Category Archives: Books

CHRISTMAS READING CHALLENGE – 01 – Nine Lives of Christmas – Sheila Roberts

Delighted and excited to announce that @BookElfLeeds has a brand new reading challenge!

Jess had decided to seek out the Christmas Spirit in contemporary fiction. And like all good reading challenges; there’s a strict criteria to be followed. 

  1. The book must have Christmas in the title. 
  2. Some one has lost the Christmas Spirit.
  3. A Christmas Miracle will therefore have to occur.
  4. Some one will then regain the Christmas Spirit.

So please, make yourself comfy and enjoy the first review!

Who has lost the Christmas Spirit?

Firefighter and all-round hunk, Zach. Zach’s a basically decent guy with an unfortunate penchant for treating women as objects, but it’s not his fault, man, he is issues.

What form does the Christmas Miracle occur?

An old ginger cat called Ambrose. Ambrose is on his last life (the ninth of the title), and feels guilty that he’s wasted the rest of them. He just wants to live! He promises The Christmas Spirit that he will make someone’s life better if only he can live, and guess whose life that ends up being…

Hyper-masculine Zach doesn’t need women, they’re nothing but trouble, and relationships only end in misery, don’t they? But when he rescues Ambrose from the snarling jaws of a Rottweiler, Ambrose makes it his personal mission to make Zach’s life better, which obviously means getting him a decent mate.

The chosen love interest is Merilee, who, sad upon sad, used to be fat. But don’t worry, gang, she isn’t any more! She now has a “hot body” and is cute in an elfish red haired way. But of course, she has zero self-esteem. Because she used to be fat. Sad.

This book is a mix of mad-cap cat inspired japes and fatphobia. There are baddies and goodies, but the line between the two is very much Do You Like Cats? Zach’s redemption story is quite sweet, involving appreciating family and learning to accept your parents as people who make mistakes, but Merilee’s lesson that you have to buy lovely clothes and stay thin in order to achieve happiness, which is man shaped, grates. Ambrose the cat is the best thing in it. I also loved how the town had a suitably Christmassy name, “Angel Falls”, and representation of firefighters as hunky heroes with a heart.

I didn’t hate this book, but it didn’t give me many warm and fuzzies. It HAS however been adapted as a Hallmark movie, WITH BRANDON ROUTH,  which I am not going to lie, I have marked up as Future Hangover Viewing…

 

Listen to @BookElfLeeds and I introduce the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge – HERE 

Or just click here!

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PODCAST – The Quest for the Christmas Spirit

So much excitement!!

The podcast is back! Huzzah!!

And it’s back because @BookElfLeeds is doing a new reading challenge – the 12 reads of Christmas!! Huzzah huzzah!!!

She will mostly be reading books that follow a strict and very complex criteria (reviews will start tomorrow) which she sums up as

‘someone has lost (or does not have) The Christmas Spirit. There is The Christmas Miracle (oft aided by small children or animals). The person therefore finds (or gains) The Christmas Spirit.’

Also, it has to have Christmas in the title.

From A Christmas Carol to It’s a Wonderful Life, hallmark movies and children’s classics, tv specials and Christmas music – we take a moment to appreciate the hope behind the holiday.

One of the first books in the challenge was called ‘The Nine Lives of Christmas’ by Sheila Roberts, which was turned into a Hallmark Christmas movie in 2014, starring a former Superman.Enjoy!

mp3 LINK

m4a LINK

Incredibly relatable illustration

Spotted this while randomly googling imaginary libraries that I wish were mine (what? perfectly valid search thread) by Tom Gauld (who tweets as @TomGauld).

 

Then spent a very happy half hour checking out his comics – many have a literary theme! He does happen to have a book out – Baking with Kafka – so it seems only polite to include a link to that also – HERE!

Last one I swear but relevant to Sunday’s book club 🙂

 

LBC 3 Reads – Book 15 – All Quiet on the Western Front

#LBC3Reads

Date:  16th of April 2016
Time:  11am – 1pm
Address: Unit 2
Munro House,
Duke St,
Leeds LS9 8AG

DISCUSSED – 

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT 
ERICH MARIA REMARQUE

BLURB

One by one the boys begin to fall…

In 1914 a room full of German schoolboys, fresh-faced and idealistic, are goaded by their schoolmaster to troop off to the ‘glorious war’. With the fire and patriotism of youth they sign up. What follows is the moving story of a young ‘unknown soldier’ experiencing the horror and disillusionment of life in the trenches.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (AMAZON)

Erich Maria Remarque was a German author and veteran of the First World War. He was born 1898 in Osnabrück, Germany. At the age of 18 he was conscripted into the German army. During his service he was wounded by shrapnel in the left leg, right arm and neck. Following the war he worked as a primary school teacher, and later as a librarian, a journalist and a technical writer.
Among Remarque’s published novels were All Quiet on the Western Front, The Road Back, Three Comrades and Arch of Triumph. His works were publicly burned by the Nazi German government, and in 1947 he and his first wife became naturalised citizens of the United States. Four years earlier, his sister had been executed at the behest of Hitler’s ‘People’s Court’.
Remarque adapted the book Ten Days to Die, about Hitler’s final days, as a screenplay, and he also wrote for the stage. His last novel was The Night in Lisbon, published in 1962. During his lifetime Remarque married twice and had love affairs with the actresses Hedy Lamarr, Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo.

