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Beauty and the Beast Ponderings

This is not a book, I know. The only way I can think of linking it into my aim for this blog is that Belle is a book-loving princess?

I’m not going to do a review of the film (although I must admit that after going in with low expectations I was pleasantly surprised), but I had some stray thoughts while watching it and wondered if anyone else thought the same.

Please also note that there will be spoilers ahead and, whilst much of the film follows the beats of the original, there are some changes which I comment on below.

The Beast likes books
The fact that Beast couldn’t read never made sense to me. Before being turned, he was an 11 (?) year old born into royalty, so surely he must have been taught to read at some point?! I know that in the original film Belle and the Beast bonded when she taught him to read, but I think that Belle discovering someone else who enjoys reading seems like a more organic way to have her warm to him.

Also, surely in all that time he would have read as a form of entertainment? 10 years is a long time alone in that castle with such a big library!

The dance sequence
This was beautifully done as expected, if not quite as technically groundbreaking as the original. However, due the heavy use of CGI on the Beast, I could not quite suppress the image of Dan Stevens wearing a green body suit whilst dancing and staring romantically into Emma Watson’s eyes.
Please tell me that this is how it was filmed and please let there be footage somewhere.

Gaston doesn’t get a chance to remember 
So at the end of the film we learn that Belle’s quiet village was also put under the curse and had forgotten all about the castle and their loved one’s who worked there (as is evidenced by Mr & Mrs Potts’ reunion. So what about Gaston? Maybe Gaston really had a lady love or family in the castle whom he forgot. We will never know if Gaston’s true self was perhaps a little less self-centred and perhaps he was lonely all this time!

Ramblings

Getting back into it….again

Yet again I find myself realising how much I suck at keeping any form of record or journal, which frustrates me as I find it a great way to focus and to express myself outside of work.

My pile of books to read has grown ever higher and so I aim to read at least 50 books by October  – hopefully this blog will keep me on track and ready to read.

I fully expect there to be a couple of re-reads (always the best way to get out of a slump) although I will really be focusing on new books and want to aim to get some new releases in there too.

Completed in 2017 so far:

  • Homage to Catalonia – George Orwell
  • Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi (2017 UK release)
  • Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón (re-read of one of my favourite books of all time)
  • The Angel’s Game – Carlos Ruiz Zafón (re-read)
  • The Prisoner of Heaven – Carlos Ruiz Zafón (re-read)
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • Sad Cypress – Agatha Christie
  • The Murder at the Vicarage – Agatha Christie

Currently reading:

  • The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak
  • Born a Crime – Trevor Noah
Review

When She Woke

When-She-Woke_305

When She Woke –  Hillary Jordan

(published Oct 2011)

Ok, so this one is not so recent, but I read it last October and it’s one of those books that just sticks with you. The story, the ideas behind it, and the way it so scarily mirrors the possible near future left a profound mark and I find myself coming back to it.

Plot

When She Woke tells the story of a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed—their skin colour is genetically altered to match the class of their crimes—and then released back into the population to survive as best they can. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder – aborting her unborn child.

In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a path of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.

The Good

Red: The design team behind the hardback edition of this book deserve huge applause! Red, red cover, red pages, red is the immediate impression on the bookshelf, and could not be more perfect given the context of this book.

Political commentary: Reading it a time when abortion was a hot-button issue in US politics, When She Woke really brought home the possibilities of a future should pro-life extremists succeed in banning abortion. The overwhelming sense and despair and injustice you feel for Hannah and her punishment, and the consequent humiliation she is subjected to over her decision should, one would think, cause anyone to rethink their position on the matter. The first half of the book, setting up this world where those who have committed crimes are highlighted for everyone to see, and how women who have undergone (illegal) abortions are treated makes for addictive reading. For anyone following the debates on women’s rights, treatment of criminals, and religious extremism from all sides, it is difficult not to be terrified by how closely Jordan’s future is to becoming a very possible reality. This idea of ‘melanchroming’ people for the duration of their sentences is an imaginative process, and for me, demonstrated the idea of how some people cannot look past someone’s crimes and focus on rehabilitation.

