Summer Reading Challenge – June 2018

I didn’t spend the whole month of June sitting around and doing nothing: I managed to get four books read whilst I was very importantly sitting around and doing nothing.

Father Knows Best: Read a book that features a father

The first I decided to read not because of the reading challenge, or because of any reason actually other than I had heard of the book – and the film coming out – and was browsing the titles available as ebooks in the Edinburgh Library when I saw it: The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas. Only after I had read it did I decide to put it into my reading challenge as the ‘Father Knows Best’ one, because I thought the dad was such a sweet and strong father figure, and the main character clearly had a very close relationship with him (and with her mum too, but I just enjoyed the interactions she had with her dad). Maybe I was feeling sentimental because Fathers Day is in June, as well as my dads birthday and my stepdads birthday.

Anyway. I thought this was a great book, clearly a teen novel, and obviously dealing with a serious and relevant topic which I think it did very well. It had the typical things you’d look for in a young adult novel, like the relationships part and the ‘finding your own identity and trying to fit in’ sort of thing, as well as the heavier subjects of dealing with racism and police in America. As a white girl living in Scotland, it was eye-opening to read from the perspective of a black american teenager. Not that I haven’t read from that perspective before, but it’s one of those things where you’re suddenly reminded that this is happening now! Not years and years ago, but actually right now there are these attitudes and behaviours which are just not on.

The next paragraph may contain small spoilers.

After reading The Hate You Give (that last bit made me cry horribly) I went on to Goodreads and read through the reviews, which unfortunately resulted in me being pretty pissed off. I couldn’t believe how many people there were who had given the book awful ratings because of awful reasons. I had to stop after reading one which started with ‘FIRST of all, lets look at the actual definition of racism…’ and ended with calling the main character racist herself because she flinches away from her white boyfriend like 2 days(!) after she saw her friend get shot right in front of her. Um… no.

Into the Great Wide Open: Read a book that takes place out in the great wide open

My next book was also an ebook find: Notes From A Small Island, by Bill Bryson. I enjoyed this book, as I usually do with these sorts of travel/wandering around the countryside type books. I did notice it is now very out of date; I found it very funny when he was complaining about the cost of the bus to Stonehenge, then the price of admittance into Stonehenge, then the price of the guidebook someone attempted to sell to him, all of which adds up to maybe half the price of just the admittance into Stonehenge nowadays.

Often these books make me want to wander along the same paths, but this time I was torn between that desire and the fact that he was mostly in England. As he quite often says, each town in Britain is much the same as the other. I did get very defensive about my home city once he got to Edinburgh, but I agreed with him totally about John O’Groats – there is nothing there. He should have gone down the West Coast of Scotland, but I think probably public transport is too sparse.

My friend is reading a book at the moment which I feel would have been much more interesting: Moonwalker: Adventures of a midnight mountaineer by Alan Rowan (Not to be confused with Michael Jackson’s autobiography). I think I’ll borrow it after she’s done (but not read it til September).

Ocean Blue: Read a book that takes place on the water

For this I read The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway, a classic. I could have put this in the fishing category of the reading challenge, but I have a special book in mind for that one.

I read this very quickly, as it’s very short, and also very sporadically towards the end (basically whenever my boyfriend went off to order food or get cutlery or go to the loo in the restaurant). I don’t really know what to think about this book. Every so often I would find myself riveted to a particular moment, but most of the time I felt like it was unnecessarily long. I gave it three stars on goodreads because I didn’t hate it, but I feel like I missed out on the underlying message and I can’t quite wrap my head around what it might be. Think I need to either read it again more slowly or read a three page article which can explain it all to me.

?

The last book I read in June I have no idea which category to put in, and that is The Materese Circle by Robert Ludlum. I read this book because my coworker is a big fan and I said to him that I’d never really read those sorts of books before other than Charlie Higson’s Young Bond books, which I did enjoy but the scene with the sea anenome totally freaked me out (am I thinking of the right book? With the octopus building? And the eels?). So he brought a few in for me to borrow.

This was a hefty book to read, which is why it really sucks that I can’t find a category to put it in. Would it be a beach read? What exactly is a ‘beach read’?

It was great though, totally different from what I normally read, but full of action and intrigue and lots of murdery twists. I did tell my coworker I was a fan of the Jason Bourne films, and this book was just a readable (and much longer) version of them.

Funnily enough, when I told one of my other coworkers what I was reading she also said she was a huge fan and has read almost all of Ludlum’s books. She did say they are all much the same though. I’ll probably read another one someday, but not until I have a spare month to do so!

In conclusion…

So that was all my June reading. Be prepared for many more posts in the future, I’m hoping to catch up on my reading list in July (18 books!) and I’ll probably write a blog post for every two that I read.

Isla

xx

Summer Reading Challenge

Greetings!