 

Thanks very much to the wonderful Karoline for hosting and writing up this book club – find her here @KarolineAKemp!

It was good to welcome two new faces to our discussion, Jane and Katy who also come to White Swan.

We had a discussion about the translation, some of the group had a more recent translation from the mid 1990’s and it was generally felt to be much more accessible than the earlier one.  We also discussed the translation of the title, the note on the new translation states that a direct translation from the German is ‘Nothing New on the Western Front’

The book was fairly easy to read in the modern translation and it was noted that that the tense changed from the singular to the plural during the scenes at the front. It was noted that nowadays we expect to have strong characterisation and narrative drive from contemporary fiction but that there is no narrative drive in War.  As the book went on it became more and more detached as Paul became more detached from his own life.

AQOTWF is written from the point of view of a German private Paul. It was felt that the language used  was chosen to emphasise the commonality and gruelling of experience of trench warfare regardless of side. Emphasised particularly in the scene in the shell hole with the solider that he killed.  It is also something that has been brought out recently by historians of the First World War (see the History Hit podcast with @gerarmyresearch).

It was felt that the language used effectively conveyed vivid  imagery of the experiences of being in the front line as well as the banality of being behind the lines when comic interludes such as Kat getting the food were used to good effect. The emphasis on the food (or lack) of it conveyed its importance to the troops, most effectively that when they suddenly get good food they realise that it means they are heading to the front line.

We felt that the characterisation was kept deliberately vague, the concentration was on passages dealing with Paul’s interior life such as when he was on leave and felt totally alienated from his previous life, We felt that Paul represented the everyman, he grew but never lost his humanity.

We felt that the strong bond between the school friends was shown well.  We all felt the horror of the scenes with the rats and felt that the scenes in the mists where very lyrical which intensified the horror.

The book also pointed out how much harder it was going to be for the younger men who had become soldiers straight from school to readjust and/or keep going as they didn’t have families/jobs to go back to.  It was also very scathing about the generation who were too old to fight themselves but where very vocal at making the younger generations go.

We decided that we  would have preferred the end to have been left more open than it was and felt that it packed a lot into quite a slim book.

 

Trailer for the 1979 film

[youtube https://youtu.be/DX1PW2n8POg]

 

SCORE –

8/10

Find fellow members on twitter by searching for #LBC3Reads.
Follow @Cafe164 for details on the deliciousables!
Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me @LeedsBookClub, commenting below or emailing me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com

BOOK CLUB MEET UP PAGE

August and September Book Choices!

We have our next few months choices in!

LBC 3 Reads (#LBC3Reads)

  • NOTE – moved to August – venue TBA
  • High Rising – Angela Thirkell

LBC Horsforth (#LBCHorsforth)

  • 9 August – The Good Immigrant – Nikesh Shukla
  • 13 September – The Lemon Table – Julian Barnes

LBC White Swan (#LBCWSwan)

  • 13 August – The last condo board of the Apocalypse – Nina Post
  • 10 September – Pirate Cinema – Cory Doctorow

Oscar Wilde – on priorities

I’m not actually entirely convinces that it *was* Oscar Wilde who said this – I’ve been caught before by google’s propensity to link all quotable phrases as his or Churchill!

 

Still, love the sentiment!!

LISTEN TO – The Reith Lectures – Hilary Mantel

Just sat in the car for ten minutes to the last moments of the forth of Hilary Mantel’s Reith Lectures on BBC Radio 4 – I didn’t want to lose a word, while relocating! Don’t know how I’ve missed the previous three – clearly I’m very successfully sleep walking through life right now – but really looking forward to a catch up!

Mandatory Credit: Photo by SUTTON-HIBBERT/REX (424360ae)
HILARY MANTEL
THE EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL, EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND, BRITAIN – AUG 2003

Now, I don’t always ‘get’ Hilary Mantel, but after a rough start with Wolf Hall (see HERE and HERE) but had a much happier time with its follow up ‘Bring up the Bodies’. However, she is always an unusual and spirited speaker and I very much enjoyed listening to how she viewed her world as an author (and NOT a historian!).

For your convenience, links to the 4 parts that have currently aired are below.

From the BBC website:

Over this series of five lectures, Dame Hilary discusses the role that history plays in our culture. How can we understand the past, she asks, and how can we convey its nature today? Above all, she believes, we must all try to respect the past amid all its strangeness and complexity.

This series is chaired by Sue Lawley. The producer is Jim Frank.

Part 1 – The Day Is for the Living

Art can bring the dead back to life, argues the best-selling novelist Hilary Mantel, starting with the story of her own great-grandmother. “We sense the dead have a vital force still,” she says. “They have something to tell us, something we need to understand. Using fiction and drama, we try to gain that understanding.” She describes how and why she began to write fiction about the past, and how her view of her trade has evolved. We cannot hear or see the past, she says, but “we can listen and look”.

