'it's the choosing that's important, isn't it?'

This week [or at least, today] I am a happy blogger, basking in the memory of my hot tub holiday this past weekend. Anglesey, a wooden lodge with private jetty and hot tub and some of my favourite people. I'm pretty sure it doesn't get much better than that. We had the nicest of times: walks on the beach and butterfly houses and the zoo and steam trains and films and lazy mornings and drinking gin in the hot tub and sardines and lots of giggling.

And lots of reading.

I finished The Subtle Knife, which well, the thing about Pullman is he is obviously a 'very good writer' - I know this because somehow I had forgotten all about the high levels of hurty in the His Dark Materials trilogy  and was totally focussed how beautiful they are, I was excited to reread because THESE BOOKS ARE SO BEAUTIFUL and then was stabbed in the chest all over again by the hurty. And now? How do I feel now, after finishing book 2? I feel like I love those books so much because they're so beautiful and I am scared to reread The Amber Spyglass because the other two have reminded me that that one hurts the most.

Then, I read The Giver by Lois Lowry.

I'd heard of this but never read it and was nudged in its direction by Jen. I loved it; I literally could not put it down, to the extent that I was making breakfast for the boys on Sunday morning and was reading whilst cooking sausages and frying eggs, with a tear in my eye. I loves me a good dystopia, that's no secret and this, whilst being a YA novel and whilst trying to trick you in the beginning into think it's a utopia, is what I would call a good dystopia.

Jonas lives in a perfect world where everything is tightly controlled, tightly monitored, carefully watched and on the surface, faultless. In Jonas's world there is no war or fear or pain but on the flipside there is no love, no joy. There is only Sameness. In Jonas's world there are no choices; your spouse, your children, your place in the community, all of it is chosen for you and you never even think to question the lot that you are given; why would you, when your life is perfect and you have all you could ever want or need? However, when Jonas turns twelve, everything changes. Jonas meets The Giver and is forced to question everything and everybody he thought he knew and so, along with Jonas we find ourselves asking whether in order to get rid of the suffering in the world do you also have to lose all that makes life livable, all that is good? If the only way to stop evil is to also stop love, is there any point; is it worth it? What is our purpose, what is choice; what would our life be like without purpose and without choice; can you have the good if you don't have the bad and is that bad so bad that it makes the good a worthwhile sacrifice; can you miss what you never knew; are there any benefits to Sameness?

The obvious comparisons to draw here given what I've read of late are to The Hunger Games - young adults, dystopian future, etc. Those books aren't the same as this one, but in the way that The Hunger Games are not the best written books ever but grab your interest and hold it, so does The Giver. It makes you think and I like that in a book. I like to be forced to think, to question, to look at what I have and to appreicate it that little bit more and to a degree this book does all of thise things.
There are disturbing and complex themes in this book that Lowry does not shy away from. I applaud her for that - this book is going to hit its target audience smack bang in the chest, it's going to make them feel, it's going to make them hurt, it's going to make them think and whilst it's no Handmaid's, no 1984, it can hardly be expected to be and for what it is, it's good.  The concept is clever and well executed, the characters well rounded and each with their own clear voice and above all it really highlights the whole issue surrounding banned books; it's kind of ironic really that a book that at it's very core is about the importance of choice should be a book that found itself on the banned books list, thus taking away the choice to read it.  This is not a happy-ever-after walk in the park feel good novel, it's not, but I'm really glad I read it.

in which i am preparing for Christmas

It's very autunm-y in my neck of the woods at the moment, which is awesome because of all the seasons I think I love autumn the best. It's all pretty colours and woolly jumpers and spiced coffee and mulled cider and being a little cold but still being able to be outdoors and I lovelovelove it. I wish, actually that I didn't have to work because I pretty much just want to be outside with my camera taking lots of photographs of the pretty trees and stuffs.  Perhaps I'll do that on Sunday; it's Ian's birthday on Monday so this weekend we're celebrating that - we're having a small gathering at the house on Saturday night, which will be lovely, and then a couple of people are sleeping over so maybe on Sunday we can all wrap our hangovers up in gloves and warm coats and go for a walk in the woods. Yes. This is now my plan. Hurrah. [I bet this doesn't happen. I bet nobody wants to wrap their hangover in anything other than a blanket and we shall remain indoors.]

