A Happy Reader.

The Happy Reader Issue No 3.

The Happy Reader Issue No3

In the Summer 2015 issue of ‘The Happy Reader’ we catch up with the actor, comedian and newly published author Aziz Ansari. I love Aziz Ansari and after reading this interview, I’m even more excited about getting my hands on a copy of his book ‘Modern Romance’ but as enjoyable as it is reading about his reading habits (a dangerous addiction to the website Reddit) it was perhaps the second part of the magazine that captivated me most. Reading about Corsica, which is the setting for the seasonal book choice of ‘Granite Island: A Portrait of Corsica’ by Dorothy Carrington. Learning about his picturesque place was really interesting but the story that captivated me the most was ‘Being a Shepherd’ an article written by Oscar Rickett and follows the story of Erwyd Howells, a freelance shepherd, who leads a very simple and humble life. There was something about his story that really resonated with me. In the modern age where everyone demands results straightaway, where we are surrounded by material objects and technology it’s easy to lose a taste for the more simple things in life. Even love. When Erwyd talks about his late wife, it was enough to bring a tear to my eye. It’s one of those rare stories that seems so beautiful and perfectly told that you appreciate the written word and those who write them so much more. Thank goodness for you Penguin Classics, and your wonderful seasonal magazine ‘The Happy Reader’.

Until next time, my lovely followers, happy reading.

Georgina

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An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth – A Review.

An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth (Life Lessons from Space) by Chris Hadfield.

Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth

I’m not going to lie folks, I enjoyed ‘The Martian’ so much that I went on a space hype. I spent a good couple of weeks watching various documentaries about Space missions and numerous Ted talks on all things space related. And I even cried a few times, that’s right, I’m one of those people that gets emotional about how beautiful the planet is. The incredibly awesome Chris Hadfield came to my attention around the time he popped up on everyone else’s radar (well their YouTube page at least) when he became an internet sensation for his performance of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ on board the International Space Station.

The great thing about this book is it follows Chris’ journey from the moment he made the decision as a child to become an astronaut. But he doesn’t disillusion us into thinking it was easy, like many people in other careers have done, and he had the opportunity to. He writes about the long, hard hours of work, training, learning, spending time away from his wife and children in order to take one step closer to his dream job. But what’s even more refreshing is how ‘down to earth’ Chris Hadfield is, he never once felt that if he didn’t become an astronaut that he would have failed at life, but instead felt that there’s always something else and that every opportunity you are given is to be grasped and cherished.

‘In my next line of work, it wasn’t even optional. An astronaut who doesn’t sweat the small stuff is a dead astronaut.’

I don’t feel whilst reading this book that there was ever a section that was negative or uninspiring. But it’s when he realised his dream and describes seeing the world from outside the ISS clearly for the first time that for me, really captured the beauty of his hard work.

‘Of course I’d peered out of the Shuttle windows at the world, but I understood now that I hadn’t seen it, not really. Holding onto the side of a spaceship that’s moving around the Earth at 17,500 miles an hour, I could truly see the astonishing beauty of our planet, the infinite textures and colours. On the other side of me, the black velvet bucket of space, brimming with stars. It’s vast and overwhelming, this visual immersion, and I could drink it in forever – only here’s Scott, out of the airlock, floating over toward me. We get to work.’

Regardless of your career goals, this book is inspirational and will teach you the importance of enjoying every moment, learning what you can and taking pleasure in everything you experience, instead of only celebrating the ‘big’ moments. This book is a testament, not only of what human beings have achieved to gain a clearer understanding of our existence, but also what any human being is capable of with the right attitude and by aiming to be a zero.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

‘It’s every science fiction book come true, every little kid’s dream realized: a large, capable, fully human creation orbiting the universe.’

earth iss gif

An incredibly enjoyable and immersive read, it’s hard not to look up in wonder after reading this. If any of you have read it, please do let me know in the comment section below.

Happy reading.

Georgina

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Starter for Ten – A Review.

Starter for Ten by David Nicholls.

Starter for Ten

I enjoyed ‘Us’ so much that I just had to read this. It’s been on my Kindle for ages, and after favouring my beloved paperbacks for so long, I felt that I needed to show my Kindle so TLC. Starter for Ten is follows Brian, a working class boy who’s about to embark on life at University. Something his widowed mother isn’t looking forward to and his two friends Tone and Spencer seem to be giving him a lot of stick about.

