Claire is Moving to London!

Hello friends! A short blog post and announcement today: I’m moving to London!

After I finished my MSc at Oxford I returned home to The Bahamas but really wanted to stay in the UK. I made a few friends but preferred access to the world that I wanted, having books around, museums, sushi. Simple stuff. I was recently offered a place in a firm in London so I’m moving over! Eep. I’m terrified but it must be done. So my British friends, watch out! Because as of March 11th, I’m here to stay.

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YAAAAH!

 

I plan to take advantage of my locale and visit a bunch of shops and take pictures. Continuing with the Well-Read-Jaunt series really. It’s also great because I’ll finally be on the same time zone as Nikki and we’ll be able to plan some better stuff. Personally, I was thinking of venturing into vlogging, or maybe just recording my thoughts with an MP3 file. Don’t know, we’ll see where that goes.

I’m going to be really busy after March 11th and I am effectively homeless till March 30th, when the room in the flat I’ve rented becomes available. This means a few things: I might not have consistent access to internet, as the people I’m crashing by (literally, crashing, I’m sleeping on a very old Aunt’s couch). Plus, I have to be sociable with them, I can’t very well crash and just, ignore them? Plus, I officially start work on the 16th and it’s like a 10 hour day job and an hour long commute every morning and afternoon, so, I get 2 hours free time. I will get into a rhythm, I’m sure but if I’m a bit sparse, that’s why. I’m hoping Nikki might keep you all laughing!

This is already long but yes! I’m excited! British bloggers, if you want to meet up message me or tweet me!

**Nikki’s edit** YAAAAAAAAYYYYY!!!♥♥♥

NameClaire

Posted in Fun | Tagged | 9 Comments

Review :: Wonder

A review of RJ Palacio’s Wonder

SUMMARY

My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside.

But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.

Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?

• • •

Let me start by saying I really, sincerely loved this book so very much. I knew it from early on and the warmth and feelings just enveloped me while reading this.

While this book deals with Auggie’s very specific experiences living with a physical difference, it feels like such a universal experience that so many kids without physical differences also go through…Maybe it feels even more so because, especially as it’s told from his point of view, Auggie is so obviously normal.

This book touched me on a personal level. I loved how honest it felt. I loved Mr Browne’s precepts. I enjoyed reading the story from different characters’ perspectives. This helped you see not only how Auggie sees himself, but how other people see him and why while also shedding light on the reasons behind people’s actions.

I loved all the characters. Auggie is admirable not because he has endured more surgeries by age ten than most people do in their entire lives, not because he deals with his situation with humour and grace, not because he is a sweet little boy, but because he is so remarkably real. He is also sometimes selfish, discouraged and irrational. I had the impression Palacio really did research on the technical and social aspects of the lives of people affected by these kinds of physical differences. And it’s not just Auggie. All the characters – victims, bullies, teachers, parents – felt very true. It is not a super deep character analysis, but it picks up the little mannerisms and familial traditions that help build that relatable truth in the characters.

Once or twice I thought to myself “I’m not sure what this character has to offer the story really…” but everyone affects or is affected by Auggie in different ways. By the end of each chapter I had learned to appreciate those perspectives I didn’t think I cared much for too.

Wonder feels, overall, like a very safe story (in that ‘middle grade’ sort of way), but there were teary moments for me throughout. The main reasons this ended up not being an absolute favourite for me were partly because (1) I’d read the first 226 pages (out of 311 not including the further 92 pages of the Julian chapter) all in one day, then my reading was broken up over the next two days in an un-concentrated, choppy way and my attentions were divided. That was my fault. But also because (2)…

My copy came with the Julian chapter.
I wasn’t terrible keen on the Julian chapter. It wasn’t bad (and some people might really like it), but I really do prefer the story as a whole without it. It wasn’t as engaging, it felt a little predictable and so a little clunky, and the best part of it for me was his Grandmother’s story. I think hearing from Julian’s perspective might have been more interesting if it were part of the original book and came earlier on. The book’s original ending felt perfect to me and the Julian chapter…just didn’t feel as solid. Without it I think I might give Wonder a full five stars.

All of the cultural references will undoubtedly make this book feel dated in no time but, for now, I enjoyed how ‘in the zeitgeist’ it felt. Something about that was nice. It felt rooted in a time that was very current and relatable.

