Reading Challenge: April & May 2015

5 June 2015


Reading Challenge 2015 update: 21/50 books read

These are the books that I managed to finish in April & May (one book from the library not pictured). In fact I did quite well in April considering it took me nearly three weeks to finish my first book of the month, Bram Stoker's Dracula which I wrote about here.

April

16. Dracula - Bram Stoker
18. The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey (not pictured)
19. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
20. The Hand That First Held Mine - Maggie O'Farrell

May was not quite so good on the reading front.  In fact I was particularly rubbish and read only one book.  One book! (Must do better in June).

May

21. Black Swan Green - David Mitchell

I followed up Dracula with quite an odd collection of short stories by Miranda July called No One Belongs Here More Than You.  From a woman who obsesses over Prince William to an elderly gentleman who has never been in love, the characters are awkward, lonely and desperately seeking acceptance.  Something stopped these people being real or believable and I wasn't quite taken in by them.  Perhaps the short story format is not enough for me to really get to know a character and to empathise and understand them.

My next read was quite the contrast in the form of The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.  A couple, Jack and Mabel, escape to the wilderness of Alaska after their baby is stillborn.   Away from family and friends, the pair make a new life in this beautiful but unforgiving setting.  It is not until a little girl mysteriously appears on their land that they are awoken from their grief.  I found this quite an enjoyable and cosy fairy-tale like story.  A good read for the Winter months I think.

Now forgive me for never having read The Great Gatsby before.  I always had a feeling that I wouldn’t enjoy it and oh how wrong I was.  The writing is gorgeous, just beautiful.  At only 171 pages, it is surprisingly layered and complex.  If I were to re-read this (I definitely will), I feel there would be bits that I missed, nuances and meaning that I didn’t pick up on the first time around.  If you don’t already know, Gatsby is a very rich gentleman who throws the most opulent and extravagant of wild parties which people flock to from miles around.  The narrator, Nick Carraway is the likeable observer of the heartbreaking story that unfolds.  A week after reading, I sought out the Leonardo Dicaprio film and marvelled again at the stylish and vivid depiction of the Roaring Twenties.  Simply gorgeous.  What are your thoughts on The Great Gatsby?
I finished April with a book from Mr. B’s Book Emporium by Maggie O’Farrell.  I wrote about it briefly here.  This, I have to admit, was not my favourite of the bunch, that would have to be The Great Gatsby.  However, I think this was more due to subject matter rather than the author’s writing which is precise and insightful.  When I wrote about the novel in a Facebook Book Group, O’Farrell's work had nothing but praise. 

As I mentioned, I read the grand total of one book in May which was the charming and often hilarious Black Swan Green by David Mitchell.  Set in the 80s, this is about a teenage lad who desperately tries to hide his stammer from school bullies.  This definitely had shades of Adrian Mole to it, especially with the main character's sense of humour, but perhaps offers a more in-depth look at the trials and tribulations in the year of an adolescent.

So that's my reading wrap-up.  Hopefully I will be a better reader in June!

What books are you reading at the moment?
  










INSTAGRAM CHALLENGE: Oh Happy May

31 May 2015

I thought I would share some snaps of an instagram challenge that I took part in this month. Each day I posted a photo of something that made me happy or put a smile on my face. I must admit it wasn't always easy, especially on the days where I worked and then went home to watch television! But it just goes to show that you can find the good in everything if you take the time to look for it. In fact, what I learnt was that the best moments are not always the most instagrammable! The happiest part of your day could be a conversation at work, doing a good deed, being paid a compliment or discovering an epic new series on Netflix (otherwise known as the little things in life). I would highly recommend documenting your little joys through Instagram and creating your own mini-journal of happiness!  It's definitely been a fun and creative way to look back and remember the good times.   

Here are a few highlights from my month of #OhHappyMay
 
Day 29 - I spotted this interesting street art on my lunch break.

Day 5 was one of the quieter ones so I took a minute to enjoy a minty hot chocolate and a few squishy marshmallows from Tiger (love the packaging).

On Day 6 I received this small but perfectly formed book from Mr. B's Book Emporium as part of my Reading Year.  Having a surprise book parcel land on your mat is always going to be a highlight.

Day 9 was a birthday celebration with a nice spot of afternoon tea complete with mismatched floral cups and a giant teapot filled with a Hendrick's Gin cocktail.

