book Review

Having just this minute finished Mick Jackson’s Five Boys, I have to share with the world what a piece of art it is.

Five Boys is an entrancing novel based on the story of a boy being evacuated to Devon from London. The story has many strands, which I have now read is something that puts many readers off the book, however I felt that this quality added to it’s charm.

The clever and humorous narrative stretches from the little boy and travels to all the different households in the village, just as if you are being transported right into each house and dropped in the centre of things. The narrative and dialogue are interwoven to create beautiful and funny contradictions, which only serve to give character to the villages and outsiders. Such a picture of painted of a little town which distrusts anyone entering from the outside world.

The Bee King is a real highlight – he moves into the village in the second half of the novel, and the behaviour of the Five Boys as a result of his presence is dramatically altered for the better.

I don’t want to give too much away, not because it will ruin the twist (it’s not that kind of book) but because I think it will take away from your enjoyment.

You may or may not have read Mick Jackson’s The Underground Man, but I have (one of my strong favourites) and I was worried about how he would follow such a triumph. He has.

I would recommend this book to any avid reader. I would even go so far as to say that this book may even restore someone’s faith in reading, reminding you that you really can be lost in a book.

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September 2013 in Books

The Reading Commute…

Last month I perfected the art of ‘walk reading’. Walking five miles a day means I can get through 30 more pages a day as I dodge other London commuters in the rush to and from work. I must admit that I have also started getting up an hour early just so I can read and cuddle the cat before work… this all means that in September I got through three novels in a month – which I haven’t done for quite some time!

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin book reviewThe Moving Toyshop, by Edmund Crispin

I found this copy in Oxfam Books on Upper Street. This novel is a delight. It’s like reading a good Poirot mystery but with a lot more humour!

It’s fun, exciting and fast-moving, and as a result is a very fast read. It’s part of a Gervais Fen series, and I’ll definitely be tracking down the rest of the books.

I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for an easy and entertaining murder mystery romp.

scores on the doors

9/10

The White Queen, by Philippa GregoryThe White Queen by Philippa Gregory book review

This one I read as part of the book club at my work. In other words, I would not have chosen it myself – I don’t usually go in for historical fiction.

Taking me by surprise, I enjoyed a large chunk of this book. It was a real page-turner, speeding along with intrigue, action and romance. I enjoyed the beginning especially, with the classic romantic story of the prince and the pauper.

In the latter parts of the novel, Gregory really did delve into the ‘fiction’ part of the ‘historical fiction’ genre, supporting the conspiracy theory of the hidden prince. This worries me, because if I didn’t know better I might have been taken in and thought this was fact. This theory has been long since disproved and simply does not hold water…

She ends on a cliff hanger, but it didn’t pull me in, and I won’t be reading her other novels. Still, a lot to discuss when the book club meets again.

scores on the doors

4/10

Lord Lucan My Story by William Coles book reviewLord Lucan: My Story, by William Coles

I found this copy in the second hand area of my Dad’s bookshop, Laurence Oxley’s. After reading John Pearson’s The Gamblers I was taken in by the story of the fugitive who was once a member of the Clarence Club. I’m lucky enough to be able to talk to John about these characters, and was interested to read William Coles’ take on the infamous story.

Lord Lucan: My Story is supposedly written by the infamous murderer, and details a disturbingly possible explanation of the man’s disappearance. The book is fast-moving and hard to put down, and I found myself learning more and more about the events that surrounded the murder of Sandra Rivett.

The story is skillfully peppered with anecdotes and interesting characters, and right through to the very end does not disappoint, sending chills up my spine.

I’d strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in real crime stories, and also crime fiction, as it’s a real mixture of both.

scores on the doors

9/10

Currently Reading

My current book of choice is another by Mick Jackson. After so enjoying The Underground Man, I am now nearly finished with Five Boys, which is another triumph.

Mick Jackson Five Boys bookChad Harback the art of fielding book

I’m also soon to read the next London Book Club title -Chad Harback’s The Art of Fielding. Not sure how I feel about this, but apparently it doesn’t matter how much you know about American baseball…

 

Review: The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared

Book Review: Monsieur Linh And His Child

Book Review: The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Through The Window And Disappeared

Jonas Jonasson: The Hundred Year Old… you know the rest

a humble book reviewJonas Jonasson The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Through The Window And Disappeared

I must admit I was taken in by the title and cover, in the window of a book shop as I walked home. I am always impressed with a creative cover, but also the title did exactly what the first line of any novel should – it took me in and left me wanting to know what happens next.

“You might think he could have made up his mind earlier, and been man enough to tell the others of his decision. But Allan Karlson had never been given to pondering things too long.”

The events that follow the centenerian, Allan, escaping from the Malmkoping Old People’s Home are nothing short of ridiculous, and yet so believable within the plot. You are taken through events that could only happen in someone’s imagination, with all the threads meeting at various points, with hilarious consequences. The humour throughout is subtle and yet makes you laugh out loud – these are not full on ‘jokes’, rather comments made which in the context often made me laugh out loud (a trait which in other people I would normally scoff at).

The novel, which turns out to be extracts from a blog written in the ‘present time’, looks back on Allan’s extraordinary life and weaves his personal story with that of the world wars and subsequent events. I love that I actually found myself learning new things through this novel, as it went into detail about world events surrounding Korea, the Soviets and China following WW2. Again, every story is told with such humour and well drawn out characters that I couldn’t help but keep reading.

This is one of those books that I looked forward to opening every day. I even perfected the art of walking to work while reading! I’ve missed three Archers omnibuses as a result of my addiction to this book, which if you know me is quite a big deal…

I would recommend this to anyone looking to lose themselves in an intelligent and funny story about the past, the present and the future.

Books on the Underground

I’ll be leaving this book on the London underground this week, so that other Londoners can enjoy it as much as I did! If you haven’t heard of Books on the Underground, you can read my blog about it here, or follow @BooksUndergrnd on Twitter.