In Love with the 80s

If you had the choice of re-living your childhood and teenage years, and could choose the particular decade during which to enjoy them… would you? And which decade would you choose?

Baccombed wild hair, puffy tulle skirts, pink scrunchies, men wearing heavy make-up, others stroking screeching guitars as though they were lovers, skintight leather trousers, shoulder-padded blazers, bubblegum and legwarmers. No it’s not a drag-queen’s parade – it’s the 80s!

Ever since I can remember, I have always been in love with the 80s. The movies, the video games, the music, the pop-culture, the anime, the clothes (especially the Madonna phase)…. Taking into account that I was born in the mid-80s, and therefore don’t remember a thing about actually living during this decade, since I was a toddler at the time, this kind of retro-nostalgia might not be understandable to others. After all, why yearn for slower services, archaic I.T, and vanilla sitcoms right? Still, when I look at the ingenious convoluted plots of 80s movies, as opposed to the boring recurring tropes featuring semi-nude women, sex scenes, car chases and gratuitous violence… without a shred of innovation or creativity, presented to viewers today, it is no wonder I end up re-watching old 80s, and sometimes 90s films over and over again.

And what to say about the music? David Bowie, Queen, Siouxie and the Banshees, Black Sabbath, Def Leppard, Madonna, Guns n Roses, Van Halen, AC/DC, Twisted Sister, Whitesnake, Kiss, Scorpions, Eurythmics… need I go on? Who do we have now? Justin Bieber? Miley Cyrus? Kanye West? Oh please…

I don’t doubt that there are great and talented artists out there. But does today’s entertainment culture give them prominence as it should? I’ll leave you to answer that yourselves shall I?

Two days ago, I finished reading Cline’s amazing book ‘Ready Player One’. And it was a blast. The movie? I liked it and watched it twice… before I had actually read the novel. Now? Let’s say I think I’ll be considering the movie and the novel as two separate entities, rather than one. Yes, the movie does derive from the book, BUT apart from holding to the mostly-right cliche that ‘The book is always better than the movie’, I have to say that the characters, plot-lines, adventures and contents of the movie vs book itself are vastly different. And yes, the book is much better. Especially if you are a sucker for the 80s like me. And a movie-geek. And love video games. And are an otaku. And a geek. And a nerd.

I think you’ve realized by now that even though I finished reading the book more than 48 hours ago, I am still MASSIVELY HYPED UP about it.

Time to listen to some good 80s music and re-watch ‘Back to the Future’ or ‘Bladerunner’!

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The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart

“ I love you crookedly because my heart’s been unhinged from birth. The doctors gave me strict instructions not to fall in love: my fragile clockwork heart would never survive. But when you gave me a dose of love so powerful – far beyond my wildest dreams – that I felt able to confront anything for you, I decided to put my life in your hands.” 
― Mathias Malzieu, La Mécanique du cœur

‘The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart’, a metaphorical, sweet, and disturbing little book translated into English from French, is a Tim Burtonesque fable of the rarest kind. I purchased the book at the well-known historical bookshop Shakespeare and Co in Paris. Attracted by Benjamin Lacombe’s art on the cover (check some of it out here) I couldn’t not give it a go, and boy am I happy that I did!

Our story begins on a cold dark wintry night (of course it does), when an unkown woman gives birth to a very pale baby, delivered by ‘Dr Madeline’ also known as ‘the witch’ in a gothic house set on top of King Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. Because yes, this dark gothic tale is set in 19th century Scotland (and we even bump into Jack the Ripper at one point)! The baby is sickly, his heart is weak, and our steampunkish doctor decides to link the hardly-beating heart with a cuckoo-clock set right into the boy’s chest.

Three rules must always be kept:
1. Never touch the hands of the heart-clock
2. Keep your temper under control
3 Whatever else you do, never ever fall in love

Needless to say that during the course of his life, Jack breaks all three rules.