I found Wonder so engrossing that I could have easily consumed this book in a day if not for the fact I was having a busy few days when I decided to pick it up. I actually think something about reading most of it in a massive chunk just felt right. If you pick up Wonder, I would suggest you put aside a day where you can be on your own and just take it in…while you ugly cry the whole way through. What, that was just me? Oh. Okay.

This is not just a story for kids by any means. Like I said earlier, it feels ‘safe’ in that way that I think most YA/middle-grade tends to be – nothing gritty here! – but I think it works well. It makes it not too difficult for younger audiences to take in while helping readers confront a sensitive topic in a moving, engaging way.

This is certainly a book I would recommend.

rating: ★★★★☆
genre: YA/middle grade, contemporary, fiction
publisher: Corgi Childrens
source: Waterstones
date read: 11 February 2015
recommend for: YA/middle grade readers, people without a mental or physical difference
pros: heartwarming & moving story, sympathetic characters, important messages, diversity
cons: a little predictable nearing the end, unnecessary ‘bully angle’ chapter (but this is not included in all editions!)

Nikki

Posted in Book Reviews, YA | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Top 5 Male Characters

And now time to spotlight our favourite dudes.

Nicole

1) BERNARD MARX (Brave New World): intelligent, shrewd, hypocritical, chronically frustrated, flawed but somehow you still root for him…I’ve been there too, Bernard. I also have felt surrounded by morons and injustice.

franco

This is kind of how I imagine Bernard. I know, I know! We’re not used to seeing James Franco in serious non-cheesy-comedies. But you remember 127 Hours and Spider-Man, right?? He can totally handle this.

2) HELMHOLTZ WATSON (Brave New World): too-intelligent, too-handsome, too-perfect, humble, poet, tortured god, gentle soul, tragic…

It sounds like I have a crush on him or something, but it’s more in an “aaw poor thing” way…which seems sarcastic when speaking of someone described as being burdened by their own perfection, but it makes sense in context! (Incidentally, I am far more likely to be crushing on Bernard. Actually I am. I have a crush on Bernard. He’s such a weasel BUT he is also maybe my spirit animal?…but I am not a weasel…!?)

"Thor" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals

Again, this is just how I imagine Helmholtz. An aside: I could totally see Clive Owen being a perfect Helmholtz too though.

3) MARKO (Saga): compassionate, dedicated to his loved ones, mostly pretty happy-go-lucky

marko-saga

**Claire’s Edit** I wanted him on my list but I figured since Nikki took him, I couldn’t make him appear twice!

5) JACK WILL (Wonder): loyal, strong-willed, level-headed, funny, congenial, sociable, strong moral compass

conti

Sort of how I imagine Jack

5) GEORGE MILTON (Of Mice And Men): ‘streetwise’, angry with the world, secretly compassionate, loyal friend(!!!), practical man with simple wants, skeptical of others

sinise

Gary Sinise actually did play George in the film, but I haven’t seen it yet…

 

Divider

Claire

I’m still not allowed to write about Harry Potter guys, so I cannot extoll the wondrous virtues of Ronald Weasley, or any Weasley for that matter, Dumbledore, Flitwick, any of the Maudaders (except Pettigrew). So this list won’t be filled with my Top 5 Men (who are Ron Weasley, Mr. Weasley, Lupin, Dumbledore, and Neville). FINE. Since I have to make due, here are my Top Dudes, 6, 7, 8, 9,and 10

**Nikki edit**: hahaha ♥

1) Mr. Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit): because I’ve been told that my personality is more than a passing resemblance to his, and I have to agree. He’s dedicated, loyal and willing to give danger a shot (a trait I don’t share, my adventurous friend Jess or Nikki would have to drag me kicking and screaming into one, Gryffindor I am not).

2) Meriadoc Brandybuck x Peregrin Took (The Lord of the Rings): Such sweetness, such epic foolishness. I love these two and couldn’t just pick one. They deserve a proper pairing and friendships such as this are so rare and so beautiful, I envy them.

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I dedicate this gif to my partner in crime, Jess, because the two of us together are a smash up of Frodo x Sam /Pipin x Merry

3) Peeta Mellark (The Hunger Games series): I quite enjoyed this character, he had a different sort of survival mode, one less agressive than Katniss’ who stumbled into fame. He carefully constructed his docile yet brave image and that takes gut and brains. I never did that whole Team Gale versus Team Peeta. Katniss is more than a fricken’ relationship and Peeta is more than a side piece, he is an epic example of bravery and love.

smile.