Bigger picture: So often in these dystopian novels do we focus on just one country, or one small community, that it’s difficult to imagine how these societies function in relation to the rest of the world. When She Woke puts forward the idea that these changes are unique to the US, and the suggestion that Chromes are seeking to escape to countries like Canada where these laws aren’t enforced, widens the world within the book.

Hannah’s story: As I previously mentioned, you truly feel for Hannah and what she’s been through, and cannot help but to feel the injustice of it all. Witnessing how people react to her, how she has to forge a new life in such a hostile world, and how her own views begin to transform, .

The Not So Good

Second half: The narrative slows down a lot in the second half of the book. After the set-up of  this new future, we really delve into the narrative of Hannah’s journey. Although it is interesting to see how she deals with what happens to her, and the new people she encounters as a result of her circumstances, it doesn’t make for the same addictive reading as the first part of the book. At some points, it feels as though too many negative things are being thrown at our main character where the story takes on a kind of soap opera feel, however, Jordan’s writing  manages to remain sharp and keeps you interested enough in the character to overlook these elements.

Overall view

A great book which gets you thinking about current issues being debated in the US (and to some extent, globally). The creativity behind the set-up of this dystopian future is what works best for this book, and is more than motivation to read it.

You’ll like it if you liked: The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)

Ramblings

Feliç dia de Sant Jordi!

st jordi

Happy St George’s Day!

St George’s Day celebrations are taking place in countries all around the world today. Saint George himself is a prominent figure in the Christian (primarily Catholic) church and the legend of St George and the Dragon is a story so many of us grew up with. Although he is the patron saint of many communities, he is perhaps most commonly identified as the patron saint of England, a country which bears the St George’s Cross on its national flag.

Being English myself, I know the history behind England and our patron saint, but am always disappointed by the lack of celebration for the day itself. Unlike St Patrick’s Day, which is a huge social event in the UK (and many other countries who celebreate it with a a tipple, or two, or four, or ten…), St George’s Day is, for the most part, overlooked. In fact, whilst Scotland hosts many events to celebrate St Andrew’s, and the Welsh population takes pride in St David’s, poor old St George seems to be forgotten about. There are some efforts to celebrate  (Morris dancing always seems to be more popular on St George’s), but on a national scale, celebrations are few and far between.

Therefore, I’m going to share my favourite St George’s Day celebration elsewhere in the world: Sant Jordi, celebrated in the Spanish region of Catalunya, and which also happens to be the perfect celebration for book-lovers worldwide!

La diada de Sant Jordi, or ‘the day of books and roses’ as it is sometimes known, is the Catalan equivalent of Valentine’s Day, and is very much a celebration of love and literature. The red rose has often been associated with St George, with many cultures bearing a rose on their clothing in recognition of the day. The exchanging of books, however, wasn’t introduced until 1923. Traditionally, lovers would exchange gifts. Men presented a single rose to their sweetheart and received a book in return. Nowadays, it is much more common to see books presented by both parties with the rose as an added extra (you know, since equality took off and everyone realised that women liked reading too, not to mention that books are way more expensive than flowers and last a helluva lot longer too!) and some of the bigger companies give free roses away with book purchases.

The result is this:

parada

and this

sant-jordi-2

The streets are lined with stalls offering both new and previously owned books, and you can find a flower vendor on each street corner selling roses of every colour imaginable. I was fortunate enough to be living in Barcelona during the 2011 Sant Jordi celebrations, and the atmosphere is incredible. The Rambla is packed with people surrounding the books stalls which line the entire street, cafes and venues hold 24-hour reading marathons, and book signings are arranged all over the city, renowned for being Spain’s publishing capital. I cannot imagine a more perfect place for hopeless romantics than Barcelona on St George’s Day.