By the way, did I mention there is also an animated version of the book? And it is AMAZING. Yes, this is what happens when the author, Mathias Malzieu, is the leading singer of a French rock band – Dionysus. They created the music for the animated movie themselves of course. You can find some clips on Youtube (both in the original French version and translated to English). 

Oh yes, this book was a real discovery. Thank you Paris. Thank you Shakespeare and Co. Thank you Benjamin Lacombe. And most of all thank you so much Mathias Malzieu!

P.S If you loved Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s ‘The Little Prince’, this book is right up your street.

Personal rating – 5 on 5 Stars!

The Reader

Her parents had no money to waste on books. Electricity and water bills arrived every couple of months, food had to be bought, not to mention stuff to clean the house and clothes with. Raising a child wasn’t cheap. 

When she turned twelve, she discovered ‘pocket money’. All the other children at school seemed to have it and had had it for years. They laughed at her for not knowing what it was. So did her cousins. 

Grabbing courage with two shaking hands, the child timidly went to her mother, and asked about it. After weeks of consultations – days and days of walking on tiptoe, of ‘being good or you can forget any pocket-money’, it was decided. Father gave mother money every week to buy food. She in turn would give the child two Maltese lira a week out of the food money. If she was good. And did as she was told. And did not ‘answer back’.

That money was her life-line. All it took was three weeks. Maybe four. And with her carefully saved hoard she could finally buy a book. One book. 

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The lady at the shop saw her every week. Maybe twice or three times each week even. Peering assiduously at the shelves. Hair tucked back. Pinching shoes forgotten as glistening eyes devoured each and every corner. Reading the book titles over and over again. Touching the pages, looking at the spines and covers. And of course, the blurps at the back. She must have known the sequencing of all the books on all the shelves by heart. And by the fourth week, when the price of the chosen book had been reached, the money would be handed over, as would the much awaited paper-wrapped treasure.

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In her room, she would unwrap it slowly, marveling at its heavenly smell. That particular scent of new paper and stationery. First, she’d introduce it to the other books, then the soft toys, one by one, each one by name. And finally, with a flourish, she’d present it to the room in general, imagining ovations and applause as the new addition to the small family was placed in its particularly chosen spot.

Then she would wait.

She waited for her father to go out. For her mother to be engrossed in one of her soaps on the T.V or in some long-winded conversation on the telephone. Then, and only then, would she crack the book’s spine.

And be lost.

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February Book Round-Up

I was going to write this post mentioning the books chronologically as I read them one after the other throughout the month, however then I decided to number them according to the order in which they touched me most.

  1. The book I read this month which I loved ‘best’ was actually the one I finished reading last, that is, yesterday evening. I had been looking forward to reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon‘s ‘The Shadow of the Wind‘ for quite some time, as I had heard it was very good, and as soon as I randomly came across the book last weekend at the public library, I knew I had some very full days ahead of me. I love reading books about people who love reading books, and therefore this novel was right up my street. ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ is a mystery, a love story, a gothic novel, a historic book about the war, a book describing the city of Barcelona, but most of all, it is a book about books and the obsession one person can feel towards them. The writing itself is mezmerising and beautiful. Truly an enchanting read which touched my heart. I give it 5 stars!

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2. Next up is Antoine de Saint Exupery‘s ‘The Little Prince‘ which I had watched as a little girl in anime-form, but had never read. It is an easy book to read. But no, it is not a children’s book, despite its appearance and pictures inside. It is in fact one of the most beautiful and insightful allegories I have ever read. And it is a novel I will always treasure. I am only sorry that I didn’t read it sooner, but better late than never. I know I will re-read it again, and again, and again. This book is almost a tie-in with the first one in fact. Again 5 stars!

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3. In third place, I’m not putting just one book, but actually three, since I started out February by continuing to read the ‘Ender’s Shadow’ series. I am of course referring to Orson Scott Card‘s ‘Shadow Puppets‘, ‘Shadow of the Giant‘ and ‘Shadows in Flight‘. As you know, I don’t usually go for sci-fi, but Card’s ‘Ender’ universe (for want of a better name) hooked me up years ago – what with political depth, emotional metaphors, religious insinuations and technical jargon, again it’s not my cup of tea… but… but… I’m just a sucker for character-development, and this series is just a master-piece. No, the ‘Shadow’ series is not as good as the ‘Ender’ one, I admit, still I really like most of the characters, not to mention Card’s writing and funny turn of phrase. So, definitely a 4 out of 5 stars for this series in general. 