Through fashion faux pas and bad first impressions, Brian finds himself at a party where he sees and falls in love with Alice Harbinson. It becomes Brian’s ambition to make her fall in love with him. But of course this being a David Nicholls book, it’s not all plain sailing. When an opportunity comes to up to appear on University Challenge, something that has been a lifelong dream of Brian’s. He sees it as an opportunity to get closer to Alison, but instead he finds himself ostracising himself from the obsessive team captain Patrick, and making incredibly awkward statements to teammate Lucy Chang.

But behind the humour and the toe curling awkwardness is a novel that focuses very much on young people. Trying to find their place in the world, certain of what they think they want to be and then realising that they’re wrong. At the very centre of the novel are the subtle ways in which David Nicholls deals with the death of Brian’s father. Something which Brian seems to rarely acknowledge, but actually it’s in his lack of acceptance that some of the nicer and more heart breaking moments happen.

Although undoubtedly well written, I just didn’t feel as though the characters in this were as well developed and predicted some of the things that happened.

Star Rating out of 5: 3

‘And it occurs to me that I’m not clever at all, that in fact I am without doubt the most ignorant, the most profoundly and hopelessly stupid person in the whole world.’

Happy reading lovely book folk.

Georgina.

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Us – A Review

Us by David Nicholls.

 Us David Nicholls

I’ve never read a book by David Nicholls before. He’s always been highly recommended to me (both my brother in law AND mother in law have suggested him) I have had Starter of Ten sat on my Kindle for just over a year and I know what you’re thinking, that surely it would have been better to start with one of his older books rather than jump in with his most recent. And you’re probably right, I should have done. But this book was loaned to me to by a work colleague’s wife (pass my thanks to Amanda please Dan) so I figured I’d start with it.

The book starts with Douglas telling us how in the middle of the night his wife Connie tells him she thinks their marriage has come to an end. Douglas cannot understand it, he’s still perfectly happy and in love with his wife, but it seems the feeling isn’t reciprocated. However it’s decided that no further action should be taken (moving out/divorce) until they have finished their ‘Grand Tour’ holiday around most of Europe. A trip they will take with their teenage son Albie, a sullenly young man who Douglas can’t seem to connect with and only seems to annoy and embarrass.

Almost instantly what I loved about this was the humour, it was genuine and I couldn’t understand why son and wife didn’t find Douglas funny (but of course that’s the point) it was observational and warm and honest, almost like reading a story of your own life or experiences. As the novel progressed the tensions of family life and the dynamics of the relationships between the characters become clearer, this was both incredible and infuriating. As a reader you know and understand that Douglas seems to ‘moan’ but it’s because he loves his son and wants to provide him with the kind of relationship he never had himself.

‘Why should it trouble me? It’s the face itself that I love, not that face at twenty-eight or thirty-four or forty-three. It’s that face.’

Douglas clearly loves his wife and son but he feels that it’s very much them against him. Which at times was heart breaking to read, especially when he tried to be more relaxed and approach things with a more devil may care attitude. The book went up and down, very much like life and it was this very human heart that kept it so engaging. Well that and the humour. I really loved this and laughed my way through many a page (the section with the jellyfish particularly made me chuckle although I quickly felt terrible) the ending wasn’t what I wanted, but neither is life, and I feel that’s the point that David Nicholls is trying to make. That life throws things at you and doesn’t always turn out the way you hoped, but that doesn’t make it any less wonderful and memorable.

Star Rating out of 5: 4.5

‘..And it occurred to me that perhaps grief is as much regret for what we never had as sorrow for what we have lost.’

By sheer luck a few days later I stumbled upon a pre-loved copy of One Day for 50p but think I’m going to read Starter for Ten first.

Happy reading fellow bookworms.

Georgina.

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From Book to Film – The Martian – A Review

The Martian by Andy Weir.

The Martian Andy Weir

I’ve always loved space, since I was a young girl one of my favourite things would be to go outside with my dad as he held my hand and explained the constellations to me and pointed things out. As much as I love reading and writing, I’ve often been known to say that I wish I would have been better at mathematics and sciences in general because being an astrophysicist actually sounds quite appealing to me. So it’s no surprise that this book has been on my radar for quite some time now.