In other news it will soon be Christmas. Hush now, don't get all agitated, it will. And people [for 'people' read 'me'] need to get prepared because I like to enjy December and the festivities and the excitement and not get all stressed about what presents need sorting etc.This year it's a little trickier - obviously with Ian setting up his own business money is a little tight and so I am aiming to make as many presents as I can. I am officially getting my craft on. That means, if you read this and are lucky [unlucky?] enough to be on my Christmas present list there is a very good chance that your gift could be made by my own fair hands. Wow.

In that same vein, I've become a little addicted to Pinterest of late. That website is such a time suck, seriously and I have pinboards for food and clothes and weddings [I'm not even getting married any time soon, go figure] and pretty stuff and booky stuff and of course, crafts. I just keep pinning; I can't help it. I was home alone last night - the boy took advantage of Orange Wednesday to go and see Taken2 [colour me jealous] and so I had a shower and put on my big fleecy poncho, which is amazing comfy by the way, and settled down with a bar of chocolate and my iPad. 'Ill just spend 5 minutes of Pinterest' I thought and then suddenly it was an hour later and whoops. I have loads of ideas though, it's such a good resource and I can't wait to get started. SO MANY IDEAS AND PROBABLY NOT ENOUGH TIME. This may become a semi-crafty blog for a while, so be warned!! 

This afternoon I'm off to see my Mum. It's my Grandpa's birthday today [love you G'Pa] so I want to make sure she's ok, and I have my sewing kit in the car because you know, getting my craft on, so I shall drink tea and sew with my Mum and oh my goodness I am unregonisable to my own self right now, and then I'm seeing Helen and there will be culinary delights and films and gossip. That will be a nice time.

I leave you with this autumny photograph of love. Happy Friday.

In which I am a slacker

It's just been brought to my attention that I haven't blogged since August!


I think perhaps this makes me the worst blogger in all the land. 

The reason is probably because I've not read as much this year as I usually do. I'm not sure why that is, exactly, when settling down with a book remains my favourite way to pass the time. I'm way behind on my Goodreads 2012 goal too, which is annoying the hell out of me so I really need to do something about that [and by something I mean read more, Josephine, read more not adjust said goal in order to achieve it you big ol' cheat]  I could easily blame work, and the fact that I haven't been sleeping well and am always tired and seem incapable of reading more than a couple of pages without falling asleep but God, what a pity party that would be so I shan't. Instead I shall just say 'whoops' and make a deal with myself to do better. 

Luckily, even though I haven't been reading as much, for the most part, what I have read has been enjoyable. I'm part way through Anna Karenina at the moment, although that's currently on hiatus because whilst I love it, it's also long and as Jen said: you probably shouldn't read Tolstoy when you're sick; you should probably re-read The Subtle Knife and so I am. I loves me some heartbreak. Ha. 

Most notably of late, I've read and enjoyed  Marina Lewycka's We Are All Made Of Glue which has been on my to-read shelf for forever and a day and which I really wish I'd read before now, because I loved it. It's one of those rare books that had me laughing out loud, and feeling a little sad and then laughing a little more and left me wanting to hunt out Lewycka's back catalogue because it was just that good and The Paris Wife by Paula McLain which is awesome and set it in Paris in the 20's and follows the story of Ernest Hemingway's first wife. I loved loved loved it and follwing on from that I downloaded about 11 Hemingway novels onto my Kindle and re-read The Great Gatsby because I think I'd have liked to have been alive in the 20's and The Paris Wife was so good that I didn't want to leave which says a lot I think, both about my book buying problem and also how much I enjoyed reading about 1920's Paris.
So yes, a couple of recommendations there for you, should you want them - along with I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith [she of 101 Dalmations fame] another book I've wanted to read for years and didn't. You should all read that too, if you haven't. You mostly have because most people aren't as lax as me but just in case, I'm throwing it out there...

In other news I saw Perks on Wednesday, which I shall come back and review next week, Starbucks have brought the Pumpkin Spice Latte to the UK and Strictly starts proper tonight, life, on the whole is good and because it's Friday and because I haven't for a while I'll leave you with a promise to do better and a Friday photo.

I saw the JCS arena tour last weekend, and it was fantabulous so here, have a picture of Jesus and Judas* because Ben Forster is pretty and Tim Minchin is awesome and everyone needs a bit of pretty and awesome on a Friday.

*the actors portraying and not actually Jesus or Judas because it's 2012AD and there is no way they'd still look this good.