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4. Following all this sci-fi, I turned my gaze to Rick Riordan‘s ‘Kane Chronicles’. Yup – from sci-fi to ‘ YA mythological fantasy’, quite a jump! But I really needed the breath of fresh air, plus I was missing some good references to Egyptian mythology. Riordan does a masterful job, especially when it comes to ancient history, however I must admit that his characters, especially the ‘teens’, DO come across as kind of flat. Admittedly this could be the result of reading a YA writer exactly after a diet of Card’s densely-packed characterization… but I still enjoyed the fast-paced story-line. I give it 3 – 4 stars.

So, in 4th place this month, I’m gonna place Riordan’s trilogy ‘The Red Pyramid’, ‘The Throne of Fire‘ and ‘The Serpent’s Shadow‘.

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5. Lastly, is another book I got from the local public library – ‘Big Little Lies‘ by Liane Moriarty. I can hear you scream ‘WHAT?’ Female Melodrama? ‘Desperate Housewives’ stuff? Again, not my usual genre, but after watching the T.V series and randomly spotting the novel at the library, I decided to try it out. It was quirky and funny and well-written, but, had it not been for the stellar performance given by the cast in the eponymous T.V series, I wouldn’t have given it one thought. Suffice it to say, it was entertaining, but I won’t be reading any more of Moriarty’s work in future. Again, I reiterate that she is a good writer BUT I don’t particularly enjoy this kind of plot. So, this book gets 3 stars.

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At the beginning of the year I had promised myself that I would try to read at least 8 books per month, that is, two books a week. Last month, I only managed to finish 7, which was below quota, however this month I managed 9, which makes up for January as well. I managed to read so much even though I was abroad on holiday for a week, which resulted in a lot of outings and me being too dead tired in the evening to read anything at all. So, yay me!

How I deal with Depression

When I’m in a bad place (emotionally speaking) I always turn to things which comfort me. This summer, I could not turn to comfort food, since I am trying to keep track of my calories. I did turn to my one and only, however I really did not want to be too clingy – the poor guy needs his space after single-handedly taking care of all the house chores, etc for the past two and a half-months, so I had to lay off in that sense. And that, of course, left ‘comfort-books‘!

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Some books are a guilty pleasure. As the years roll by, I read them again and again at studious intervals, associating certain books or book series to certain mind-sets. Now, don’t laugh at me, but I actually have a book which I like to read each year when the first big storm hits after an arid summer. The book in question is ‘I Capture the Castle’ by Dodie Smith. There is also a series of books I read when I’m feeling particularly witty or frolicksome (mainly Neil Gaiman), and books I just love to read at Christmas-time, because, you know, they put me in the mood. Whenever I am about to travel on holiday, I also try to find books with a story based in that particular country, and I always manage it! I really had a field day when I went to Venice (why do books set in Venice always seem to be erotic romances?), and of course, the UK is easy. And so on.

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Since this summer was a terrible one for me, as I had to spend most of it in bed and in pain due to health issues, I obviously gravitated towards those books which comforted me. The 10-book part series I read, is the one which first introduced me to epic fantasy books, and the one which made me fall in love with that style of writing when I was 13 years old. I am speaking about David Edding’s Belgariad (first five books) and Mallorean (another 5 books).

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Recently I discovered that these book series are considered to be YA. They were actually written in the 1980s, a time when the term and concept of YA novels wasn’t thought of yet. So even though some readers may consider them to be YA, I do not, as they are certainly not as vapid, mediocre or predictable as YA books usually are (yup, you got me, I hate YA books in general, though there are exceptions).