Stay strong Peeta!

4) Eddie Russett (Shades of Grey): An unconventional hero, Eddie Russett comes to realise the injustices of the world and says, you know what, I ain’t gonna just sit by and do nothing! My kinda bro.

5) Tyrion Lannister (A Song of Ice and Fire series): What can we do without humor? Life would be shrivled and meaningless. Dealt a hard hand, Tyrion is the pinacle of strength and brilliance. If I had a modicum of his wit, my life would be made.

Dinklage is brilliant as Tyrion.

OK, so I have to concede that this post was a bit easier to do than I thought it would be? Hmm… I’m still doing a Harry Potter top 5 men post though, I’d like to see Nikki try stop me! MWUAHAHAHAHA.

**Nikki edit**: I would actually love for you to do a HP top 5 men post. I just think HP has too many good characters that they end up just filling all the slots and we never get to hear about ALL THE OTHER fictional characters that deserve love! Just spreadin’ the love!!! PS: Neville Longbottom forever.

NameNikkixClaire

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Bookish Pet Peeves: Book Covers

Quirky'sReadsInstead of making this a Literary Listings post and just listing the things I don’t like, I want to actually discuss it here in greater detail and find out if anyone else has a few bookish pet peeves?

Book Cover Pet Peeves

Oh man, I am a seriously judgmental sort of person. I am the type of person to just look at a cover, not like it and completely pass it over. There is nothing that can get me to give it a chance, nothing except a great review by a friend. That being said, I’ve read crappy books because the cover looked good. I need to stop my judgmental ways but man, there are some cover-tropes that I just hate.

Ball Gowns: What the heck are they for?

BallGown

I can’t stand book covers with ballgowns on the front. I seriously, seriously, can’t. Why is she in the gown? Is the book a modern day Cinderella? Does she have a curse put upon her that she must be tight laced into a painfully outdated goth-looking dress? Is the only way she won’t be eaten by monsters, is to be enshrined in giant red organza? If not, then why the heck is this trope such a popular one? I notice that it is especially popular within the YA genres and I find it to be a big turn off as I find that it lessens the quality of the text. Now, remember, this is my personal opinion. The sight of a ballgown makes me want to shudder, in real life or on the book-o-sphere. What I especially don’t like is the over-feminization of it all. I’m sure those satin-clad heroines are kick-ass but it is all just a bit… much. Plus! I read a ball-gown book once and the protagonist never wore a darn ballgown in the book, what the heck is the point then?!

Abs-Of-Steel: Come hither or run away?

Men

At this point, as I type this I’m rolling around my bed going whhhhhhhhhy? I actually extend my dislike of this trope to the entire human species: I don’t see the point of a semi-naked man or woman on a book cover. I just don’t. To me, it screams that the book doesn’t have much content that all they could feature is a renegade looking tough guy. Even for urban novels or romances, there has to be more to add to the cover? Maybe?

Why does everyone have to make-out?

kissing

Again, these book cover pet peeves are all immensely personal and my own. I am not a huge fan of the romance genre, not withstanding, I can’t stand covers with couples making out in the front. Even in YA books, when I see a teenage couple kissing, even if it is an awkward peck, it is a turn off for me. To me, personally, these scream as to the lack of content that I’d find interesting. I don’t want to read about people making out so, why would I want to see it either? Plus, this is a bit nuanced I guess, but these types of covers really do suffer from a lack of diversity, which again, reflect their content. I have seen many covers with covers with people of cover embraced in a seemingly-torrid love scene, but those tend to reflect the “niche” element of the book (it being in the African-American genre for instance) which is fine, but I’d like to see a few mixed-race couples pop up a bit more or have more diverse casts. Again, the cover tends to reflect the content so there won’t be much more in the diversity scheme until people start actually writing more diversely.

So as it is, I won’t buy a cover if it has any semblance of a ballgown, washboard abs or PDA.

Do you have any book cover pet peeves?

NameClaire

Posted in Discussions | Tagged , | 22 Comments

Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Obsessed

Book: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
Publisher: Scholastic, 2003
Genre: Fantasy, Reducto!
Rating: HalfHeartHalfHeartHalfHeartHalfHeartHalfHeartHalfHeartHalfHeart
Source + Date Read
: Own + Every Year since I received it in 2002 when I was 14 years old.
Recommend: BUT OF COURSE!
Book Pro’s: ALL THE FEELS!

