Drynuary 2

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I did Drynuary again. And again, I won. Not a single drop of alcohol consumed between about 4am on 1 January (I allowed myself to continue drinking past midnight. It was only appropriate for New Year) and the evening of 1 February (I had plans during the day).

Am I proud? I suppose. Less so than last year, though – this wasn’t a new challenge, just a repeat of an old one. I didn’t lose any weight (well, I lost weight after Christmas, but that was far more likely the result of going back to my normal eating habits instead of subsisting entirely on mince pies and Stilton). And I didn’t feel any better or even more alert.

Was it easier than last year? Yes and no.

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Review: The Goldfinch

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I read Donna Tartt’s first novel, The Secret Historywhen I was about 16. It changed my life.

Or at least, I thought it did. Tartt’s novel of secrets and lies makes the reader feel as if they have been admitted to a hedonistic and dangerous world, and like the book’s narrator, as if they are the only ones to gain entry. It sucks you in and makes you part of – and complicit in – the novel’s tale of murder and deceit.

That – plus the fact that it’s set on a college campus – makes the book tremendously attractive to your average lonely and lost teenager. So I’m not sure that it did change my life – though at the time it certainly felt like it did.

Then I read her second novel, The Little Friend. While is beautiful in many ways, and evoking a tremendously strong sense of place and feelings, Tartt’s story of adolescent Harriet trying to find out who killed her brother many years ago suffered from a terrible ending – which meant that, much like I did the greatly-lauded Life of Pi, I retroactively disliked it.

So it was with some trepidation that I picked up (or rather, downloaded an e-copy of) her latest novel, The Goldfinch.

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Review: All The Birds, Singing

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All my life, Christmas has been synonymous with books. When I was little, it was new books in my stocking. When I was a bit older, every relative gave me book tokens. When I lived abroad in a non-English-speaking country, my then-partner came out to visit for Christmas with the contents of her local Oxfam bookshop. And now I’m even older, re-reading books I find in my childhood bedroom and that I’ve read a thousand times is a good way to distract me from the awkwardness of family Christmasses.

And I still get the occasional book for a present. All The Birds, Singing, by Evie Wyld, was one that I received in 2013. I’d never heard of it, but that has never stopped me reading a book before. It’s the story of Jake, a woman farming sheep alone on an unnamed British island.

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Review: MaddAddam

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I’m back! For how long, though, I don’t know…let’s see.

It’s a new year (and I am doing Drynuary again – see, continuity…) and I’ve already managed to finish one book. MaddAddam is Margaret Atwood’s final novel in the trilogy that began with Oryx and Crake and continued with After The Flood. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I did the previous two. Also, I wish I’d re-read the previous books before starting this one as I couldn’t remember who some of the characters were.

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Film Review: Les Miserables

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I’m not really a musicals person. I think it’s a legacy of being made to perform (badly – I’m not a good singer) in them all through my primary school days. However, I appear to be very attractive to people who are musicals fans. Every person I’ve ever been in a serious relationship with has spent a lot of time trying to make me like musicals – by singing the songs at me, playing them to me, sending me CDs of their favourites, taking me to performances, or performing themselves. So for someone who isn’t a big fan, I know a lot about musicals.

However, I’d never been dragged to see Les Mis, so while I know the songs, I didn’t know the story or the characters or anything like that. So when a couple of friends suggested we go see the film version, I agreed to tag along – since, as I’m currently single, I probably wouldn’t see it otherwise. We got to the cinema late and couldn’t get seats together. This was a shame, as it’s been a long time since I saw a film so ripe for taking the piss out of. I didn’t dislike it – but it was impossible to take it seriously.

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Review: Jingo

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I think Jingo was the first ever Discworld book I read. I have a vague memory of finding it in my Christmas stocking one year and being a little bit wary of it, not reading it until well into January. I needn’t have worried – it was exactly up my street.

My flatmate, it turns out, also likes Pratchett, and while home for Christmas raided her collection for a few to bring back to London with her. This was one of them, and I spent a pleasant couple of hours one Sunday afternoon re-reading it. (Also, I appear to have rediscovered my ability to speed-read. This will come in useful.)

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Review: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

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I’ve been wanting to read this for ages, but have been saving it up for when I felt able to tackle it. Which was over New Year, surrounded by people I like, with time to read and process the book. I loved Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, and knew it was semi-autobiographical, but I also knew that Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? would be much harder to read.

I was right.

It’s very good. It’s also really sad. Memoirs of child abuse always are, and Winterson’s journey to come to terms with her childhood and her past has been a long one, and she doesn’t hold back the details. It must have been incredibly hard, but also incredibly cathartic, to write. It’s also incredibly hard to read. But I’m glad I did read it, and I think I will re-read it. Just not for a while.

Review: The Dragon’s Path

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I first encountered Daniel Abraham through one of his short stories, The Cambist and Lord Iron, which was recorded on one of the short fiction podcasts I listen to. I knew I was going to enjoy it when I heard the subtitle: “A Fairy Tale of Economics”. It’s available for free online here: go read it.

Good, isn’t it? The same podcast (I think…) later featured a short promo for a full-length novel by the same author. I thought it sounded intriguing and noted down a rough approximation of the title in my ‘books to read’ list. This list is long and, oddly, rarely referred to when I’m deciding what to read next. I remembered this book independently when I was looking for something new to read on Kindle while off work sick (I have a cover for it that folds into a stand, which is perfect for propping on my stomach while I’m reading in bed. I love proper books, but the Kindle is far superior in the reading-in-bed respect).

The Dragon’s Path looks like a sword and sorcery novel, though in fact it’s fairly light on both aspects. It’s the first book of a series entitled The Dagger and The Coin, which gives a clearer idea of what the books are actually about. Subterfuge, and money. Banking, to be precise.

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