Sunday, 19 July 2015

6 month anniversary and a Liebster Award

So, I figured I would do an update on my reading goals and such.  According to my calendar I have been blogging for 6 months now!  I have been pretty quiet this month with the blogging, I've had a cellulitis infection in my leg.  I've been feeling generally unwell and I've been swamped with my application for my English MA, which hopefully should start in October.  I've also foolishly lost my iPod touch so no more Audible for the time being...

Anyway, back to the purpose of this post, reading goals!  The only real reading challenge I'm doing well on is my overall numbers target.  I set myself a challenge to read 36 books this year, so far I am on 32!  The average book length is 285 pages, which isn't that bad.  I'm falling behind on my LGBT challenge (3/8) and on my Mental Health Advocacy (2/8) but my Classics Club Challenge is going ok.

Liebster Award
A super big thanks to Cynthia from Cynthia's On Pens and Needles for nominating me in May.  The Liebster Award is an award for new bloggers, helping us network and to be encouraging and supportive.  I have been looking for new bloggers but every time I find a new blog someone on the list gets a Liebster Award.  If you have any nominations, or haven't had one/would like another, please let me know in the comments below.  If you want to do the questions too I'd love to hear your answers :-)

Link back to the person that nominated you
Give 11 random facts about yourself
Answer 11 questions from your nominator
Nominate 11 new and obscure bloggers
Come up with 11 questions for them to answer
Inform your nominees

11 Random Facts:
1. I have a Blue Peter badge.
2. I have a Guinness World Record for the taking part in the largest line dance.
3. I have a rabbit called Giles, after Rupert Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
4. I am soon to be an Aunty to a Rupert in October.
5. I am a fussy eater; I don't really like chocolate, I hate cheese and fish.
6. I love cooking and baking from scratch.
7. Since I was 13 I have helped my Father with his gardening business, so now I know how to use a petrol lawn mower, a ride on (straight and with 9ft cutters), strimmer and other assortments.
8. I really hate driving. I stick to my namesake of Walker and walk everywhere.
9. I have two brothers, who are 5 and 8 years older than me respectively.
10. I want to go to Savile Row and have a tailor made suit.
11. I want to learn another language.

Cynthia's 11 questions:
1. How has reading affected your life?
It provides me with an escape and distraction.
2. Do you generally prefer the book or the movie?

I prefer books because you can see what a person is thinking more clearly.
3. Do you prefer physical books or e-books?

I find physical books easier to read, I find it easier to remember what happened and easy to flick back/forward pages.
4. Do you have a special place to read?

My bed.
5. Name a book that everyone else loved but you hated it. 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
6. What genre of book do you avoid?

Erotica, I just find it cringeworthy.
7.  First book you remember reading yourself?

Jeremy Strong's books
8. Which musical instrument, if any, do you play or would like to play?

The violin like Sherlock.
9.  What's the most recent book you DNF'd, and why?

Quiet by Susan Cain; it was terribly boring after the first part.
10.  What's your favorite holiday?

11.  Name your favorite literary character.

Christopher Tietjens from Parade's End My nominations:
Bookshelf Ghost
Literature Frenzy

My Questions:
What is the last hardback you bought?
What books are on your wish list?
Do you have any preference over book length?
Do you have a specific organising system for your bookcase?
A person interrupts your reading what do you do?
A character is being irritating what do you do?
Any bookish peeves/pet hates? 
What do you use for a bookmark?
What book-related place would you like to go to on holiday?
What do you drink while reading?
Ideal place to read?

Saturday, 4 July 2015

(Freddie) Mercury and Me by Jim Hutton

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

I can't count the amount of car journeys I had growing up when my father was playing Queen.  My father is a massive Queen fan and admirer of Freddie Mercury (he even sprouts a Freddie Mercury style moustache).  Sadly, I am the only other Queen fan obsessive in the Walker household and so when I saw Jim Hutton's autobiography I leapt at the chance to read it and it was a highly enjoyable read.  Jim Hutton, who sadly passed away, was Freddie Mercury's self-professed 'husband'.  The story starts with a Hutton newly single meeting (and being pursued by) Freddie and his relationship with Freddie until Freddie's death.

One of the main things I enjoyed was the fact it is very readable.  The danger with autobiographies is that they can either contain too much (pointless) information and read like a textbook or they can be monotonous with "I did this.. Then I did this... Then I..."  Hutton's work strikes a great balance between the two.  Although a 'professional'* writer has helped, it feels very authentic as Hutton's story and I don't think it detracts in anyway from the book.  My only criticism is that some parts read like a shopping list with "he bought... this which was really expensive and... and he bought so and so... " but I think that is just personal preference.  *(does anyone know what they are doing?)