Summary: Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…
More Information: GoodReads x Pottermore

Favourite Line: “Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.”

“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.”

“Wit beyond measure is a man’s greatest treasure.”

“You know, Minister, I disagree with Dumbledore on many counts…but you cannot deny he’s got style…”

“Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.”

“Don’t put your wand there, boy! … Better wizards than you have lost buttocks, you know!”

Obligatory Warning: This is going to be an incredibly biased review filled with unicorns, rainbows and magic. If you don’t like Harry Potter or want any spoilers, please, I beg you, click onto another post. I’m not good at censoring myself. It will also be filled with memes.

I was in 10th grade when I waited to get my hands on this book. I had been severely traumatized by the 4th book, The Goblet of Fire and was determined to inflict more pain on myself it would seem (why? Why????). I remember getting it and being so very excited about it’s size. My Aunt, having returned from another trip, gave it to me at 6:30PM on a Friday. I started to read, skipped dinner and all kind of food and drink. I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t even willing to stop for bathroom breaks, though at midnight my mom came into my room and demanded I at least take a shower. I kept reading though, in my cupboard with the light on (my parents couldn’t see that light from their room) till I finished it at 7:30AM, roughly 13 hours after I started. I still remember my father’s face as he walked in and saw me clutching the book, sobbing in a heap on my bed. He seriously thought something was wrong with me. My mom laughed, called it teenage angst but people, have you ever felt like you’d been killed, completely gutted at the hands of a hardback?

Funny enough, The Order of the Phoenix is my least favourite Harry Potter book. It’s definitely #7 in the Harry Potter rankings for me with Chamber of Secrets coming in at number 6. I haven’t quite figured out what is number 5, indeed it seems like the other books are all squished in 1 and these other 2 are in the bottom ranks.

The Order of the Phoenix grows with our young protagonist, exploring the range of emotions felt by an average teenager. Potter, is of course, not an average teenager so his emotional upheaval is particularly acute. He, also, experiences severe PTSD which causes a great deal of conflict in his personal and emotional relationships with other individuals. With The Dark Lord returned, danger is very much real and no longer a distant threat. The fear of violence, pain and anguish is never more present than in this book, which I see see as another transitional tome, much like the The Goblet of FireThe Goblet of Fire wrenched our trio from childhood into adolescence very quickly, but the Order of the Phoenix all but shoves and kicks them into a tumulus adulthood.

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Oh Harry, we were teens too.

World building is sacrificed for the greater advancement for the plot, which I don’t dislike, so don’t get me wrong there! I did find Harry’s angst a bit irksome, but that’s because I don’t like reading angst. I do, however, agree that his angst is well placed and reasoned. Rowling writes with a logic that I find amazing. The plot holes and random loops from book 2 and 3 are gone. As Rowling’s writing matures, so does the plot, world building and overall cohesion of the book. So why is this book on the bottom of the Harry Potter pile (which, by the way, is way, way wayyyy above most books. Being 7 on the Harry Potter Scale is beyond #1 for the average book)? One word: Umbridge. I won’t even elaborate on that and just let it rest there.

Once I got over that annoying Hogshead meeting chapter or that drama with Cho (I know why Rowling includes her bits, but how can they both be so utterly clueless as to the others actions?), I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am also going to say this: Ron grows up a heck lot in this book. I mean everyone does and I talk about Harry a bit because you see his pain a great deal more acutely than anyone else, but Ron seriously grows up. Why? Because Ron took a risk, he took a risk and didn’t do so well but slowly learned to overcome his fears. I think that takes mammoth growth, I know adults who shirk from risks and my dead Ron didn’t! Mammoth. Even Hermoine has learned to calm down (a bit) and be less controlling (a bit). What of our dear Ginny? Growing into a feisty woman. Or the inclusion of Luna (one of my favourite characters, so blunt and honest and brilliant) and her quirky ways. What really touches my heart is Neville’s expansion. He isn’t some doughy thing, there for comedic relief, he grows. Like into a seriously amazing person. I’d have been BFFs with Neville. Easily. I think it was good of Rowling to make him a major plot point, because him and Harry are not juxtaposed, two orphans bereft of love or close family, they make and shape their lives with the little they are given.

