Sunday, 31 January 2010

Name Change

There have been some changes going on lately. Hence the change of my blog name. This woman still has opinions but this blog has grown into a forum for my thoughts on books. My name change does still reflect my previous identity as Women with an Opinion but I do like this new title a lot better.

Sunday Salon: January Round Up

The Sunday

Highlights so far:

Sookie Stackhouse
I finished the most recent addition to the True Blood saga. This is probably the first time I have dipped my toe into the paranormal fiction genre and completed my mission (Twilight ended in a ball of fire and an unfinished read). Dead and Gone has a 'Final Battle' feel to it and I'm not sure where Harris is going to go after this. The book opens with the Weres/shape shifters coming out of the closet. And the small matter of a murder occurring in the backyard of Merlottes. Believe it or not, Sookie has more pressing concerns such as mad, bad fairies turning up. Thoroughly enjoyed this adventure and read it almost in one sitting. Now I just have to wait for series 3 of True Blood later this year *grumbles*

The Believers by Zoe Heller
Absolutely loved this book. It's a short read (comes in at just over 300 pages) and follows the Litvinoff family in New York. The patriarch, Joel, suffers a massive stroke and this provides the framework to explore the relationships in his family. Audrey: his hypocritical Socialist wife. Rosa: their eldest daughter who is looking to religion to answer her empty life. Kara: the youngest girl who is stuck in a loveless marriage, trying for a baby. Lenny: the adopted and feckless younger son.

Heller has such a fantastic way of writing that highlights the flaws of characters. Kara's weakness for high calorie snacks, Audrey's nasty and downright cruel temper. The Believers is an adpt title for the book as Joel's stroke provides a stimulus for his family to question the very (shaky) foundations its based upon.

Despite this, the book does have a bittersweet ending. I found myself cheering for one particular character and mentally jumping up and down, waving pom poms. Although I was surprised Heller chose to end the narrative at that particular point. Was it, perhaps, to convey a small sense of hope and optimism for the characters she had created?

Go read it. Go on, I dares you :)

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Farber

Finally finished this door stopper of a book last week. My creative writing tutor had warned us about the ending. Silly thing to say but it just ends. Although you can guess what happens, Farber doesn't explicitly show us where some of the characters end up. It is nice to read something in which you're not spoon fed an ending but it did leave me wanting more.

The language and sometimes explicit sex scenes may put some people off but please read past this. In the later stages of the book, it truly doesn't matter and there's very little sex that takes place. An important feature of the narrative due to the changing role of Sugar, the book's prostitute and some may call her the heroine of the book too.

February looks like it's going to be the month of the Millennium trilogy for me. I broke my aversion to buying hardbacks and used some Christmas money to buy The Girl Who Kicked A Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson. Already I've been sucked into the final installment of the lives of Lisbeth Salander and Michkel Blomskiv. It does make me sad that we won't see any more from these books due to Larsson's untimely death.

Finally, I was saddened to hear of the passing of JD Salinger. Thank you, sir, for writing The Catcher in the Rye. I read it when I was 12, didn't understand it very well but numerous re-reads later and Holden Caulfield has a small place in my heart. A glass will be raised in his honour this evening.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Verdict so far?

For lots of reasons I won't go into, 2010 has not run terribly smoothly so far. At the moment I feel like I'm limping from one drama to the next. And it's only the end of January. One positive offshoot from my current 'oh woe is me' state is that my writing productivity has seen a small spike lately. The last time I was this miserable I was 15, hated school and wrote obsessively to escape from my festering pit of teenage depression.

This reminds me of something my current creative writing tutor said. He remarked that not all writing had to be a brutal, bearing open the soul process. Sometimes I'm not too sure about that. When I hit 18, I found myself happy. I had a good social circle, a course with little practical use for real life but something I enjoyed, a possible boyfriend (though that turned out to be an utter car crash....), a part-time job that awarded me some financial independence. Then I stopped writing.

Now I find myself scribbling away at the back of my notepad, writing random lines, pieces of dialogue, characters that have popped into my head: some to stay for a while, others just a flying visit. Perhaps I have to be a little bit miserable to want to write. That doesn't feel like an entirely bad thing. Now, when I refuse to come out of my flat and have stuck post its all over the floor then people should start worrying....

Friday, 15 January 2010


And so another semester commences. Due to the nature of the course I am doing (MSc Information Management and Preservation, thanks for asking), the class has been split into those following the Theory route and those who are doing the Digital strand. I am firmly in the Digital camp; purely because I couldn't cope with another semester of reading about what I'm meant to be doing. Also I have never really written reports or embarked on a formal project; something I think I need to experience before I venture into the working world. The Digital strand is assessed via two projects and two reports.