For those curious, I'll let you know what it covers.  This autobiography gives more insight into Freddie, his personality and his antics than it does the band.  There are very few behind the scenes glances into 'Queen', mainly because Hutton didn't spend a great deal of time with the band when it was being Queen.  This probably isn't the best read if you just want all the inside details on Queen.  I was surprised to learn that Freddie was not closer with the other bandmates but, I suppose, after spending so much time in the studios and on tour together a little time apart is refreshing.  Having said that about the band, Hutton does cover Freddie's relationship with Monserrat Cabelle or Montsy as she was known by Freddie.  I was hoping that it would address the factoid that Freddie refused to continue working with Michael Jackson because Jackson insisted on bringing animals into the studio but all Hutton suggests was that Freddie found MJ difficult to work with. (Perhaps someone can confirm or discredit this?)

I found reading about Freddie's final months and days very difficult to read.  I am glad I stayed up through the night reading (and crying) until the last page because I doubt I could have found the strength to face reading the rest of the book.  It is not a case of 'oh he died' peacefully and unexpectedly one day in his sleep.  Hutton is very honest that Freddie's descent was protracted, painful and unglamorous.

On the other hand, this autobiography has many laugh out loud moments.  There are a lot of anecdotes too which I now share with my parents that they seem to enjoy, more than my others anyway.  Two of my favourites ones are that Freddie's pin up was Burt Reynolds and that Freddie bought Butler and Wilson jewellery; by sheer coincidence I have a few pieces and so now when I wear them I think of Freddie.  I have more anecdotes but why spoil the book?

I usually read other reviews before I write my own.  This mainly is to see if others shared 'my' opinion or if I missed anything and I have to say I was surprised to read about the whole Mary vs Jim controversy over Freddie's will and whether Hutton was 'cashing in'.  For those who don't know, Mary Austin was Freddie's fiancĂ© until Freddie confided he was gay.  I'm not going to spend long on these controversies because, frankly, I'm not a historian - I don't have access to any additional facts other than my humble Sherlockian skills of abduction.  I remember when my own grandmother died from cancer, and although I was ten, I remember relatives saying things they shouldn't have.  I think that grief warps our emotions (and in turn our perception and reactions) and I don't think either of them are, or were, overtly reliable.  Also, there is a noticeable absence of John Deacon in the post-Freddie "Queen" line up so a few Hutton criticisms could equally be levelled at May and Taylor.  It all ends there as far as I'm concerned, no good is going to come of raking up that particular patch of time.

Overall, it was a really great book, a real roller-coster ride and is a must read for any obsessive Freddie/Queen fan.  If you can buy the book, I would recommend getting a physical copy as the Kindle pictures are obviously in black and white.  Do you have a favourite Queen or Freddie song or album or any memories connected to Queen?  I'd love to hear from you!  I'm going to leave you now with my all-time favourite song, how I wish I was Debbie Lang in this video.

Book Facts
Publication Date: 1995
Pages: 222
My Edition: Bloomsbury 
Shows Freddie in a dressing gown, with a crown looking regal on which would later be his stage costume

twitter  |  facebook  |  goodreads  |  bloglovin 

Friday, 3 July 2015

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Kazuo Ishiguro is well known for his previous novels, The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go. After a decade of silence, there is a lot of excitement over his latest book The Buried Giant. The Buried Giant tells the tale of Axl and Beatrice, an elderly married couple living in Old England during King Arthur’s rule. They are trying to find their long-lost son but a “mist” of forgetfulness has spread through the land meaning they struggle to remember where he has gone and even what he looks like.

The main themes to this novel obviously concern memory. In the backdrop to the novel is the fact that Old England is recovering from a brutal war between the Saxons and the Britons. There is also the question of how marital love is to be sustained; can we still love someone whilst remembering that shared past?  Ishiguro’s recurring and underlying question is whether it is better to forget and under what conditions can we have a peaceful self and society.

For those who have read Ishiguro’s previous books, although The Buried Giant shares the recurring theme of memory and contains the trademark plethora of plot twists, the writing style feels markedly different. I found the novel slow and the characters did not interest me. Stylistically I found the book off-putting with the constant use of "yes Princess" and "yes husband". This book also has fantasy elements like ogres and pixies (perhaps ‘characters’ would be a better word) but it is not a traditional fantasy novel. I don't know why but it reminds me of a tasty soup that has been thinned down too much by water. You can sort of taste what it is meant to taste like but it is difficult to finish the bowl. I feel that this book could have been a lot better; this book also requires a lot more effort than his previous novels if you are to see the questions behind the themes. Most of the 'heavy work' regarding the themes takes part in the last 100 pages but getting to those last 100 pages felt to me like a chore. It certainly did not make me happy when I picked up the book. Overall, it isn't as enjoyable as his other novels.

Book Facts
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 352
My Edition: Faber and Faber

twitter  |  facebook  |  goodreads  |  bloglovin