Sunday, 18 October 2015

Sunday Summary: Belated Birthday Post

I've been doing pretty well this year at reducing the number of books on my to-read shelf, until it got down to about sixteen, and I thought I didn't actually like having that few books on the pile. Luckily, my shelf is looking nice and bright and full again, since my birthday, and after relaxing my book-buying rules.

I had a really lovely birthday, which began after work on the day before, when I went out to Pizza Express with a small group of friends, and then on to the cinema to watch The Martian, which hadn't been due out until November, but while I was rereading it during Bex's Rereadathon, I checked the release date to find it had been swapped with another movie (can't remember which) and brought forward to the weekend of my birthday. Nice.

The Martian was a really brilliant adaptation of an excellent novel. It doesn't bog you down with science (my only struggle with the book,) but it shows you what you need to know; it is a smart, tense and very fun thriller, true to the book with just enough changes to keep you guessing even when you know the story. The soundtrack (disco!) was well-chosen with some hilariously apt songs at certain moments, and it was gloriously geeky. Definitely to be recommended.

I had a pleasant surprise to receive a birthday present from my work colleagues (normally we just do cards, but this was a "big" one.) I had planned to keep it until the actual birthday before opening it, but I was surrounded by friends, so I gave in: I had a bottle of wine, a big box of chocolates, and a book token, which lasted a whopping three days, until I bought Man Booker Prize shortlisted A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I'm reading it at the moment; it's the story of four friends who spend their adult life in New York, focusing in particular on the enigmatic Jude. It's rather harrowing in its subject matter - there are reasons why Jude refuses to talk about his past - but it's written in such a way to make you emotionally invested in the characters and want happiness for them. I've an ominous feeling that a happy ending is not on the cards and it will be hard-hitting and devastating. I hope I'm wrong.

From Judith, I had an assortment of things: scented candle, chocolates, Watchmen T-shirt, and the book version of Neil Gaiman's Make Good Art speech, delivered to graduates of the University of Arts in Philadelphia. It's a speech that really spoke to me as an unpublished author, and I keep it on the shelf over my desk for encouragement and inspiration.

Jamie bought me Neal Stephenson's The |Diamond Age, which he'd recommended to me before as one of his favourite (non Terry Pratchett) books of all time.

From Jenny, my sister: a game called Geek Battle - a sort of Trivial Pursuit emphasising science, science fiction, comic books and video games, as well as random geekery - and they are not all my areas of expertise, so her predictions of me winning every time are not likely to come true. I've only played one game, but not properly as you need at least three players and there were only two of us at the time. She also sent me Fun with Kirk and Spock, a spoof learning-to-read book a la Janet and John or Biff, Chip and Kipper, poking fun at some of the tropes of Star Trek. (Somehow she seems to have got the impression I'm a nerd, don't know how she arrived at that conclusion...) Also, from Jenny, the latest book (for adults) by Judy Blume, bestselling and best-known author of teenage fiction when we were growing up.(Just as Long as We're Together will always have a special place in my heart.) My parents bought me a dress and two more books: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne (special thanks to Jess Hearts Books for her recommendation) and a history book about The Bletchley Girls.

Parcels continued to arrive all through that week. Continuing the Bletchley theme, Ellie sent me The Imitation Game and another DVD, a film called X+Y about an autistic boy who enters an international mathematics competition, which was sweet and funny and moving. Bex sent me the third and fourth books in Holly Smale's Geek Girl series (again, noticing a theme?) Clare, one of my best friends from university, bought me Faulks on Fiction, the book tied in with a TV series Sebastian Faulks presented a few years ago, taking different character archetypes from novels down the years, showing how concepts such as Hero or Villain have changed, and how they have stayed the same. He had some very odd ideas at times (Mr Darcy suffering depression? It might be one way of reading the character, but I don't see it, and Faulks just seemed to take it for granted that it was an integral part of his character. And if Harry Potter and Dan Brown don't fall into the category of "mainstream fiction," then what exactly does? Still, it was a really interesting read, and added yet more books onto my must-read list.

Faulks on Fiction not pictured.

Laura sent me The Three, as well as a DVD of The Incredibles - one of the greatest superhero films of all time. And I had more parcels from Bex: The Book of Strange New Things which was not a birthday present, but a prize from a giveaway I hadn't really been aware I'd entered when I took part in her rereadathon challenge in September. She also sent me a pair of earrings which had a certain quote from the film Serenity in teeny-tiny print inside them. Thanks to you all for your wonderful presents! I really shouldn't have any need to do much book-buying for the rest of the year. (Never mind that I picked up two books in the British Heart Foundation shop last week - they were new books, not even in paperback yet, and only £3 each! And never mind that I'm off to Hay-on-Wye next week, the town that is renowned for being full of bookshops.)

My charity-shop finds

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