The reason I find this book so traumatizing is detailed in a few chapters actually (spoilers ahead). It almost feels like all that struggle and all that growth hastens just to reach a gut-wrenching conclusion: Sirius’ death. What got me though, and made me sob for hours as a teen and again for a good 30 minutes yesterday, was Harry running to Nearly Headless Nick, hoping and wishing that he had an opportunity to see his beloved godfather again. I cry because I know that in his situation, I’d do the exact same thing. I’d hope that they’d stay, but like Nick says, very few witches and wizards do stay.

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Me after reading the last 4 chapters of this book.

And this is why I think the Order of the Phoenix is so successful, because you have to relate to Harry’s pain, his desperation and fear. He was burned by his own curiosity, his own love for Sirius and it tortures him. I can’t ever get the thought that my sister broke her arm because of me out of my head (and that happened when I was 12), so how then can Harry move on? How do you not crush yourself to bits? Rowling such a brilliant writer and as a major transitional book, the Order of the Phoenix whispers darkly of danger and evil to come, hastening your desire for the 6th book.

The painnnnnn. This book was a gut wrenching thing.

I’m writing this review as part of my Harry Potter ReRead initiative started by The Book Journey so everyone can expect a number of posts coming up!

Read other Harry Potter posts.

Did you like the Order of the Phoenix?

Name

Posted in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Harry Potter, YA | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Book Tag: Would You Rather…? Claire x Nikki Answer

Saw this post on Girl of 1000 Wonders and decided I had to do it! It was originally started on Fueled by Fiction so you should check them both out.

Book Tag: Would You Rather…?

1. Read only trilogies or stand alones?

Claire: I have a feeling that Nikki is going to pick apart the semantics on this one and make me roll my darn eyes. I don’t like only trilogies or only stand-alones but if you told me I could only read either or for the rest of my life, due to some quirk of the universe, I’d pick trilogies. I loooove them.

Nikki: Hahaha! I will do no such thing! I’m just gonna answer the question. For me: ONLY STAND-ALONES! I have yet to actually finish ANY series at all. ever…..EVER! Also, I feel like most series just seem to run out of steam after a while…

2. Read only female or male authors?

Claire: Female authors. This is so easy for me, I won’t even explain it.

Nikki: Dang… This is actually really hard.I reckon I could happily read only either one…but I guess I’ll go with female too. (Goodbye, PG Wodehouse! Goodbye, Lemony Snicket! Goodbye, Andrew Kaufman! Goodbye, Brian K Vaughan! Goodbye, Jon Klassen! Goodbye, John Steinbeck! Goodbye, Neil Gaiman! Goodbye, Garth Nix!(!!!! ;_; !))

**Nikki’s Edit** I’m already having regrets ;_;

3. Shop at Barnes & Noble or Amazon? (Claire’s Insert: Or WHSmith or Waterstones or a UK equivalent)

Claire: Amazon or Waterstones, I love Waterstones but Amazon can be a bit cheaper sometimes.

Nikki: F*CK Amazon and their f*cking bullshit! Destroying the publishing industry as best they can by being a monopsony and not paying their workers! *waves placards* I vote WATERSTONES hands down (or Barnes & Noble if you’re stateside). I’ve also shopped at local independents and Oxfam (charity) Bookshop and got some killer Amazon-smashing deals!

If this is more about brick & mortar vs online, though? I don’t know… Waterstones is often cheaper on their website with free shipping for orders of £10 or more (which is less than I typically spend in a bookstore visit so an ace deal!). hive.co.uk and word-power.co.uk have great deals too (the latter supports independent bookshops!).

4. All books become movies or t.v. shows?

Claire: Uhhhh, I will go with movies because I like sitting there in that atmosphere. I don’t know if I watched a tv show that was based on a book actually.

**Claire’s Edit** Darn it, I forgot about GOT, which is brilliant. I still vote movies though.

Nikki: Generally speaking, I vote movies. (Though, admittedly, I can’t imagine Game of Thrones being properly portrayed as a movie or even a set of movies…)

5. Read 5 pages per day or 5 books per week?

Claire: 5 pages a day! Slow and steady wins the race.

Nikki: I have an important question (one I’ve been thinking about a lot recently regarding my GR book challenge actually)! How long is a book?? Last year I read 5 kids books in one short trip to Waterstones. Assuming I can pad these readings out with graphic novels and kids books or – at the very least – novellas, 5 books per week! (If not, 5 pages per day.)

6. Be a professional reviewer or author?

Claire: Author, I’d love to write a book some day.