It kicks off with the crew of Hermes abandoning the Ares 3 mission after a catastrophic sandstorm hits Mars. With the MAV in danger of being compromised Commander Lewis makes the decision to leave behind Mark Watney, who after being hit by debris is believed to be dead by his fellow crewmates. But as daylight breaks on Mars during Sol 6 it turns out that Watney is very much alive. Of course his crew are now on a four month journey back to earth and it’s safe to say that Mark is in a terrifying situation which the book can articulate much better than I.

‘So that’s the situation. I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last thirty-one days.

If the oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the water reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches. I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yeah. I’m fucked.’

But of course this is Mark’s first log, the day after it’s pretty clear he isn’t going to let these things stand in his way. Currently the next Ares mission is due to land in the Schiaparelli Crater of Mars, but the issue is this isn’t going to be for four years. So it is down to Mark Watney, a botanist and mechanical engineer to find a way to survive. He’s such a great character, clearly intelligent with a brilliant sense of humour that instantly I was rooting for him.

Back on earth NASA have held a funeral for Mark and it seems that he has been forgotten, that is until Mindy Park who monitors the status of the satellites around Mars notices images that show movement of the Rover. Pretty soon the whole of NASA is aware that Watney is alive and instantly set out to try and find a way to not only communicate with him but find a way to keep him alive until they can send another mission. This is all easier said than done and there’s lots of inner and outer politics as well as money and time constraints. And the book pretty much follows this pattern throughout, flitting between Mark on Mars trying to find a way to survive and the folks at NASA trying to do the same.

Despite having a lot of science and technology speak the book is pretty easy reading because Andy Weir found a great way for Watney to narrate and simplify the tasks he is carrying out. What’s great about the story though is the humour, the way Mark always seems to stay positive even in the face of adversity, and trust me he faces all that Mars has to throw at him and more.

This book had me gripped so much so that I was actually annoyed upon reaching work as it meant I had to go 8+ hours without being able to read it. The chapters were so intense that I swear I held my breath during the flyover, and I was sat on the edge of my seat. I became a reading cliché and I’m not afraid to admit it. This is one book that you really SHOULD read. Amazing!

Star Rating out of 5: 5

‘But now there was nothing. I never realized how utterly silent Mars is. It’s a desert world with practically no atmosphere to convey sound. I could hear my own heartbeat.’

And the film? 

watney gif

Well yes, I did go and see the film. I had to after enjoying the book so much. I always try and read the book beforehand so I can imagine everything in my own mind and I have to say the film was pretty spot on. Yes they glossed over some of the earlier parts and didn’t fully explain the ways Mark Watney modified things and built things to help his survival and they changed the ending slightly BUT all in all it was really enjoyable. My husband hadn’t read the book and came out of the cinema gushing about how gripping and intense it was.

Also I loved the casting, Matt Damon was the perfect choice for Watney. His comedic timing of Watney’s smart mouthed comebacks to NASA and one liners were impeccable. Equally there were great performances from Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Donald Glover. It was visually stunning and if you’re not a bookworm or don’t think the book is for you then I implore you to check out the film because it’s just as good.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have read the book, or seen the film…Or both. Get in touch by commenting below, and until next time, happy reading.

Georgina

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Reading About Readers Part 2.

The Happy Reader Issue No 2.

The Happy Reader Issue No2

In the second issue of the seasonal magazine by Penguin Classics we’re treated to an interview with artist and rock star Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth bassist, guitarist and vocalist for those who aren’t familiar with the name) and this issue just exudes coolness. Kim is very intelligent and it comes as no surprise that as a child she read the likes Nitezsche and Jean-Paul Sartre. The interview refers to lots of books, so it’s a great issue for discovering new authors and genres and I stuck a few of the novels she mentioned on to my now ridiculously long list of books to read.

The second half of the magazine once again focused on a selected book, for those eagle eyed blog readers you may remember that I mentioned that it was ‘The Book of Tea’ by Kazuko Okakura. The idea is that you read the book before the next issue so you can come to it and hmm and ahh at the pages that are packed with wonderful insights and theories on the book. Sadly, as you may have realised I have gone through a phase of falling behind with my reading (which I am now trying to rectify in full) so I hadn’t had the pleasure to read this season’s book. Nevertheless I feel that it sounds intriguing enough to add it to the TBR jar.

