Upsetting Changes

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.

Go Set a Watchman

I was really apprehensive to read this, To Kill a Mockingbird always makes it on to my ‘Top 5’ list. I’d heard and read mixed reviews and already had an idea what the basic premise of the storyline was.

Jean Louise Finch, or Scout to those who want to be more familiar, goes back to Maycomb on one of her routine trips to visit her father. She’s now living in New York so doesn’t make the journey often. Adult Scout is just as sassy and determined as her younger self, and it isn’t long until she’s winding up her Aunt Alexandra. I think one of my biggest shocks and upsets was when I realised that Jem had died from a heart attack a couple of years prior to the book taking place, this knocked the wind out of me instantly. One of the best things about To Kill a Mockingbird is the relationship between brother and sister and I would have liked to have seen how this played out a bit more.

When Jean helps her Aunt tidy around one day she comes across a pamphlet of her fathers that looks like white supremacist propaganda, sickened she goes to the meeting her father and her on/off beau Hank are at and is disgusted and shocked by what she sees. As a reader I was incredibly upset to hear about Atticus’ new perspectives on things and I think that’s how the novel works, in essence Scout perfectly articulates and displays our emotions at this news.

The rest of the novel is Scout trying to find a reason or an answer to what has made her father change from the man she knew as a child, with little success at first. It ends with an epic confrontation and then kind of fizzles out in a slightly disappointing way. It’s no Mockingbird, but that’s ok, as I don’t think it was intended to be.

Star Rating out of 5: 3

‘The one human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her; the only man she had ever known to whom she could point and say with expert knowledge, “He is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman,” had betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly.’

If you’ve read it I’d love to know what you thought, so please comment below.

Happy reading.

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The Bravest Man I Knew

These past few weeks have been difficult for me, I watched one of the bravest men I knew pass away from Cancer in 2009 when I was just 24. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about my dad, but hearing about the recent deaths of Lemmy and David Bowie because of cancer, brings back lots of painful memories.

There was no disputing, that all those years ago, when JK Rowling first started penning the Harry Potter books that they’d be a hit. She created a world that was engaging and created characters that became like friends. In my opinion Severus Snape is one of the most complex characters in modern literature. His pale skin, lank hair and rich voice, the air of mystery that always surrounded him. JK Rowling left us wondering till the very last book what Snape’s true colours were. When all was revealed it was both beautiful and tragic.

When the books were adapted to films we were all, perhaps, too young to understand the importance of casting the right actors, but I know that when watching the films we knew all the right people had been selected. None more so than Alan Rickman. An actor who first came to my attention in the Die Hard film where he plays the eloquent bad guy Hans Gruber. As I grew up watching the Harry Potter films I was captivated by the subtleties he brought to the role of Snape, it was in the way he moved, the way he paused, his facial expression. Everything, that when reading the books, I could see so clearly in my mind, he was born to the play the role.

As I grew up I went on to watch Alan Rickman in other fantastic films such as Dogma, Love Actually and Sense and Sensibility. When I heard the news of his passing today, I was stopped in my tracks; I shed tears and felt like I had all the wind knocked out of me. The Harry Potter books were such a big part of my life when I was younger, they still are, and the films have kept me entertained through my teenage and adult years. He always brought a natural ability to any performance, his delivery of lines was impeccable and with Alan you could read it all in his eyes before he uttered a word. His portrayal of Snape, in my opinion, was one of his finest. It was like watching him step from the book and straight to the screen. He played the tragedy so well, that even now just typing this I feel fresh, warm tears spring to my eyes. I feel so fortunate, as a Harry Potter fan, to know that one of the finest British actors played one of the most intriguing literary characters ever to grace our lives and did it with so much finesse.

I’m finding it increasingly difficult to write, but I thank you Alan Rickman for sharing your talent with the world. I don’t share this with a lot of people but I was re-reading the Deathly Hallows when my father died, I couldn’t sleep the night before the funeral because I didn’t want time to pass till I had to say my last goodbye. I believe that book gave me strength to get through that horrific day and it is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to the man who brought the literary equivalent of “the bravest man I knew” to life.

“Look…at…me” he whispered. The green eyes found the black, but after a second, something in the depths of the dark pair seemed to vanish, leaving them fixed, blank and empty. The hand holding Harry thudded to the floor, and Snape moved no more.”

Rest in peace Alan Rickman, and my thoughts go to your family and friends at what I know is a truly heart-breaking time.

snapegif

Georgina.

