In other news, which I’ve mentioned earlier, I joined a book club!

If you’re in the Greenwich area and love books I would definitely recommend joining us. We meet the first Wednesday of the month and read a different book each month. Whether you loved or hated the book there’s always something to discuss. The Last Weekend was the book of choice the first week I attended the book club. This is what I thought.

Blurb

Set over a long weekend, Blake Morrison’s new novel is a taut, atmospheric, brilliantly chilling story of a rivalrous friendship – as told by Ian, the deceptively casual narrator.

It opens with a surprise phone call from an old university friend, inviting Ian and his wife, Em, for a few days by the sea. Their hosts, Ollie and Daisy, are a glamorous couple. And the scene is set for sunlit relaxation and cheerful reminiscence. But dangerous tensions quickly emerge.

In vivid, careful prose, Blake Morrison perfectly conveys the stifling atmosphere of a remote cottage in the hottest days of summer. Troubling revelations from Ian’s past slowly intrude. And his rivalry with Ollie intensifies as they resurrect a seemingly forgotten bet made twenty years before. Each day becomes a series of challenges for higher and higher stakes, setting in motion actions that will have irreversible consequences.

My Review

This review might be tough to write because I’m still on the fence as to how much I liked it. The book is a tense and fast-moving book told following the events of a long weekend in the life of four friends. First there’s Ollie and Daisy, the golden couple. They invite Ian and Em (the poorer, less golden couple) to a remote country lodge for a brief holiday. As the weekend progresses, old rivalries surface as the two old university friends Ian and Ollie interact. It leads to a dark, chilling, ending.

First things first, Ian is an incredibly unreliable narrator. At the beginning of the book I liked his easy nature but as the book progresses his character crosses the line. He’s a devious, manipulative and delusional liar. His obsession with Daisy comes full-force and we find that he is capable of horrible, horrible things. (I’ll let you discover them.) Daisy is a a waif like character and I wish we had learnt more about her. Her dreams, her fears, her expectations. Em the same – we don’t quite get the full picture, but I think this is to expose Ian’s unstable nature.

The whole holiday is an utter car crash that I couldn’t stop looking at. But was also sickened by what was happening/what I was seeing. Throughout the book Ian and Ollie compete to honor an old bet. A range of sporting challenges which are played for bigger and better stakes. Ian, the poorer friend feels a sense of social inferiority to his richer, more successful friend, which is magnified by his gambling addiction (kept secret from their friends.) There’s a definite sense of an unsettled score and a childishness to the rivalry between the two men.

Final Thoughts

The book does have problems. The ending is very formulaic and predictable. Daisy and Ollie have a son that comes on the holiday but dissapears frequently. We never learn where he’s been and he never really adds anything  the book. There’s also a discussion of Ollie visiting the lodge as a boy. It’s never revealed whether Ollie was lying. Other bits and pieces in the book that seem pivotal are never discussed. It’s frustrating.

The writing is playful and well-written. As Ian’s personality bubbles and becomes more unstable, we see Ollie and Daisy react but never get the release we need. The twist (if you can call it at the end,) is very well done, just not quite the ending I wanted.

Read ‘The Last Weekend’ for the shock factor, and the beautiful McEwan style writing but it’s not perfect.

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Books I've Lied about reading

I have a confession; it’s months and months since I read a classic book. PLEASE DON’T ATTACK ME.

I went through a stage of really getting into classic books; I read them in the bath, on the floor of trains, on buses and snuggled up in bed. Might have made it through half the list I promised myself I would read and then for some reason I stopped. Over the last 6 months I put down all the classics and pretty much have only been picking up crime and thriller books since.

I clicked onto Facebook this morning (#PRODUCTIVITY) and this post flashed up; How Many Of These Books Have You Lied About Reading?

I love Buzzfeed and their click-bait titles, and I thought what the hell. I ended up with this answer.

You checked 5 out of 52 on the list.

You’re not bothered about how cultured you’re perceived to be. You’re not into the
classics and don’t mind who knows that. Lying about the books you’ve read is a slippery slope that you refuse to fall down.

So, these are the books that I might have white lied about reading and to be completely honest with you, I’m not even that ashamed.

The List

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Gone with the wind by Margaret Mitchell

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I feel many readers, as like myself might have at some point said a tiny porky as to whether they’ve read someone’s favourite classic. Maybe in this situation:

Person in Love with the book: “Oh god, everyone has read Gone with the Wind! Seriously, it’s an honour to have been born in a time where it was written.”

Lizzy (awkwardly) “Oh, never read it myself – cover put me off. Think I might have heard good things but not put my mind to it yet.”

Person in Love with the book: “Well, right, bye.”