Nikki: Reviewer! I enjoy giving critique. Good critique that goes beyond “It was bad and poopy and terrible and I hated it” but also explains why I thought that and where I’m coming from. I like consuming and deconstructing other people’s work and gleaning bits about how they see the world, and comparing a wide range of authors and the execution of their intentions.

7. Only read your top 20 favourite books over and over or always read new ones that you haven’t read before?

Claire: I’d read the top 20 favourites over and over and over again for the rest of my life if I could. The Harry Potter 7 are in this category as well.

Nikki: NEW READS FOREVER! I practically never reread. There’s just sooo much stuff out there that I’m curious about and I want to get to as much of it as possible! Some of it will be brilliant, some of it will be terrible… But it will all be a new, enlightening adventure every time. That is exciting.

8. Be a librarian or book seller?

Claire: Librarian! Yes! I loved my librarian summers, when I stacked books and recommended goodies.

Nikki: Book seller! I get to decide what gets sold in my shop. Nothing I determine to be crap will be sold in my shop. SORRY lovers of the books that I detest! I can still recommend stuff to people and even encourage them to buy what I think they should by arranging the selections in skilled psychologically persuasive ways and using marketing strategies like 2 or 1 offers and such. I’d get to be really involved in the publishing feedback loop. I’d get to organise author signings and readings and all sorts of fun bookish events! (For a price! *toothy smile with one shiny gold cap that gleams when I say that last part.) I’d get paid to make you read stuff I think you should read! I’m drunk with power just thinking about it! Bwahahaha!

9. Only read your favorite genre, or every genre except your favorite?

Claire: ALWAYS READ MY FAVOURITE GENRE! Fantasy forever!

Nikki: Hmm…I choose every genre except my favourite(s). I think my life would be a sadder place without my favourite genres, but there’s still SO MUCH else to choose from! So, even if my faves were all taken away, I would still be happy to peruse other genres – some of which probably have elements of what I enjoy from my favourites.

10. Only read physical books or eBooks?

Claire: Physical books. It’ll help me gain some muscle mass as I hold them up.

Nikki: Haha, I like Claire’s reasoning. I also choose physical books too. The only reason to choose ebooks are for practical reasons, not because they are a genuine preference. If it’s about enjoyment (and reading should be), it’s going to have to be physical books.

**Claire’s Edit** Wow, Nikki and I agree on almost nothing, which is why I think we have such great discussions!

What would you rather?

NameNikkixClaire

Posted in Lists | 6 Comments

Review: The Brilliant History of Color in Art

Book: The Brilliant History of Color in Art by Victoria Finlay
Publisher: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Rating:
Source + Date Read
: Purchased + January 2015
Recommend: For a light NF read.
Book Pro’s: Easy to understand.
Book Con’s: I didn’t like the physical format.

Summary: The history of art is inseparable from the history of color. And what a fascinating story they tell together: one that brims with an all-star cast of characters, eye-opening details, and unexpected detours through the annals of human civilization and scientific discovery. Enter critically acclaimed writer and popular journalist Victoria Finlay, who here takes readers across the globe and over the centuries on an unforgettable tour through the brilliant history of color in art. Written for newcomers to the subject and aspiring young artists alike, Finlay’s quest to uncover the origins and science of color will beguile readers of all ages with its warm and conversational style. Her rich narrative is illustrated in full color throughout with 166 major works of art—most from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum.
More Information: GoodReads

I’ve read a previous work by Finlay (which I’ll do a review of later) and I was excited to see her return with another book based on color. For this review I’ll talk about what I liked at first then continue with the bits I didn’t so much enjoy.

Content wise, it’s pretty darn good. The Brilliant History isn’t the type of stodgy nonfiction that is hard to read and digest. It’s written in a widely accessible tone that readers of most ages will find enjoyable. It isn’t a condescending tone, you don’t get the impression that she’s talking down to you so much as she’s a teacher, trying to tease you along a journey. What I particularly enjoyed is the book’s strict focus, it only discusses the use of color as it applies to art and as a microhistory book, it is successful because the author doesn’t get confused or for the sake of knowledge, does huge awkward info dumps. Plus, as an amateur academic (and I seriously do say amateur) I think her research is found. It isn’t as deep as it could have been but for this book, that works. If she’d have gone deeper it would be thicker and much harder to read.