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Promised the Moon – A Review

Promised the Moon: The Untold Story of the First Women in the Space Race by Stephanie Nolen.

ptm

I’ve had this book on my shelf for some years now, the more attentive amongst you will have noticed by now that I have something of a romantic fascination with space. As a young girl I was mesmerized by the night sky and have often beaten myself up for not paying more attention to mathematics and sciences, I think I would have loved a career in the sciences, especially something that involved astronomy. But this book is less about astronomy and more about aviation. The book starts off telling the story of some of the early ‘aviatrix’ including the more well-known Amelia Earhart, and the wrongfully lesser known Bessie Coleman (I’m actually looking to see if there are any books about her out there because she sounds like she was such a determined and inspirational woman)

After introducing some brave women, the author then takes a look at a group of 13 women. All who were determined to fly from an early age. Their stories alone are inspirational as it details the struggles they had, to not only fund flying lessons, but also to break through the social barriers that were existent at the time. Annoyingly it was believed that, following the war, women should leave the jobs they had to go back to being mothers and wives. Even those women who had more flying hours than men were told that the men had to come first. It often meant that the women, who were giving jobs flying, often earned less than the men and were told that passengers would rather avoid boarding a commercial flight with a female pilot. This meant that they often had jobs where they delivered goods, or worked fixing the planes.

‘Flying was dangerous, noisy, dirty – it wasn’t ladylike.’

But the women endured and you can imagine their hopes improved when a privately funded programme was started that took some of the strongest female fliers and allowed them to take part in the same tests as the Mercury 7. America was in competition (and at War) with Russia, and the Space Race became a focus of attention. Women like Jerrie Cobb, were put through the same physical and mental aptitude tests to see how well they would fare in space and it turned out they did pretty well. In a lot of cases the women actually did better than their male counterparts. Needless to say the women were excited, it seemed like they were finally being taken seriously, and they felt as if they stretched their hands out far enough they could touch the stars. So you can imagine their shock when they were told that NASA had made the decision that the further testing was of no use and no longer could be carried out. This caused problems as a lot of the women had to give up their jobs so they could attend, so they were left without work and their dreams dashed.

What proceeded was the battle of two of the most respected female fliers. Jerrie and her friend Janey, both took it upon themselves to write letters to NASA, to travel and give talks on the importance of a ‘Women in Space’ programme, they even wrote letters to the President. But at the same time they were arguing the benefits of putting a female in space (before the Russians) Jackie Cochran was playing a more political game. Despite her and her husband being the ones to fund the testing at Dr Lovelace II private clinic in the first place, Jackie played ‘the boys game’ and wanted to keep the right people on side so that in the future she could run any women in space programme. Perhaps it’s me but when I read this it really upset me, at a time in history when women lacked equality, I felt that Jackie should have helped support the cause a bit more instead of playing the long game to further her own power.

This is a really fascinating read, and I’m so glad that the author took the time to tell the story of these women because it’s one that’s not well known, if at all. But it’s also frustrating and heart-breaking in equal measure. To learn about these accomplished women who had worked so long and so hard to be taken seriously, just for their dreams to be snatched away because of nothing else but the fact they were born women. Another interesting element of the book is the way in which the women had to, not only defend their capabilities as pilots but also their sexuality. As the women were seen to be doing a ‘man’s job’ it meant that if they were unmarried they were believed to be a lesbian. To me it’s just ludicrous, and I often found myself shaking my head whilst reading it. It made me thankful to live in the era I do (although we still have a long way to go) If you’re interested in space and female history then this book is for you.

Star Rating out of 5: 4

‘…for a girl who had learned to be alone-the sky was the answer. I tumbled out of the airplane with stars in my eyes.’

Happy reading fellow bookworms.

Georgina.

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Dead Man’s Time – A Review

Dead Man’s Time by Peter James.

dmt

Although I’ve always been slightly aware of Peter James, I’ve never actually read any of his work. This was part of a Secret Santa Book Swap we did at our Book Club ‘The Bookish Broads’ We each had to wrap up a book we had enjoyed and write a brief description on the front and then select one based on the blurb.

The story kicks off in New York during the 1920’s where a pair of young siblings find their father being kidnapped from the house, and their mother killed from gunshot wounds. Their father has associations with an Irish gang in New York and it seems the brutal murder and kidnapping is due to these seedy connections. When the young brother and sister are taken away from New York by their Aunt to start a new life across the pond, the young boy his passed his father’s pocket watch and a series of numbers. He makes a silent promise to his father (who is still just missing at this point) that he will come back one day and find him.

Fast forward to present day and we’re in Brighton where Aileen, an old lady, is brutally attacked (and later dies) and her house is burglarised of antiques worth millions of pounds. But one think that is missing, that although being worth millions of pounds on its own is worth more because of the sentimentality attached to it. The missing item is the pocket watch, and the dead old lady is the same young girl who left New York all those years ago with her brother.