Okay, maybe not as extreme as that but it’s how I’ve felt on numerous occasions. It’s like when you meet a boy and they ask you whether you’ve heard of a certain band. Suddenly they are your favourite band despite the fact you’ve never heard of them.

“Oh, didn’t they do a secret gig in Manchester 4 years ago – yeah I was there. Wore a band tee and they picked me out from the crowd. Pretty cool tbh with you. Oh you didn’t hear of that very secret gig, well can’t call yourself much of a fan can you.”

So, I thought today we could come clean about the classic books we might have lied about reading. In the spirit of positivity let’s not get down that we never made it through Oliver Twist or that we found Pip’s journey a massive let down (Great Expectations is not a book I own up to have read – I despised it.)

PS: I just want to point out Buzzfeed it’s not that I’m not into classics.  Just, I haven’t read them yet.

Let me know which bookish white lie reads you want to get off your chest in the comments.

 

HOLLLA readers, I feel today’s topic will be incredibly eye-opening. I think one of the things that happens as bloggers is that we have a list 10 pages long of books we want to read, but because we’re constantly adding them on, some books just kind of get left behind. Today I’m going to try to list ten that I still haven’t read. Now a lot of these I expect will be classics because when I started my blog I was determined to read a hella load. I’ve read a few but there’s many to go.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

When I was in high school certain English classes were given different books to read dependent which teacher you were in the class of. I studied Gatsby, Frankenstein and also Enduring Love, but I know that almost all of the others studied The Catcher in the Rye. I’ve always wanted to read this because I just hated the fact that we didn’t all get to read the same – it felt unfair for some reason.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This one is on the list because I have little idea what it’s about. For some reason this book has eluded me for years, and that’s really on purpose from my point of view. I am yet to read anything from Oscar Wilde and I think this should be the first book from this author that I read.

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery (image credit Penguin) VIA Amazon.com

This is on so many people’s lists for books they adore and I haven’t read it still – I will get it to it eventually. Hopefully it doesn’t take another three years.

Lord of the flies by William Golding

This is another book from my high school years that I didn’t read. I know that I definitely could have read it on my own time, and space. I haven’t yet but I will.

On the road by Jack Kerouac

I was bought a beautiful copy of this book and it’s been sat in my bookish suitcase. It just needs to be picked up and read. It’s just another author I’ve read nothing by yet and I need to!

I am the messenger by markus zusak

This one is a little bit of a cheat because I read The Book Thief before I started blogging, it was just that once I finished the book, I mean started it even, I knew I would have to read something by this author again. I’m yet to

the golden notebook by Doris Lessing

This book was suggested to me by someone I really respected while I was at university. This person also loved books and was very passionate about them and writing. I know I have to get this read, not due to just their recommendation but also because it’s been sat in my mind for the past few years.

Notes from a small island by bill bryson

I love BIll Bryson, and I’ve started this book maybe four or five times, I’ve just never QUITE made it all the way through but I intend to very soon.

Anna karenina by leo tolstoy

These last two books are books that I feel I should have read but haven’t. I like the idea of reading them and being all cultured and a proper reader but, ya know. Not quite yet.

Ulysses by James Joyce

Everyone has to try this one right?

So, there they are. Ten books that have never been read by yours truly but I have always, always wanted to. Except for Ulysses which I know a lot of people have opinions of, which books have you read? Are there any I should take off the list, is there one I should read first? Let me know in the comments!

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Heeeeeellllllo readers; lots of people have been asking me – When are you going to open your requests box, well I don’t know because I have been reading so many FANTASTIC books. I never understood why bloggers shut their blog’s inbox but I get it, there are so many brilliant books that I want to get my hands on and I’m just putting too many off that I want to read because of requests – not that that’s a bad thing – anyway, enough of me rambling, hopefully the requests box will be open soon, but for now, the review.

From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Remains of the Daycomes a devastating new novel of innocence, knowledge, and loss. As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.

Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is another classic by the author ofThe Remains of the Day.

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Okay, I’m going to try review this book without giving too many plot secrets away; it’s a bit of difficult one to review if you don’t but then I don’t want to ruin it for you either. I’m not sure whether knowing so much of the plot would ruin it – so I’ll put in a POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT – just in case. Also; if you’ve read that is a science fiction, then it’s really not – its literary fiction. So just another note there.

So the novel itself follows the life of Kathy, who is now 31 but used to be a student at the boarding school in England called Hailsham; this however is not a normal school but one for students with a special purpose – instead of being taught your stereotypical Maths and English,  the students are conditioned to accept their special destiny. Kathy, our main character, during the book is getting ready to make her first donation while being a carer for many other donors, and we watch as re recounts her life at Hailsham and their lives since.

