Book Review: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

July 31, 2013 § 2 Comments

11713Here it is, guys – an absolutely terrible review for you all. πŸ˜‰ I picked this up at the Exclusive Books warehouse sale and finally got around to reading it over the holiday. So, here goes…

The English Patient (I think) traces the intersection of four lives at the end of World War II. I would say more about the plot if I liked the book more. As it is, this sentence is using up time that I could spend reading anything…ANYTHING…to help forget this awful book. If you want a complete plot summary, Google will help – I’m sure that some crazy person enjoyed it enough to write one. πŸ˜‰

Why did I hate this book? Well, I would say mainly because although the prose is lush and lyrical and all kinds of amazing and drool-worthy and and and…I did NOT want to read 300-odd pages of Michael Ondaatje using his words for masturbation. AT SOME POINT I wanted a story that I could follow and enjoy. The prose struck me as incredibly self-aware. Trying. Too. Hard. I imagined Ondaatje sitting in his room at 3am with a plainly-typed page in front of him, translating every sentence into “OMG prose and fancy words and prizes plz” language. I skipped lines. And then I skipped paragraphs. And then, I admit, I skipped entire pages. I just couldn’t anymore.

Also, I like the fact that authors make their readers engage and actively concentrate on following the plot. I don’t like needing a PhD in literature just to know what the fuck is happening to who the fuck, and also, why the fuck? Plot? No.

A few readers on Goodreads also found the dialogue particularly unrealistic. I was too busy trying to figure out why the characters themselves seemed so unrealistic and flat. Could be a by-product of crappy dialogue – who knows. -_-

In conclusion: I recommend that you avoid this book. There are far more enjoyable and accessible classics for you to enjoy. Unless you have to actually study this book (yes, I found it on Sparknotes, which means that someone somewhere has done this for uni), don’t do it! I realize how dangerous it is for me to say this, as I’m only halfway through my English degree and there will be more set books to come, so let’s all touch wood that I don’t ever have to study this either, yes? Good. πŸ˜‰

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New and Awesome Things

July 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Just ‘coz I haven’t done a beauty post in a while; here’s what I picked up at Clicks this month. Individual reviews will be posted as I try out the products. πŸ˜‰

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A pretty little pressed powder from Accessorize at Clicks.

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Essence clear gel mascara, to try to keep my unruly eyebrows in place!

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Lovely new Nature’s Source hand wash.

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And a new hand sanitizer, since the old one is finished after much use.

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Heat protect spray from Perfect Touch. Yes, I straighten my hair.

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To, hopefully, help keep my hair in good condition.

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Yum, minty gum! πŸ˜›

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A pretty new toiletry bag after using my old one for around five years haha.

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Pretty details on the zips!

 

 

Book Review: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

July 24, 2013 § 2 Comments

the-bell-jar-by-sylvia-plath-3This is another one of my lucky secondhand bookshop finds. πŸ™‚ I wanted to buy it for a decent price because I’ve never experienced Plath’s writing before, but after reading it, I’ll definitely buy her other work brand new.

So, The Bell Jar is basically about Esther Greenwood, a woman who is brilliant and successful in pretty much every way but still suffers a descent into a terrible depression.

That’s another one of my extremely succinct little book breakdowns, but they always happen because I want people to read the books – I don’t want to give the entire story away in one paragraph!

I read The Bell Jar while I was in the throes of some good old PMS, so that may have altered my experience a little bit, but I still feel that if you have ever wondered what it’s like to be inside a depressed person’s head…read this book. It’s like watching a car crash happen in slow, exquisite motion, and you just cannot tear your eyes away. There were definitely some aspects that I found myself identifying with (to my creeping horror) and Plath has such a knack of describing certain things. It’s no wonder that my first encounter with her work was little quotes taken from The Bell Jar, because they stand by themselves just as brilliantly as they do in context.