What happens next is a race against time, Lucas Daly is determined to find the people who murdered his sister, but he also needs to get that watch back. It belonged to their father and Lucas, who is now in his 90’s, wants to keep the promise he made his father all those years ago. There are plenty of subplots going on, including a released convict who is set to get the cruellest and sickest revenge on Detective Roy Grace, Lucas’ destructive son who is both violent and frivolous with money and the strains of being a father and a Detective.

I have to say at times it did get somewhat confusing as there were an awful lot of characters, so it meant that it took a few seconds for me to remember who they were and whether they were considered the good guys or the bad guys. That being said, it was a cleverly woven story that passes through the ages and also calls on the basic human emotions of love and making the most of your time on earth. All in all not a bad standalone read, but I feel I would have had a greater understanding of some of the dynamics had I read some of the books in the ‘Roy Grace’ Series.

Star Rating out of 5: 3

Happy reading.

Georgina.

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Forever – A Review

Forever by Judy Blume.

ForeverJudy.jpg

I’m not sure how I missed Judy Blume books growing up, but I did. In fact Judy Blume didn’t come on my radar until a couple of years ago, I know she’s a well-loved and greatly respected author, but I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t read any of her work. That is until this book was selected by my Book Club ‘The Bookish Broads’ I asked the ladies to nominate books that they read at school and this one was picked. For those who aren’t aware it follows the story of Katherine and Michael, two teenagers who meet at a party and start dating. Whilst Michael has had sex in the past, Katherine hasn’t and this book deals with the first time in a really open and honest way.

Apologies if this is TMI (too much information) but I was a late bloomer in the sex department and I didn’t actually lose my virginity until I was 21. So I think had I read this when I was 13/14 it would have terrified me and I probably would have kept the book hidden from my mum. When Michael first starts asking Katherine to go further with him, I felt my mind suddenly jump back to all the things guys said to me when they wanted more than just kissing and hand holding and I said I wasn’t ready.

‘You’re not mad, are you?’
‘No.’
‘You’re sure?’
‘Yeah…but this is really tough…’
‘I know it…’
‘Give me a minute by myself; okay?’ he asked.

The really interesting thing about this book is the juxtaposition, at the beginning it seems like Michael is only interested in Katherine for sex, but by the end of the novel Katherine’s feelings for Michael subside and Michael seems to genuinely care for her. Judy Blume does a great job of introducing and airing the parental concerns and gives a great insight to a Family Planning Clinic. The moments of intimacy were realistic, sex can be messy and Judy Blume allowed for this, which is great as it prevents both boys and girls getting an idealistic view of sex. This was really easy novel to read and I think it’s a novel I’d allow my children to read.

Star Rating out of 5: 3.5

‘He led my hand to his penis. “Katherine….I’d like you to meet Ralph….Ralph, this is Katherine. She’s a very good friend of mine.”

I’m not going to lie, I laughed at Ralph…

Happy reading, Georgina.

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Time to Book Ahead

With each New Year comes new ideas, this year already looks promising for the publishing world and various websites and newspapers are already speculating about what they think the next big thing in the Literary world is going to be. As you know, I don’t always review the latest releases, however here are some novels (some of which I’ve already purchased and are waiting on my bookshelf) which I’m looking forward to reading this year.

The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell.

The Disaster Artist
This is a book all about the cult film ‘The Room’ starring the strange, and weirdly captivating, Tommy Wiseau. If you haven’t seen the film then you really should, it’s unintentionally funny and there are some great moments where time seems to get lost and goes from being a day to an evening to the same day again. This book is all about Greg (who starred in the film) and the process of the filming being made. I only read a short exert online and it made me laugh, so I’m really looking forward to reading it at some point this year.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.

Go Set a Watchman
I know this came out last year, and I was excited by it. I mean To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the books in my Top 5, so I was excited to hear that the familiar nostalgic characters were back. But then slowly but surely there was something of an outcry with people saying that it wasn’t a great book, and that previously open minded characters had become racist, so I kept putting it off. I guess I was apprehensive of losing the respect and love I had for the Finch family, but I need to read it. Who knows I may just like it, and if I don’t at least I’ll find out what happened to them.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
I made a promise to myself that this year I would try to read more varied genres. I picked this up in a book shop yesterday for the sheer fact that on the label it said ‘If you like Star Trek or Firefly then this book is for you’ I was instantly sold. But when I read the blurb on the back there was something that appealed to that aspect of me that still wants to be an astronaut exploring space. The idea of exploring vast galaxies with a mishmash crew of different species just struck a chord with my younger self. I haven’t read a lot of Sci-fi in the past so hopefully this will be the start of a long and beautiful relationship with the sci-fi genre.

Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh.

Things We Have in Common
Something about this pulled me in, perhaps it was the praise that said it was similar to Gone Girl (a book which I enjoyed until the ending ruined it) I guess what piqued my interest more was the blurb on the back, it was captivating, just as the novel is supposed to be. Dealing with themes of teenage obsession and isolation, I have a feeling this is going to make for a compelling read.

Your Heart is a Muscle The Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa.

Your heart is a muscle
I love books that really seem to observe humanity and this one seems to capture it perfectly. Set during Seattle’s 1999 WTO Protest, the book follows the course of one afternoon and how the lives of seven people are changed forever. In the mix are an estranged father and son, two protestors who don’t believe in violence and the financial minister from Sri Lanka. Needless to say this should make for a raw and conflicting read.

Innocents and Others by Dana Spiotta.

innocents-and-others
I think the main thing that’s intrigued me about this book is the fact it’s about two female filmmakers. Working in the media industry can be quite eye-opening and there’s always so much to be thinking about, so I was intrigued by these two filmmakers (best friends) who have very differing views on sex, morality and movie-making. It just sounds appealing and I can’t wait to grab a copy.

Zero K by Don De Lillo.

Zero K
I haven’t read much by Don De Lillo, in fact I’ve only read one of his other books ‘Americana’ and I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of a long, hot, dusty summer and not really knowing what to do with my life. The subject matter of Zero K really intrigued me; a billionaire tries to cure his ailing wife by the use of body preservation until medical research can find an answer to eternal life. I think mortality is a very deep subject matter, and we all have thoughts on life and death but when money is introduced it’s even more fascinating. I’ve often thought that wealthy people seem to think they can live forever and I feel this will make for an incredibly thought provoking read.

Other titles I’m keen to read at some point this year;

Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig – What can I say I loved Star Wars so much..JJ did such a great job and it’s reignited the love of the originals in my soul.

The Tria by Matt King – Matt’s a promising writer and my review and interview with him last year was one of the most viewed posts I had, so I’m really looking forward to giving this a read.

Americosis Vol.2 by Haydn Wilks – Volume 1 was crazy and intriguing enough that I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins – I’ve NEVER read them OR seen the films, but I’ve heard great things. I think it’s high time I give them a shot!

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Any Human Heart by William Boyd

Zodiac by Robert Graysmith – I think like the majority of the world I’m working my way through ‘Making a Murderer’ on Netflix and it’s really kicked off my intrigue in true crime. I love the film, so it makes sense to give this book a read.

I’d love to hear what you lovely lot are looking forward to reading this year, so please comment below.

Happy reading, Georgina.

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2015 – My Year in Books

Now back to books. 2015 was a very varied year for me, I was reading and reviewing books for ‘Belle About Town’ but also reading a book a month with my book club. I have to say having not one, not two but three outlets to discuss the books I read is really rewarding and I know I have said it in a previous post but thank you so much to all the people who have read, commented and liked my blog. It really means a lot, and this year I want to try and make sure I’m writing a least a blog post a week. I thought it would be fun for me to share some stats with you about my reading habits in 2015, and I’d love to know yours too, so please do comment below.

The first book I read in 2015 was ‘Foxcatcher: A True Story of Murder, Madness and The Quest for Olympic Gold’ by Mark Schultz and the last book I read in 2015 was ‘Forever’ by Judy Blume.

The book that made me cry the most in 2015 was ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce. I’m talking full on crying with snot and everything, I’m just glad I was at home when I finished reading it as I think my fellow commuters would have been fearful had it been on the train.

The book that made me laugh the most was ‘Bossypants’ by Tina Fey. I genuinely laughed out loud and even snorted like a pig at one point, unfortunately this did happen on a rather crowded train during peak time and the person who was sat next to me moved seats at the next stop…How subtle.

The most powerful book I read was ‘Asking for It’ by Louise O’Neill. I read and reviewed this for ‘Belle About Town’ it was without doubt one of the most raw and infuriating books I have read. An incredibly important YA novel that all teenagers and adults alike should read.

Favourite literary magazine had to be ‘The Happy Reader’ by Penguin Classics. A seasonal magazine that interviews a well-known celebrity about their reading habits and then dissects a chosen book. Perfect for book recommendations/inspiration.

My favourite book of the year has to be ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir. It had me hooked from the opening sentence and kept me that way until the very end. Weir seemed to perfectly balance, science, tension and humour and it was the top of my list of book recommendations whenever people asked me what they should be reading. Also the film adaptation was pretty accurate and perfectly executed which is a rarity.