So far the classes have been interesting. They are a hybrid of I.T. and archival theory; strange bedfellows. Yesterday's pratical session involved basic elements of appraisal, document handling, all the stuff I learnt whilst on various pre-course placements. We share the class with some I.T. students and some of them looked so bemused, bless 'em. Some of the language triggered ten year old high school computing classes such as DPI, 8 bit, 600 resolution. Nice to realise I have forgotten all that. And I'm learning similar stuff that I was learning ten years ago. That's a bit scary and makes me feel I haven't moved on terribly much.

So that's where I am at the moment. How are you guys?

Sunday, 3 January 2010

The Sunday Salon: New Year, New Turn of the Page

The Sunday

Not posted here for some time. Hopefully something that will change over the next year or so :)

In the final months of 2009 I became obsessed with the Sookie Stackhouse books. They are not the best books ever written and sometimes Sookie does your head in but, by golly, there's something about them that sucks you in. The television adaptation just hit UK screens a couple of months ago and nearly everyone I know has been watching it.

It does feel a bit hypocritical due to my intense hatred of Twilight. Essentially the Sookie Stackhouse Saga is Twilight but with more sex. A hellva lot more sex. No subliminal abstinence messages here. Oh and the telepathic abilities but that's it. But they are highly addictive. One negative offshoot of reading the entire series almost in one go is that the books seemed to merge together. I could tell you the plot of the first and second books but any further on and I start getting mixed up with the characters' activities.

But they make a nice distraction from 'orrible uni reading. I am currently anxiously awaiting the most recent book in the series from Amazon. This might be swallowed up rather quickly if it arrives before the Christmas break is over (lucky me, I don't go back until the 11th).

However, my first 'proper' read of 2010 is the tome that is The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. It was on my reading list for my writing class and I happened to spot it in a charity shop a week later. The tutor had described it as a 'typical' Victorian novel but written in the twentieth century. I have to admit I find it hard to get into Dickens and other books of that era. I do feel ashamed that I have only read the children's abridged version of Oliver Twist, Great Expectations and David Copperfield.

The book weighs in at c. 1000 pages but I have been gobbling it down. Last night was a quiet one at work so I managed to reign in 100 pages. The story revolves around numerous characters. The people at the centre of this saga are William Rackham, a feckless man turned failed writer turned master of his father's perfume business and Sugar, a prostitute that William becomes obsessed by. Faber's writing is a joy to read, his descriptions of Victorian London are so vivid that you can almost smell the filth and the squalour; the perfumes that Rackham's factories make. Some of the language in the book would make a genteel Victorian lady faint with shock but it does paint a picture of the less than prim Victorians that people skirt over. They were dirty bitches some of them, so they were ;)

So far, the start to my reads of 2010 is going rather swell.

2010: The Year to Gain?

And the festive period is over for another year. This season went more smoothly for myself and Him Indoors. Last year we were both ill in the run up to Christmas and could not be bothered with being sociable. On Christmas Day we visited both sets of parents and it went better than expected. I didn't eat too much (read: stuff myself silly) and felt the better for it. I also wore a dress on Christmas Day with my lovely new Doc Marten boots with roses up the side. Alas my camera has given up the ghost after many years of service so no pictures.

I have been mulling over making a post here. 2009 was not a great year for lots of reasons; most notably two deaths of matriarch figures in the family within a week of each other. The pain is still there for some family members left behind and I feel a tad helpless. There's not much I can do to help the grief. 2009 was a year for regret and petty guilt for not spending enough time with the people I cared about - still care about.

Resolutions are something that I am sceptical about. You set yourself up in the bleakest month of the year. All these fabulous goals for you to achieve by the end of the year. And, if you're like me, they are all broken by the end of February.

So I am going to keep it simple. 2010 is going to be the year for preparing to stretch my wings. The last days of 2009 were spent having a massive tidy up and clear out of the flat. I came to realise how much random crap and possessions I have in my life. By Bookcrossing standards I committed a sin by tipping two boxes of books into the charity shop bag without even making release notes for them. Shock horror! By then I felt so over whelmed with the amount of bags of rubbish, recycling and charity shop donations that I would have dropped a bomb in the hallway to help clear the mess. At one point we could hardly get out the front door.

I have been watching the efforts (such a pithy word but I can't think of anything better at this time of day and only halfway through my first cup of coffee) of Ms Wolf to complete 1001 goals in 101 days. Post-uni it's something I'd like to try out and see how I get on. 2010 is going to be the year when I get more organised, a skill I seriously lack at times.

This post can be easily summed up by a conversation I had with Him Indoors this week. "I don't want to hit 30 and all I have achieved in life is an in depth knowledge of fecking Come Dine With Me. I want to do something." Not to blast the almighty CDWM but there has to be more to life than this.