St Valentine’s Day  has become so overly commercialised (particularly in the UK and US) that it has a negative stigma attached to it, and although some companies do jump on Sant Jordi, there is something so simple and romantic about the exchange of books and flowers. The  popularity of the event in Catalunya has made such an impact that in 1995 UNESCO formally announced April 23rd as World Book and Copyright day.

Nevertheless, Catalan celebrations for Sant Jordi aren’t just limited to flowers and literature. Spain is infamous for its ability to throw a good fiesta, and Sant Jordi is no exception. Celebrations in Catalunya involve LOTS of dancing, and squares throughout the region become venues for the Sardana, a traditional Catalan dance that looks a little like this:

sardana-AB

As well as for the popular Castellers (towers of people) the region is known for :

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The incredible sense of celebration and tradition that surrounds the day is an experience that needs to be seen and lived first-hand, and I recommend anyone thinking of visiting Barcelona to try and work their visit around Sant Jordi, especially book-lovers!

I hope you all have a lovely St George’s Day, wherever you are in the world, and however you choose to celebrate it!

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Inspiration from my bookshelf

pile books

I suck at keeping diaries.

It’s true! Again and again, all of the diaries, journals, and even previous blogs I’ve tried to keep over the years have all been abandoned, replaced with hobbies, studies, work, or just given up on due to a simple lack of inspiration

So what’s new?  
A: The need for some creativity in my life.

Since graduating last June I have been working as a freelance translator, and constantly translating, editing, and proof-reading the words of others has made me realise how much I miss expressing myself and using my own thoughts and feelings to produce my own original material. Sure, in translation I get to exercise my writing skills. I get to play with words and phrasing, exploring ways to make target texts as idiomatic as possible, and in this I get to play with different styles, journalistic when translating news articles, informative when detailing product descriptions, persuasive when working on non-profit pieces, but they are not my own creations. I never truly think of them as my work. So now I’ve started this blog as a way to produce my own material and write about what care about.

Why High Piled Books?

Aside from it being a reference to my second favourite Keats poem (my favourite being ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’ for any Keats enthusiasts out there), it literally refers to this huge pile of books I have to get through (see above).

LOVE books. This love was the driving force behind my decision to study  languages, and the reason I hope to pursue a career in publishing in the future.

I read all the time and always have a book close at hand, I once even had one tucked in my bag in a night club (it is way less pathetic than it sounds when given the context of the situation), but unfortunately, with work and other things occupying my time, I haven’t been able to read as often as I’d like to recently, yet have continued to buy more, and more, and more books, resulting in this endless tower I now have to find a way to get through. It’s a mixture of books I thought looked interesting on the shelf, ones I’ve been meaning to read for years, and books I have already begun reading but have not yet managed to finish due to time constraints.

Despite having to put my favourite hobby on the back-burner, the plus side is that this Jenga tower of books did provide me with the inspiration for this blog.

I’ve no illusions that the ramblings of a 22-year-old may be of any interest whatsoever to the people of the internet. Hell, there are already so many blogs, vlogs, and twitter accounts that detail the daily lives of unknowns, that another is barely making waves.

Therefore I decided that I wanted to create something that might be of use to others in some way. After finishing a book I love discussing it, what I enjoyed, what I thought the writer did particularly well, how it compares to previous titles in the series/by the same author. I often note down in a journal those I’ve particularly enjoyed, my own kind of personal book review of sorts, and I figured I may as well publish them online where they can act as a reference for the poor soul that happens to stumble across this page and might be interested in reading them.

And so this is what to expect, a book-review blog…sort of.

I won’t be reviewing all the latest releases (as you might be able to make out from the photo, some of these have been out a pretty long time now, give or take 150 years), and they won’t be super-objective critical writings, just my own personal take on the book, what I enjoyed about it, or what I didn’t so much. It also won’t be purely book reviews, there’ll most likely be a mixture of any book-related news or random facts I find interesting that I hope you will too. I’m open to any suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed, although it may take me a wee while to get around to reading them!

Well, here goes.

Fingers crossed I keep it up! 

(the blog I mean, not the book pile, fingers crossed that goes down quickly to make room for more!)