I have a new series of blog post ideas to work with, the first one being the Goodreads Summer Reading Challenge. After reading about it and seeing the sheer number of books on the expert list (a total of 31 to read in 3 months/92 days) I thought ‘I must complete this!’ I first thought I’d try the easier, beginner challenge because I do have other things to do you know… but the Beginner challenge features things like ‘read a book by an lgbtqia author’ or ‘read a book by a person of colour’, which I already do pretty often, especially in my most recent reading. So instead I thought I’d try the Expert challenge.

As you can probably deduce yourself, I am starting late since we June has already been and gone and we’re already on the 3rd day of July (Aaaah!), but I will persevere with my reading list. I have already drawn up a plan which may or may not change in the next couple months but has given me a sufficient timeline for my challenge, as in I need to read this many pages each day to stay on track. The only problems I’ve encountered have been the nudist book, for which I have zero ideas and the ones that come up when I google ‘nudist books’ or ‘books with nudists’ do not interest me in the slightest. I might do some branching out with the topics given, some of my already chosen book choices are only loosely connected with the reading challenge prompt, but I’ll argue my case once I get to them.

Lets get started!

Usher Reviews – Old Blind Dogs

My first impression of this group was that they played cooler, more upbeat versions of Dougie Maclean’s acoustic tracks. The sort of music that seems to resonate through the ages, incorporating a celtic past and present of the rugged beauty in the highlands (cliche).

My second impression was that, while they are all clearly excellent, experienced musicians, and have a natural stage presence, they aren’t the most wonderful of singers. I mean, Aaron Jones on bouzouki and guitar was quite good, but Jonny Hardie, co-founder of the band back in 1929 (or thereabouts), should maybe stick with the fiddle. His voice wasn’t that bad, more the type of thing you hear round a beach campfire in October.

There was also the sense that the gig was rather hurried: the piper, Ali Hutton, appeared to me like he was doing too much. Playing multiple instruments is impressive, and the different sounds definitely add to the feel for a lot of the music, but when the musician on stage is switching between instruments for every track, or even several times per track, it just looks hurried and unrelated. The three others on stage looked much more relaxed compared to Hutton rushing around, preparing his pipes and flutes. Their ‘between-song-banter’ also had an unpractised, awkward feel about it.

Donald Hay is the fourth and final member of the band, the percussionist. I found the drums a strange mix of interesting (in a positive way) and annoying (in a negative way), but I’m unsure if it wasn’t a fault with the sound system. I find that traditional Scots music has such a natural rhythm and beat to it that drums are often not needed, perhaps also because of the need to bang your feet on the ground and twirl around in a circle, and for Old Blind Dogs I felt this also rang true. The drums were too loud, too invasive with the other layers of sound. I can definitely see what all the other descriptions and reviews mean by ‘dynamic percussion’, and I can see where they were going with the almost modern beats, but for me it was too jarring and heavy, it wasn’t needed.

I do believe that there must have been a issue with the sound, however, as after the interval  found the drums much softer and complimentary. My only complaints during the second half was Ali Hutton’s constant switching around on stage, and the use of a tambourine, which I can’t not associate with primary school sing-a-longs.

I’ve ended up writing a rather negative review, but I really did enjoy Old Blind Dogs. They were lively and talented, and had some deeply beautiful songs amongst the jiving foot-tapping ones. I definitely recommend them if you’re a fan of this type of music: they definitely give that something extra to the traditional, celtic, fiddle and pipe music. The only thing me and the other ushers were questioning, was why are they called Old Blind Dogs?

Usher Reviews – Liane Carroll & Brian Kellock

I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time now, since I got a job as an Usher last October, as I am now getting to see lots of free shows and I wanted to share some of the truly wonderful ones (as well as some of the truly terrible ones).

Unfortunately, most recently they have either been truly truly terrible, or I have been on an ‘out’ position and I can’t write a review of the tiny sound coming out of the speaker in the hallway.

So my first review as an Usher is a of a gig where I wasn’t even working, in a venue which I don’t even work at, but which was so utterly amazing it feels like the right thing to write for my very first published Usher Review.

Last night, I went with my mum and my friend to see the jazz singer, Liane Carroll and jazz pianist, Brian Kellock. Words cannot describe.

It was an immense treat to see these two great artists perform together, especially as it was a free performance in the most friendly and social Jazz Venue, Whighams Wine Cellar, and my mums friend had the foresight to book a table and had spare seats right at the very front for us. It was one of the most crowded times I had been in Whighams, and included a great mix of regulars, old fans, and young people (including myself, I guess).

And wow! Again, I cannot think of the right words to describe these two. Both outstanding on their own, they worked together like the moon and stars, shining ever brighter. That’s a terrible description, but I was blown away by the very first song and am still feeling starstruck over fifteen hours later.