I loved that this book is different; vivid; realistic; and accessible. You are thrown headlong into somebody’s wild depressed mind and nothing is held back – a compelling read. I confess that it only took me a few hours in one evening, from front cover to back. *blush*

β€œI felt very still and empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.” 
― Sylvia Plath,Β The Bell Jar

β€œBut when it came right down to it, the skin of my wrist looked so white and defensless that I couldn’t do it. It was as if what I wanted to kill wasn’t in that skin or the thin blue pulse that jumped under my thumb, but somewhere else, deeper, more secret, and a whole lot harder to get.” 
― Sylvia Plath,Β The Bell Jar

Yes, I Have A Collection of Stuffed Toys…

July 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

Or as I like to call them, my Reading Buddies, because they live on my bookshelf. Lots of penguins because I am the book penguin. πŸ˜‰

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Clarens Getaway – July 2013

July 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

You may have noticed that I didn’t post anything over the weekend…because I went with my parents on an impromptu holiday to Clarens! It was a really fun experience to go on holiday after a holiday hiatus of around five years, even if it was only a short weekend break. πŸ™‚

So we left on Friday afternoon at around 15:00, and I had my trusty iPod and not so trusty (and extremely uncomfortable) earphones to keep me company. I Mumford and Sons’d my way through most of the drive – the new album, Babel, really is good driving music. πŸ˜€

By the time we turned off of the N3 and onto the road to Clarens, the winter sun had hit that low point on the horizon and the shadows were lengthening. We drove in and out of sunlight depending on the lay of the land, which created shadows along certain stretches of road – but that golden sunlight really makes a landscape spectacular! And as we neared Clarens, the mountains were also lit up beautifully. We drove past Clarens in that last dim twilight and then had to find our accommodation (just outside of Clarens) in the dark. Dirt roads, darkness, and extreme distances, do not make for a fun experience, but it was certainly an adventure. After travelling around a huge cleft in the mountain on a dirt road in the dark for about 30 minutes, we eventually reached our chalet – in the middle of nowhere, perched halfway up a mountain. Then it was time to make a huge fire and braai and drink. πŸ˜€

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We all over-indulged on Friday night (even though we made it quite clear that we didn’t WANT to), and Saturday morning dawned rather miserably. I had been up and down to the loo all night (alcohol makes me pee, a lot) and finally at around 5:30am I decided that I was awake for good and ready to face the day. I had my rusk and tea in the freezing cold and dark, while watching the sun gradually rise over the mountains – what a lovely way to wake up!

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When everyone had emerged and showered and dressed and eaten (and this took as long as you might think) we headed off to the Golden Gate National Park.Β What an AMAZING place. The mountains in this park are just so gorgeous, and you drive on winding roads between them. There are also picturesque little chalets at the entrance. I just wish I had been less tired and hungover – the car ride actually made me feel quite ill, and I started getting a tummy ache (because when you’re on meds that lower your blood sugar, one rusk and one cup of tea at 5:30 in the morning really aren’t enough to keep you going for very long). We scrounged up a packet of chips to snack on (otherwise I faint – yes, it’s happened before) when we arrived at our destination, the vulture restaurant. The idea behind this is simple: there’s a building with dark glass that people can stand in, and in the field in front of it the game rangers leave dead animals (I’m pretty sure they don’t kill them, just find them) to attract the vultures so that they people can watch them. There were vultures circling but none landed; probably because the kids and adults in our party skipped the building and went to examine the carcasses instead. πŸ˜› The walk to the building was up a bit of a hill, and we were blasted by ICY winds all the way up and around. Luckily once we reached all the bodies, the wind calmed down. I’m not one to closely examine dead and rotting animals, and the smell would sneakily assault me just when I least expected it, but the view of the cliffs and mountains was rather lovely.

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The kids and two or three adults went right down to the cliffs to explore, and we went back to the cars. I must admit that the 20 minutes of waiting were almost the nicest of the entire trip. I adore wind and we really don’t get that caliber of wind in Pretoria, so I wandered around in what felt like a mini-gale and took lots of photos. The wind was so invigorating that I felt really awake and energetic – not at all how I started the day.