The book is a bit of a ramble, and it’s definitely a conversation – Kathy is coming to terms with the life she’s lead and is very detached from the events she’s describing. They are very detailed in terms of explaining exactly what happened; not in description but in almost a factual way. She comes across as a character that has a hell of a lot of potential but yet this is extinguished due to the nature of their lives and the almost planned out acceptance of what they are and what they will become; see this is where spoilers would help but I’m avoiding them as much as possible. I found her detachment firstly confusing but then utterly heartbreaking as I neared the end; you would think there is nothing worse than someone having their life taken from them, but, this story captures the tale of people who never understand the value of their existence and who don’t know that they have the right to live the way they want to.

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The book really looks at exploring the fragility of life and all that is in it; I must admit in a world where you life is a constant number of steps towards a goal – a goal you’ve never chosen for yourself and never know there is another way of living, is terrifying and yet we all kind of live in the knowledge that we also have an inevitable end, and the strength that Kathy shows and that we get to experience really put a lot of things into perspective for me.

In terms of the writing style this book really hits me as like McEwan’s Atonement, it has a very slow, tense, movement towards the ending and although I had guessed what was going to happen, it was only after finishing the book and leaving it a day or two that I really understood what the author was doing and what they were attempting to show. I think the author could have woven in more passion, more suspense, more tension but then I think it would have become a book more of cheap thrills than the detached, almost whisper of a book that actually hit me much harder than I could have ever expected it to.

So, this review has gone on long enough – if you’re even a smidgen intrigued, get a copy and settle down for a read; it may not be a perfect 5* book but it will definitely make you think.

Liiiiiinks

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Hiiiiiii readers, interesting post for you today and I’m just going to throw in a trigger warning here right at the beginning. I tend to avoid books where I would need to say approach with caution but I couldn’t not review this because it may just be the most shocking book I have ever had the chance to read. In the book there are numerous quite distressing sexual scenes, there is a lot of human feces flowing and it’s a bit much – so be careful.

Before you ask; why the hell were you reading this – it was T’s fault. He’s one of these readers who likes to read the stuff that everyone talks about but not always for the best of reasons. Normally classic fiction (he’s currently reading A Clockwork Orange) he also has a thing for weird books. We were reading in the garden on a sunny afternoon. I was reading a thriller and I looked over and couldn’t ignore what I saw there; right then I decided to read it the next time I had some book free time. Here I am today reviewing for you The Story of the Eye. It might not be pretty, it might not be sane, but it’s here either way.

In 1928, Georges Bataille published this first novel under a pseudonym, a legendary shocker that uncovers the dark side of the erotic by means of forbidden obsessive fantasies of excess and sexual extremes. A classic of pornographic literature, Story of the Eye finds the parallels in Sade and Nietzsche and in the investigations of contemporary psychology; it also forecasts Bataille’s own theories of ecstasy, death and transgression which he developed in later work.

The best way to explain this book is that is has been obviously written to shock; it’s an unabashed collection of disturbing eroticism, sadism, insanity, surrealism and violence. This book is really a series of sexual encounters – over and over again we are given story after story full of surreal sexual violence and attack. The short read simply revolves around a male’s desire and fascination with a friend Simone and a young girl names Marcelle. The three flirt and indulge in truly shocking games; in one particularly shocking episode Marcelle reacts terribly, coming out of her coquettish nature and loses her mind. Insitutionalised Simone and our male character break her out of said asylum. From here I think Bataille loses it and the plot loses control. I’m not going to say any more because it’s too difficult to write about and my mother reads my blog so I’m not going to go into too much detail but there’s a lot of unconstrained, very pornographic sex. 

I was a little repulsed by this book; the amount of urine that is passed during the sexual encounters was not only difficult to read about but was terribly misogynistic. It’s animalistic, and Simone has a penchant for eggs; there are a good few pages where Simone throws said eggs into the toilet and there her obsession grows to an obscene amount. The final scene is an aggressive orgy event; here we see the three kill a man and use his dead body as part of the proceedings. So yes, that’s a thing.

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Did I enjoy this? No? Am I glad I’ve read it, yes? (is that a weird thing to say?) I’ve never read something quite so out there and aggressive in nature. I’m not sure why it’s been written other than the author to say – right I’m just going write whatever the hell I want and see what people say about it. This is not necessarily a bad thing but there’s just no more too it really; it feels as like what is the worst thing I could put down on paper? The writing swells and fades but at times it takes a nature that is so truly warped it’s a little difficult to truly understand what is happening however that may be me and my difficulty to read what I was supposed to be reading. The characters aren’t fully formed – probably because that’s not the point on the book ie a story but it does create an even more surreal feel to the book as a whole.

Overall, I am very glad I’ve read this despite its truly shocking nature just for the sheer fact I have never and am unlikely to read anything like it ever again. Would I recommend it, no I’m not going to quite do that, but if any of my darling readers have read this let me know what you thought in le comments. That would be rather lovely.

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