Click here to have a listen on the BBC website 

Part 2 – The Iron Maiden

How do we construct our pictures of the past, including both truth and myth, asks best-selling author Hilary Mantel. Where do we get our evidence? She warns of two familiar errors: either romanticising thepast, or seeing it as a gory horror-show. It is tempting, but often condescending, to seek modern parallels for historical events. “Are we looking into the past, or looking into a mirror?” she asks. “Dead strangers…did not live and die so we could draw lessons from them.” Above all, she says, we must all try to respect the past amid all its strangeness and complexity.

Click here to have a listen on the BBC website 

Part 3 – Silence Grips the Town

The story of how an obsessive relationship with history killed the young Polish writer Stanislawa Przybyszewska, told by best-selling author, Hilary Mantel. The brilliant Przybyszewska wrote gargantuan plays and novels about the French Revolution, in particular about the revolutionary leader Robespierre. She lived in self-willed poverty and isolation and died unknown in 1934. But her work, so painfully achieved, did survive her. Was her sacrifice worthwhile? “She embodied the past until her body ceased to be,” Dame Hilary says. “Multiple causes of death were recorded, but actually she died of Robespierre.”

Click here to have a listen on the BBC website 

Part 4 – Can These Bones Live?

Hilary Mantel analyses how historical fiction can make the past come to life. She says her task is to take history out of the archive and relocate it in a body. “It’s the novelist’s job: to put the reader in the moment, even if the moment is 500 years ago.” She takes apart the practical job of “resurrection”, and the process that gets historical fiction on to the page. “The historian will always wonder why you left certain things out, while the literary critic will wonder why you left them in,” she says. How then does she try and get the balance right?

Click here to have a listen on the BBC website 

Part 5 – Adaptation

Hilary Mantel on how fiction changes when adapted for stage or screen. Each medium, she says, draws a different potential from the original. She argues that fiction, if written well, doesn’t betray history, butenhances it. When fiction is turned into theatre, or into a film or TV, the same applies – as long as we understand that adaptation is not a secondary process or a set of grudging compromises, but an act of creation in itself. And this matters. “Without art, what have you to inform you about the past?” she asks. “What lies beyond is the unedited flicker of closed-circuit TV.”

This episode hasn’t yet aired.

Check out the trailer for the excellent BBC series Wolf Hall – based on the first of Hilary Mantel’s Tudor trilogy.

March Book Choices!

Hi all,

 

A quick update on what our next few reads shall be! As always, if you spot any corrections, don’t hesitate to let me know!

March

  • 8th – Horsforth – God help the child – Toni Morrison
  • 12th – White Swan – The Three Body Problem – Cixin Liu

April

  • 12th – Horsforth – TBA
  • 9th – White Swan – Hagseed by Margaret Atwood (if available) or The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula L Guin
  • 22nd – LBC3 Reads – Whit by Iain Banks

i-wish-to-go-home-and-read-a-book

February and March Choices

Hi all,

As I’ve been a bit out of things, I’m only just getting around to finding out what books are when. Please do let me know if I get the books in the wrong order, the dates muddled and so on!

Shall be aiming to catch up with emails and admin over the next fortnight – apologies if you’ve been waiting ages!!

February

  • 8th – Horsforth – The Tale of the Duelling Neurosurgeons – Sam Kean
  • 12th – White Swan – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

March

  • 8th – Horsforth – God help the child – Toni Morrison
  • 12th – White Swan – TBA

April

  • 12th – Horsforth – TBA
  • 9th – White Swan – TBA
  • 22nd – LBC3 Reads – Whit by Iain Banks

happy-reading

PODCAST – BookElfLeeds Reading Challenge – Update

modern mrs darcy reading challenge

This year, @BookElfLeeds and I decided to reignite our reading groove thaing by completing a reading challenge. We found this awesome list by Modern Mrs Darcy – and already we’re inspired!

Jess provides us with an update of her Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge of 2016.

With 6 books read; she’s at the halfway mark already!

From historical fiction to librarian-readers-recommendations books (oooh, secret knowledge!) to coming-of-age to raunchy reading for teens – join us for a fascinating voyage of literary wonder!!

As with any other podcast that I am involved in; the usual language warnings apply (it’s really bad – mixed metaphors, noun-aphasia and swearing that would make a navy blush!)

Mobile Link

Visit our  Modern Mrs Darcy 2016 Reading Challenge page to see our choices (for now!)

  1. a book published this year
  2. a book you can finish in a day
  3. a book you’ve been meaning to read
  4. a book recommended by a local librarian or bookseller
  5. a book you should have read in school
  6. a book chosen by your spouse/partner/sibling/child or BFF
  7. a book published before you were born
  8. a book that was banned at some point
  9. a book that was previously abandoned
  10. a book you own but have never read
  11. a book that intimidates you
  12. a book you’ve already read at least once

If you’d like to join us with this – or any other reading challenges, please drop me an email, leave a comment or tweet one of us!


PODCASTS

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