I only re-read TWO books this year and they were ‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl and ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens. This is a miracle for me as I tend to re-read books out of some form of need for comfort and nostalgia so this is like a breakthrough for me.

I have plenty of books on my ‘TBR’ pile and there’s plenty of new titles coming out this year that I am looking forward to reading, so I have a feeling 2016 is going to be just as good as last year. Please comment below with your favourite read of 2015 and anything else you want to share.

Happy reading my lovelies.

Georgina.

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2016 – More About Me, Less About You

Whilst most people are setting themselves numerous resolutions for the New Year which consist of going to the gym or finding a new job, I once again find myself feeling reflective. I’m quite happy for people to make their own choices with their life but with me I’ve never been big on setting myself a list of things to achieve in a year, whilst this would probably be a good thing for someone like me (who suffers quite badly from anxiety) I just feel that it’s also quite pressurising, if you get mid-way through the year and haven’t achieved half of what you set out to do it can make you feel even worse off than when you started.

My proposal for this year is simple I’m only going to set myself tasks for things that will give me full enjoyment. My mum, friends and Dr have told me a lot recently that I put too much stress on myself, and that I need to find ways to relax more. I can’t help but feel that I need to look after everyone else which often means I neglect myself and put the needs of other people before my own, and whilst I have no intention of being selfish and making it all about me, me, me, I am going to use this year to give myself a little time to do things that I enjoy.

I worry too much about work, working in the Television industry whilst being incredibly varied and fun also means a lot of uncertainty and lacks stability. I’ve been very fortunate up to now moving from one project to another but with a mortgage to pay and a life to live the stress of not knowing can often leave me feeling unbelievably stressed. So this year I want to take my time and apply for job roles that offer permanent positions as opposed to fixed term contracts. The annoying thing about this is with the economy being the way it is, it’s going to make it more difficult but to allow myself peace of mind I feel that it would be beneficial for me to find work that is permanent.

Secondly is about embracing nature a bit more. I won’t be joining a gym as exercise just doesn’t excite me like it does with most people, but I am going to make sure that at least once a week I spend a couple of hours outdoors enjoying a nice brisk walk in one of the many parks local to me. As a child my brother and I rarely spent a full weekend in the house and we were always being taken to visit my Grandmother in Yorkshire or frolicking at nature trails and parks. So this year I endeavour to tap into this aspect of my much younger self.

More time for hobbies. I already partake in a weekly podcast and two monthly meetings with the WI and the Book Club I run for the WI (The Bookish Broads) and these are great but I want to make time for more of my hobbies. I would love to get back into sewing and making things again and would love to use some of my time for this, I also started a cross stitch last month and found it really relaxing so I want to do more. Also I now own 4 adult colouring books and have found that these really help relax my very busy mind, so I want to set aside at least a half hour every evening to do some colouring in.

I usually always set myself a target of books I’d like to read in a year via Goodreads. In 2015 I set myself a target of 50 and read 62. This year I have set myself a target of 30 and have already read 1. The reason it’s such a low number is because, due to my anxiety, I felt like I was letting myself down if I fell behind with reading. I increasingly found myself with no time or no interest in reading in 2015, largely due to my job. 5am wake ups with 14/15 hour days and not getting home till nearly 10pm had a huge effect on my reading time. Also on the days I did have time I was often suffering from a stress headache or just lacked the energy to sit and truly immerse myself in a book. So this year I have vowed to read for enjoyment and use my ‘To Be Read’ Jar as a way of helping with the decision making process, by decreasing my number it will make me feel less stressed and mean I take time to read for enjoyment, whereas I often felt I had to binge read a book to stay on target.

But above all this year I want to be healthy and happy. I’ve been going through some pretty stressful moments recently, the main one being my husband and I struggling to conceive. We’ve wanted to start a family for a long while now and about 3 weeks ago we thought we were pregnant, I was having morning sickness, I was feeling tired, my breasts were tender but then I started cramping really bad and started bleeding heavily. I was in pieces for days and went to see my Dr, I’ve had blood tests done and it turns out I have hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) which can have a huge effect on fertility. So I’m now taking medication and have a scan in a week or so to make sure there’s nothing else preventing me to conceive. Since I lost my father in 2009 I know what a gift life is and I don’t want to spend it stressing out and worrying, achieving pointless things just for acceptance from people who don’t really care. So for me, 2016, is about doing things that make me happy, things that make me relax and things that will help me get one step closer to creating the only thing I truly want, a cosy house with a loving husband and a little family of our own.

Whatever your plans for this year, I hope you are happy.

Georgina

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