Another delightful issue from the folks of Penguin Classics, however I feel that I enjoyed the last issue more as I’m more familiar with Dan Steven’s and his work. That being said it was great to learn more about the woman considered a legend by many and I also loved the additions of literary ‘snippets’ at the beginning of the issue and the letters page towards the end.

I’m looking forward to starting on the next issue which interviews the wonderful Aziz Ansari (whom I love as the hilarious Tom Haverford in Parks & Recreation) he’s also recently penned his debut novel ‘Modern Romance: An Investigation.’ So I’m really excited to learn more about him and what he loves to read. I’ll be sure to post a review when I’m finished, and who knows perhaps I’ll be able to read some of the selected books and review them at some point too.

Happy reading!

Georgina.

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Heart Shaped Box – A Review

I’m a proud member of Manchester Women’s Institute and actually run the sub-group for reading. We’re called ‘The Bookish Broads’ and once a month we meet for tea/coffee and cake and discuss the book selected from the previous month’s meeting. This month we’ll be discussing the book that was selected as part of the Halloween/Horror theme for the October meeting.

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill.

Heart Shaped Box Joe Hill

I read Horns by Joe Hill last year and loved it. It was dark, humorous, tragic and kinda weird, which I liked. As soon as I posted that I was reading it on Facebook I had so many people telling me I just had to read Heart Shaped Box, so l went out, bought a copy, put the book on the shelf and never gave it another thought (ominous considering one of the chapters of the books only consists of the words ‘He put the box on the shelf, in the back of his closet and decided to stop thinking about it.’ Until recently that is, I put it forward as my suggestion and the lovely ladies of the Manchester WI selected it. I think we were all relived that it seemed less of a chore to read than Life after Life by Kate Atkinson.

I settled down one evening and was gripped from the word go. I’m something of a novice to the horror genre, with the exception of a couple of horror related novels, it’s not a genre I’m overly familiar with. But with Joe Hill being the son of horror writing legacy Stephen King, I should have known that this would be a cracking book, and I wasn’t disappointed. This isn’t something I have divulged in any previous blog posts but I have always had a fear of a certain type of ghost. The idea of ghosts in general don’t really bother me but anything that involves creepy old men in old suits or women in old fashioned black dresses really sends me reeling. Which is funny considering that I have read the book Woman in Black, seen the film and the theatrical adaptation, why do I do it to myself? I don’t know but I suppose that I like to feel ‘something’ I like to experience an emotion when I read something or watch something, and I can tell you Heart Shaped Box delivered plenty of those moments for me.

Judas Coyne is an ageing rock star who collects macabre things, when he is told that there is a haunted suit for sale on the internet he asks his assistant Danny to buy it. Little does he know that the suit is haunted by the ghost of a man named Craddock who is set on destroying Judas’ life, the reason? He blames Judas for the death of his step-daughter. The storyline is interesting enough but it’s the haunting imagery that Joe penned that really struck a chord with me.

‘In the moments that followed, Jude felt it was a matter of life and death not to make eye contact with the old man, to give no sign that he saw him.’

Moments like this, for me, perfectly capture the cold fear we all feel at some point. When I was a little girl I used to wake sometimes in the evening and would need to build up the courage to go to the bathroom in the dark, I’d be as quick as I could walking back to my room and would always have the sensation that someone was watching me, like Judas in this sentence, I always felt that it was always much safer if I never looked back and just climbed under the covers and squeezed my eyes shut. It’s that inexplicable fear that something just doesn’t feel right.

‘He smiled at Jude, showing crooked and stained teeth and his black tongue.’

As the book progresses the dead man, Craddock, grows more and more violent and controlling of Jude and his girlfriend Georgia. When the pair decide to get away from the house things get even creepier and weirder and it’s soon revealed that Craddock was a controlling and abusive man in life too. There’s a very human element to the story that deals with abuse and estranged relationships between families, which stops this book from falling short of being a little too cheesy at times, and adds some much needed realism. That being said there were aspects towards the latter part of the book that just seemed to not make any sense to me as the actions didn’t seem to fit in with the story as whole. Saying that it was an enjoyable read and full of imagery that had me genuinely shuddering at times, another great novel from Joe Hill.

Star Rating out of 5: 4

spookygifquote

‘He could see himself there, and the dead man standing beside him, hunched over, whispering in his ear.’

Happy reading fellow bookworms, let me know your thoughts if you have read this, or even if you plan to read it.

Georgina.

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