The plot is basically a bildunsgroman, that is, a coming of age story. We see Garion, a naive boy living on a farm, realize that the world, and the people around him are, and were never, what he believed them to be. The world is complicated, mysterious and wonderful, and Garion finds that he himself is a very special person, destined to change the course of the known world forever. I am not going to go into any more details as I do not want to give any spoilers. Suffice it to say that I really love the cast of characters presented by Eddings. Their repetitive banter may irritate one after a while – still I read all the 10 books in around 3 weeks (remember I’m house-bound here), so one must take that into account. The books are not as lengthy as the tomes I am used to, and the old Maltese Pound price tags attached to the covers make me even more nostalgic, remembering how happy I was about buying these first books out of my own pocket money. Books which, for the first time, no one had chosen for me because they were ‘what children read’, but which I had chosen for myself, deviating from the norm. 

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If you haven’t read the Belgarion and the Mallorean, I strongly suggest you do. They are not as popular or well-known as book series like Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ or George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ (Game of Thrones), but they are still worth a read. Then again, I’m biased, hehe…

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Who are the Book Fairies?

Have you heard of the Book Fairies? No, they don’t have wings, they don’t fly on flowers and they are of a normal size.

Let me explain – In March 2017, ‘Harry Potter’ actress Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) helped launch The Book Fairies project on International Women’s Day, when she hid feminist books around NYC – titles she had chosen for her book club (yes, Emma Watson has a Book Club). She is currently continuing her Book Fairy fun with the current book club read – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which she is currently sharing around Paris. 

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Basically, this is what being a Book Fairy is all about – Book Fairies are people who leave books in public places, in order for these to be found and read, and then passed on to other readers. The aim is to promote reading!

Although the project started in New York with only a few members, today Book Fairies number over 5,000 people sharing books in more than 100 countries. In fact, anyone can be a Book Fairy! All you have to do if you have some books you’d like to share, is to head over to the Book Fairies’ website here and order some VERY cheap green ‘Book Fairies’ stickers to attach to your books. One can also decorate the books with ‘Book Fairies’ ribbons or bookmarks, which can also be found on the official website here.

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Who knows, you could be featured in the Book Fairies page as a representative of your country! Take a look here!

As for me, I know that I personally could never be a Book Fairy because I’m a book hoarder and I’m too attached to my books to give them away. Once I’ve read a book, I want to keep it forever. Fortunately, no one is as book-greedy as I am!

Do you believe in Book Fairies!?

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2016 Goodreads Challenge WON!

During the past four years, I admit that I haven’t been as voracious a reader as I used to be in the past. This is mainly because:

  1. I moved house 3 times in 3 years, meaning that my books were hidden in boxes for long periods of time at a stretch.
  2. Living alone means that one has more responsibilities and more time needs to be dedicated to house chores, meaning that when I finally have some free time, I mostly end up mindlessly vegetating and watching some T.V rather than reading.
  3. Me and my bf bought our own place in 2015, which also meant we had to restore, furnish and do quite a number of maintenance jobs, which left me exhausted both in mind and body.

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Finally however, I was all settled in 2016 and could re-start focusing my life once more. This is why I took part in the Goodreads challenge with the premise of reading at least 75 new books during that year. I don’t know whether to you 75 books sound like too many, but for me, it is the bare minimum I had to read to restore the real ‘me’ to myself, taking into account the enormous number of books I used to read and enjoy before. 

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I am happy to say that I more than passed the test. I read a total of 116 books in 2016, passing and topping the challenge I had set myself. Which is what I actually wanted really. I must also add that I didn’t make an effort or check myself constantly in any way to push myself to read. I didn’t do it because I HAD TO. I read effortlessly, lovingly, having fun and choosing books I liked or those I was curious about.

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2017 brought along a new Goodreads challenge. This time, I am promising myself I’ll read at least 100 new books this year… which means that I’m reading at least 150… haha. Call it my New Year’s Resolution.

Also on this note, I’ve decided to start writing a blog entry each month, reviewing briefly the books read during the previous 30/1 days. So looking forward to that!

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