I beg of you, if you are a jazz fan and are ever presented with the opportunity to see Liane Carroll live, then do so. And with Brian Kellock. And if they’re performing together, then you’d better drop everything or else I don’t know what I’m going to have to do.

Liane is such a lovely character, absolutely adorable and completely hilarious, and she seemed like the biggest fan of Brian in the room.

Their last two numbers have stuck with me the most; first was a version of Tom Waits’ Take It With Me, which had everyone tearing up, and lastly was Bye Bye Blackbird, fitting for Whighams as I have heard someone sing it almost every time I visit.

This was yet another moment in my life for which I feel immensely privileged and grateful to have lived through. I know this is a short and not-very-detailed review, but all I can really say in response to last night is: Wow!

What I learned at XpoNorth

My dream of being a fiction writer is a quiet one. Although authors nowadays are expected to have a personality, a media presence, a charismatic skill at promoting ones own work, it is still largely a quiet profession. There are long hours of reading and researching and sitting in secluded corners of cafes frantically scribbling in a notebook or typing in a netbook (at least that’s what I do).

My dream of being a writer has developed from my love of stories, and of course stories can come from multiple different mediums. So for almost as long as I have wanted to write, I have wanted to work for television. A far more active and social way to express stories.Read More »

Dream – 12th May 2016

This dream was dreamt in the early hours of the morning while I was feeling horribly ill and dehydrated and as such it was possibly trying to comfort me in some way. It was quite hallucinatory and very sentimental for myself towards the end.

I dreamt I was partying with angels that had most likely fallen from heaven. They appeared to be in the bodies of everyday women, mostly in their thirties or forties, from various different backgrounds, and seemed confused as to whether they were actually humans or actually angels. Perhaps they were neither, or both? Read More »

A Poetic Finish

Wow! I am done with university! Handed in my last essay ten days ago, actually, just been sending off applications and browsing through jobs and generally having a bit of a holiday. The day after I handed my last essay in I got one of those facebook memory notifications telling me that four years ago I had just heard that I’d been accepted into Edinburgh University! That’s a pretty poetic round-up, doncha think?Read More »

Almost finished Uni…

Been riding a low-but-constant stream of stress and panic the past few weeks whilst getting my dissertation and philosophy essay done. I began to feel, in the middle of writing my philosophy essay, that I perhaps shouldn’t have taken it as a subject. My worst marks are in philosophy and although I enjoy the classes I am always struggling with the essays. With philosophy I also get that thing where when I work really hard at an essay I get a really terrible mark and when I throw something together last minute I end up getting a much (slightly) better mark. So yeah, every other sentence I would stop and think ‘what is the point?’

Handed my dissertation in a couple weeks ago, printed on normal university paper and stapled together by the EngLit Office Secretary because I was that last minute. Handed in my philosophy essay a couple days ago with a few minutes spare so also last minute (although to be fair I had taken a two hour break before finishing up my references). Now I have just one more essay which we have all been given an extension for and it’s the essay which I have actually been looking forward to (nerd) so hopefully the next week will be somewhat relaxing.

… except I’ve gone and challenged myself to the NaNoWriMo 5k 1 week challenge. Where you write 5k in one week, if that wasn’t clear. Starts tomorrow, I better get an idea quick!

Quick Writing Snippets – ‘Shoes’

Her feet were bare.

At first they thought she hadn’t any shoes; she was dressed in a tiny slip of a thing that could have been a dress, could have been a nightgown, with bare legs and no underwear, and had clearly been dragged across the wet grass. Their first thought had been a fight turned ugly at home. There were too many cases like those – hospitalisations and much worse just because some guy couldn’t keep his temper under control. So it would make sense if there were no shoes.

A search was ordered anyway. I circled the area round the trees, glancing my torch off of roots and unopened flower heads. My heart sank as I heard the calls from behind me; someone had found a pair of tights, almost disintegrated in the wet grass; then a pair of bloodied knickers, a scattering of objects obviously from a spilled handbag. And then I saw them: a pale blue to match the silvery fabric she wore, heels almost two inches high, both unbroken, sitting innocently in the grass as if someone had placed them deliberately.

 

(Another quick passage written before our food arrived in Nando’s. I spent two minutes staring at my boyfriend as he scribbled away while I was totally stuck for ideas, and then wrote this in another two minutes and it ended up being twice as long as his even though we ended at the same time)

Quick Writing Snippets – ‘Puddle’

‘Hey sugar!’

‘Hey honey!’

‘Hey cutie-pie!’

‘Hey snookums!’

‘Hey puddle!’

‘Puddle?’

‘Yeah, puddle. You like it?’

‘Why would I like being called a puddle? It’s all wet and shallow and… and… drippy!’

‘Exactly!’

She three her pillow at his face.

 

 

(My boyfriend and me wrote little passages using random words which he came up with. I was reluctant to, so I wrote this in retaliation)