Now, what I didn’t like. I despise the book’s format, I really, really do. When I purchased it I thought it was a regular hardback edition. What I found is that it’s square in nature and resembles a coffee table book. Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t enjoy that style of book. It doesn’t make for a comfortable or engrossing read, physically, as at most it’s a lap book. I didn’t like holding it and reading it was cumbersome. I also, and this is just my being immensely picky, I didn’t like the physical format of the pages. Every page exploded with bright-colored prints and the text were sandwiched on the sides most of the time so it resembled a very bright and dizzy newspaper. I recognize what for me knocked it down a heart will actually be a plus to another, but I wish they’d printed it in a standard hardback or paperback. Sigh, here’s to wishing.

Either way, the actual book is great, I just didn’t enjoy the format.

Name

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Is It Worth The Struggle?

We all come across those books we start, get a little ways into and then the going just gets tough. Then we have a choice to make: put it down and walk away, or struggle through in hopes it will work out in your favour in the end (with the chance it won’t)! It’s kind of like the latter is rolling the dice and going all or nothing using your precious time as the bargaining chips.

I don’t have any rules for how to decide this. I don’t struggle through everything, I don’t always DNF and I sometimes might return to DNFs (or sometimes not). The books I’ll choose to struggle through are often ones I’m curious about for reasons of enlightenment. I may not enjoy the process of reading a story, but I might still learn something from it…or about the world…or about the time it was written…or about me! Books I’ve struggled through to the end despite not having the most enjoyable experience have included (but are not limited to!) The Handmaid’s Tale, The Great Gatsby, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Heart of Darkness. I found most them just OK (one of them I’d say headed into dislike territory)…but I don’t regret making myself keep going because I still gained enough for the experiences to have been worth it for me.

In fact, generally speaking, I feel a sense of accomplishment when I struggle through a book and (I know this is terrible) a sense of satisfaction at having gained the right to say “I think book SUCKS and I know this because I gave it ALL the chances and read it ALL the way through from COVER TO COVER*! I understand its points, I think they were badly or ineffectively made and this piece of crap is overrated.” Only a truly sadistic and petty human can feel the sense of self-satisfaction I feel being able to say that after what has ostensibly been a total wast of my precious, precious time.

*In fact, I really like to give disliked stories (classics in particular) the benefit of the doubt and I will even look at study notes (ie Sparknotes, Cliff Notes, etc) to make sure I haven’t just missed some massive point the book has been making and calling it a fault. But I have consistently found that I have understood what was being put across but just didn’t connect with the literature. #Validation!

But what else would I be doing with my precious, precious time!? If I’m honest, probably something stupid. If I felt like reading a different book at that time, I would have been. But I wasn’t. So the only other thing I’d be doing is probably asking the internet stupid things like “How wealthy is North Korea and how does it make money?” or “What is the difference between ale, beer, larger and stout?” or “Cee-lo and Gnarls Barkley the same person?” or “When is the Saga volume 5 bind-up coming out????!!!!!????” These are all actual searches I have made in my free time. It is probably a better use of my time to be reading some culturally relevant piece of fiction that I don’t connect with… Or is it?

The truth is, objectively, I flip flop between thinking struggling through a book is always worth my time or sometimes not worth the hassle. I get the argument that life is too short for not always doing what you want. However, I also feel like enriching myself as a human being – while not always the most fun thing – is worth my time. Loads of good things aren’t fun. Training for a marathon sounds just completely awful to me, but I know I would feel like I’d accomplished something ma-hoo-ssive if I struggled through the training and completed one!

So what’s my point here? Well, I’m not sure there is one. Personally, I’m more willing to struggle through something I might learn from (academically, emotionally, culturally, etc) than to even pick up something that seems like a superficial, copycat waste of time. This is probably why I pick up a fair few classics. Classics have stood the test of time and much literary critique. Contemporary titles…haven’t had enough time to really be turned over yet and can sometimes be vapid, copycat versions of classics.

Obviously, it would be ridiculous to assume that all classics are worth the struggle and no contemporary works are. There are always exceptions to the ‘rules’. Which is why I prefer not to think about rules for whether I stay with a book or not. I like to think getting halfway through a book means I’ve sampled enough to justifiably put it down, but I have got to the very end of books that made me realise I was wrong about them all along. Likewise, I have got only a few pages into others that have signalled to me very loudly that they were not meant for me. It’s always going to be on a book to book basis.

Have you ever done ‘the struggle’? Why or why not?

Nikki

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