Day 11 - I stopped off at a witchery shop on my way home from work and marvelled at the huge chunks of crystal, the tarot cards and the sweet-smelling sticks of incense.

On Day 23 I used this immensely colourful tote bag for the first time.  This was definitely my favourite birthday present this year.

On Day 21 after collecting 10 stamps on a Waterstone's card I got to choose a free book!  I decided to pick this as my freebie.  Can't wait to read it.

Day 26 was another quiet one but these cheerful blooms definitely brightened my day.

On Day 28 I couldn't resist these Disney tins from TK Maxx.  Now I just need to decide what to store in them!

So that was a few snippets from my #OhHappyMay.  If you want to see what else I got up to, take a peek at my instagram: bettiespagesxo  

I'm thinking of doing a different challenge in June and I would love to hear of any challenges that you are getting stuck into at the moment.  Give me some inspiration in the comments!

Could it be Magic? Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

21 May 2015




I barely watch television these days which I guess is a good thing.  However, I recently had the urge to shut down my laptop, escape the rabbit hole that is the internet and get lost in a decent bit of telly.  Preferably a piece in another time and place, with a dash of the 'other-worldly' about it, something to draw me in with a rich setting and mysterious characters all tied together in a darkly intriguing tale.

Well it just so happens that BBC 1 has brought to life the story of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - an 'alternative history' novel created by Susanna Clarke.  Episode one brought lantern-lit cobbled alleyways, a vast library filled with books of magic, a tarot card stand-off and the wonderfully named characters of Drawlight, Honeyfoot, Segundus and The Gentleman.  A raggedy street magician, played by Paul Kaye, spits out a prophecy of two magicians restoring magic to England - first is the reclusive Mr. Norrell, the second  a wealthy novice magician Jonathan Strange.

I hope that the quality of that first hour is matched in the following six and I'm glad to finally have a series to look forward to each week. Not only that, I now have another addition for my never-ending to-be-read list! (Once a bookworm, always a bookworm).

There is still time to catch-up on the first episode here.  Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell returns on Sunday at 9pm.

♥ Some extra reading for bonus points(!) ♥

Miss Transmission's wish list before the cast was revealed is here and if this recommendation by Neil Gaiman doesn't whet your appetite for the book's delights nothing will.

If you are a long-time fan of the book who would your choices for the cast have been?

P.S. Without having read the book, I thought that Eddie Marsan as Mr. Norrell was superb as always, I couldn't stop watching him.  Marc Warren was also on form and brilliantly creepy as The Gentleman.

If you do tune in let me know what you thought?

My Reading Year - Book 3

30 April 2015























I have just finished this, my third book from the wonderful Mr. B's Book Emporium who selected it as one of my Reading Year novels.  The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell follows two stories, one which is set in the present day and centres on Ted and Elina who have just become parents for the first time. Here, O'Farrell brilliantly captures the couple's growing isolation from each other and their struggle to cope with the demands of parenthood.  The second story line, set in the 1950s, focuses on Lexie who flees rural Devon to start a new life in the London art scene.  There she falls for the flamboyant Innes Kent and joins his team of writers for Elsewhere magazine.  Although the novel is well written and the characters grew on me towards the end, this is not a novel I would normally be drawn to in terms of subject matter.  I realise that I often seek out stories that take me into a completely different world, somewhere that is far removed from everyday life as we know it.  

Have you read any of Maggie O'Farrell's books.  What did you think of them?



Reading Challenge: Book 16

23 April 2015

#CurrentlyReading



























Just a quick post about my current book.  Dracula is one of my all-time favourite novels and I would recommend it to anyone who hasn't yet given it a go.  Bram Stoker (what a fantastic name!) wrote this brilliantly imagined story over one hundred years ago and in doing so created a classic Gothic horror which has intrigued and endured ever since.  Even though this is an old favourite, I actually found it hard to get into this time around.  I think, possibly, because I have been reading a lot of contemporary fiction lately and the change of writing took a little adjusting.  It's still definitely worth it.  I shall leave you with a small description of that most sinister and deadly of vampires, Count Dracula. 

'As the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me, I could not repress a shudder....a horrible feeling of nausea came over me, which, do what I would, I could not conceal.  The Count evidently noticing it, drew back...with a grim sort of smile'