Not Enough Bookshelves: September 2011

Monday, 26 September 2011

Six Things I’ve Been Doing While I haven’t Been Blogging

1) Playing with my son ~ we are both in love with the new dragon at the playground.

2) Reading ~ Mainly adult books (hence the lack of reviews), but I did read and love Meg Cabot’s All American Girl books. Also I’ve just started As I Wake by Elizabeth Scott

3) Watching Jane Eyre,  finally! I was so excited about this movie and then it came out the day I left the US, and then it didn’t release here until September. Which is crazy as it was a BBC production. Anyway I am happy to report it was well worth the wait. The two leads are fabulous, it’s beautifully shot, and it’s a really good adaptation.

4) Watching TV ~ one good thing about Autumn is the TV. I’m currently loving the second season of Downton Abby, the last *sob* season of Spooks, and the new series of Strictly Come Dancing, Jason Donovan to win!

5) Making Granola, this is so yummy and so easy, but I am eating it like candy!

6) Writing ~ still slogging away here. The word count rising slowly.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Book Review: And Then Things Fall Apart by Arlaina Tibensky

Keek’s life was totally perfect.

Keek and her boyfriend just had their Worst Fight Ever, her best friend heinously betrayed her, her parents are divorcing, and her mom’s across the country caring for her newborn cousin, who may or may not make it home from the hospital. To top it all off, Keek’s got the plague. (Well, the chicken pox.) Now she’s holed up at her grandmother’s technologically-barren house until further notice. Not quite the summer vacation Keek had in mind.
With only an old typewriter and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for solace and guidance, Keek’s alone with her swirling thoughts. But one thing’s clear through her feverish haze—she’s got to figure out why things went wrong so she can put them right. (from Goodreads)

After reading an interview with Arlaina Tibensky on The Contemps, I impulse bought And Then Things Fall Apart  (thank you Kindle).

It was love at first word. Not since I encountered Francesca Spinelli have I so instantly been hooked by a character’s voice (I know regular readers, I know!).

Keek is  fabulous, I just loved her. Her voice lunges out of the book, grabs hold of you, and keeps hold, long after the last word is read. Arlaina Tibensky does a wonderful job of making her just the right side of self absorbed and angsty. She’s realistic, but not annoying. She’s also funny and confused, and, like all my favourite characters a bit of a mess.

As she poured out her story and her opinions, I laughed, sympathized, and laughed some more. Half way through I did have a flicker of worry that there was no way the second half could be as good.

Dear reader (as Keek would say) it absolutely was.

As her health returns Keek has more interactions with the outside world, but this book remains low on dialogue, and high on retelling and reflection. Which is not a combination I normally fall for, but here it is done perfectly.

I don’t think it’s for everyone, I’m sad to say. The lack of dialogue, the frank musings on sex and virginity, and the very frequent references to The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath may not be to all readers tastes. For me though it was absolutely wonderful. I adored every second I spent in Keek’s head. I wish I’d known her when I was fifteen.

And Then Things Fall Apart has a guaranteed place in my top ten of the year, it is just sofa king* good.

And because the best books speak for themselves here are two of my favouirte quotes.

Reading makes me feel like I’ve lived a thousand lives in addition to my own. Characters in books really stick around for me. You know cartoon cells, the translucent sheets they draw on to make cartoons? Every time I read a book, especially one that grabs my guts, there is another translucent layer added to what makes me me. Each layer is saturated in color and signed by the artist.

Getting all emotionally wrapped up in made-up people’s lives gives me a chance to take a break from my own life, to stretch my legs under warm water, close my eyes, and inhale until I can think straight.

Finally, how absolutely gorgeous is the cover.  I, of course, how need a hard copy too. It makes me want to do all my writing on a typewriter, or you know have one around for aesthetic purposes, there would be too much typex required if I used a typewriter.

* say it fast. It took me about thirty pages and then it clicked

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Book Review – The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I wish I could remember who told me about this book, I want to go back and give them a huge hug, for introducing me to a book that might just be life changing.

As you can probably tell I really loved The Happiness Project, which is why it’s getting a mention here, when it’s not YA. Normally I am not a fan of self help books, and I hesitate to call The Happiness Project that. It’s more an inspirational memoir of one woman’s year. I started my own Happiness Project on the 1st September and I do hope I’ll keep going for the whole year. I even set up a blog to detail it all (but I’ve failed to post there yet – excellent start right?)

The Happiness Project is a really nice mix of Gretchen Rubin’s own Happiness Project and all the books she’s read on happiness (there are a lot) I loved all the research she did from Ben Franklin to St. Thérèse. She splits the book into twelve months and focuses on a different area of her life each month – love, work, parenthood, etc. I found most of the scientific and psychological research she shared fascinating. I love stuff like that.  I was also completely involved in her story, it was like reading about a friend. She’s very honest, and I felt like I knew her by the end of the book. I was also deadly jealous inspired when she set up a book group for adults who love YA .

I think most people will feel a connection to Gretchen Rubin when they read this, due to her style of writing, and the fact that a lot of the small barriers to happiness are things we all deal with but don’t give much thought too. For example I would never claim that a pile of papers and junk mail on the side makes me unhappy, but it does annoy me and some days it can be the tipping point. Frequently I look back and realize  I got upset about the small stuff to avoid getting upset about the big stuff. If the small stuff is sorted though then the big stuff becomes more manageable. Or so I’m hoping.

Even if you’re a generally upbeat, happy person, I think The Happiness Project is worth reading. It’s a great reminder of how important the small things are, and how we should make the most of, and appreciate each moment. As my favourite quote from the book goes “The days are long, but the years are short.”

 Gretchen Rubin also has an excellent blog The Happiness Project