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Then we were off to Clarens, for “breakfast” that was actually lunch. We ate at a German place called the Roter Hahn. The atmosphere was great but the food took AGES to arrive – probably close on two and a half hours. That’s seriously disappointing for a place that must be used to dealing with the rush of tourists. And German food is really not my thing, so I just had a focaccia with German cheese; I was hungry, so it tasted pretty amazing.

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After that, some wandering around in town and browsing in the shops – also quite disappointing, as they all sell pretty much the same touristy crap available all over SA. I did buy some bath products though. Yes. Nicole goes to Clarens and buys bath products. -_-

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In the evening we braaied again, though the revelry was much subdued due to lack of sleep and over-indulgence the night before. I went to bed pretty early and had a wonderful, snug sleep in bed with my electric blanket. ^_^

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On Sunday morning we packed up and headed into town for breakfast and more general hanging around. We ate at the waffle and pancake place, which was absolutely delicious (but, again, how on EARTH can you have one waiter serving an entire restaurant in peak season?!). After drool-icious savoury biltong and cottage cheese pancakes and a very sweet chocolate waffle with ice cream and hazelnuts for dessert, I hit the crystal shop that I missed the day before. Now THEY have some beautiful things! I don’t buy into the whole crystal and energy thing, but I do think that crystals are very beautiful, and I already own two different ones. Well, now I own three. πŸ˜€

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I was very sad to leave, as Clarens is really a lovely place. The town is picturesque and it’s nice to be able to walk around and not fear for your life (Gauteng baby here). I also think we visited the area at a great time, as I adore cold weather and autumnal trees. They just make me enjoy an experience so much more. Next time, I’d love to stay in the Golden Gate National Park and spend most of my time there, hiking and such. It’s so lovely with all the mountains and it interests me for longer than the town does. Let’s see what I can book, yes? πŸ˜€

Pretties (And Why Woolworths Is Awesome)

July 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

A little while ago I decided that I needed some pretty flowers for my hair for the days that I decide to tie it up. Here is what I found:

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Random hair flower from Dischem – I liked the softer colours. Oh so goth, right?

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Aaaaaand Woolworths! Gorgeous velvety high-quality lovely-coloured flowers. I am so in love. ❀

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Book Review: The Cider House Rules by John Irving

July 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

imagesvgsdrvgdsThanks, Exclusive Books warehouse sale! I am always excited when I find critically-acclaimed fiction at ridiculously low prices, as this is the year that I am beginning to explore the world of GOOD good-old-fashioned fiction. So I picked up The Cider House Rules despite having never actually watched the movie – I just knew that it was a movie as well.

This book is about Doctor Wilbur Larch; the orphanage that he runs in St. Cloud’s in rural Maine; and the unadoptable orphan Homer Wells. Looking at that sentence, which at first seemed to sum the book up rather well, I feel that it doesn’t nearly do The Cider House Rules justice.

I have a sort of mental category for books like this; tricky to get into (but once you’re in, you’re absolutely hooked), with writing that at first glance seems simple and effortless but under greater scrutiny reveals itself to be absolutely masterful, and with subject matter that makes me really reconsider my views and opinions about the world at large. Oh, and let me not forget the characters. The word that sticks in my head is ‘real’. They are imperfect, unpredictable, sometimes beautiful and sometimes terribly ugly. They are absolutely human and they make the book worth reading.

If I had a complaint (and this is taking some serious thought) it would be that I struggled to really get into the book – readers will know what I mean by this. It starts slowly, at the beginning, and takes time to pick up momentum. Me writing a review is proof that it can be done, though, so just persevere. πŸ˜‰

Of course, the positives FAR outweigh the negatives. I am definitely going to keep an eye out for more of John Irving’s work, as I feel that he is a bit of an understated genius and a wonderful study of human nature and character (both of which I find incredibly interesting to read about).

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