Room by Emma Donoghue

Jack is five, and excited about his birthday. He lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures eleven feet by eleven feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friend, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real – only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until one day Ma admits there’s a world outside… 
An interesting, harrowing story, made more interesting by telling it through the eyes of a child. Room remained fast paced and interesting throughout; the middle section was especially tense and required speed reading while hyperventilating on my part (my boyfriend came to check on me a few times because he thought I might be having a nightmare – yes, he’s frequently woken up in this way).
If it wasn’t so gripping and fascinating (which I’m not going to go into because it’s just so much better if you don’t know), I’d have been irritated by the boy. Sometimes he was insufferably slow to catch on to things, being five years old. Sometimes he was just a bit annoying with his Charlie and Lola style talk. I imagine it’s quite adorable if you have children, but I don’t, and I like it when people speak properly.
If it wasn’t for my occasional irritation at the boy, then I would give this book 5/5 – as it stands, it’s a 4/5. Read it, it’s bloody good.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

My mum bought me this book as part of a batch of modern classics when I was about thirteen. I powered through Animal Farm and Bonjour Tristesse, hoovered up Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and just failed to feel in anyway excited about this book. Back then, I made it nearly a third of the way through before giving up. 

This time I’m about one page short of that record. I’ve come to the conclusion, following my spate of shitty reads recently, that I have better things to do than waste my time reading things I don’t enjoy. My thirteen year old self may be an embarrassment to me in most ways, but she had awesome taste in books. 

As I read the book, I imagined Sal Paradise, the narrator, to have that stupid hipster accent which I hate so much, the one which exists in all languages, the twatty one. The laid back one that goes like ‘ooooh, maaaate…. I was, like, all blah blah’ in English. In French it’s almost impossible to understand and involves mumbling. I bet Remi Boncoeur had that accent in both French and English.

This book has lead to the collapse of my book club. It filled me with ennui. Apparently the film has Kristen Stewart in it. Blech!

I understand exactly why people like this book – the sense of escapism, being a bit of a hippy, freedom. I just didn’t feel any of those things when I was reading it. I just felt numb. 

Pretentious and twatty. 

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The narrator of this book is so dull she doesn’t even get a name. I shall call her Egg.

Egg is in the south of France living with an old American woman who she hates when she meets Maxim, a silver fox. He’s a bit damaged after his ex died, but he decided to marry Egg (I’m still unsure why). Back at his home in Cornwall, she’s confronted by the housekeeper who’s a bit of a bitch. Egg is far to scared to say or do anything in case the servants judge her for not being very good at being in charge. This strategy yields little success.

The concept is interesting. What influence a dead woman can have over the living. How you perceive those you’ve never met, especially your partners exes. How wrong you can be about those things. To assume makes an ass out of u and me, etc.

I found the story itself pretty gripping, but I couldn’t stand Egg – she’s like a 1930s Bella Swan. I wanted to shake some guts into her. STAND UP FOR YOURSELF, EGG!

Eventually, for reasons I can’t quite remember, Egg began to stand up for herself. The story got a lot better then, but I was just so sick of it by this point, I was only finishing it out of (confusing) spite.

This book taught me a few of important lessons.

1. Never read the introduction before you read the book. It is bound to give away some really important part of the plot, ruining any excitement you may have felt.

2. Just because everyone else loves a book, it doesn’t mean that you will. And, actually, that’s ok.

3. You should be the hero in your life. If you’re not, it’s just a little bit sad.

Russia – Culture Smart! by Anna King

When I was about five, I received my first atlas. I have a very clear memory of asking my mum what that massive section of the world that seemed to be called USSR was all about. At that instant an obsession was born. One that has continued to this day – intensifying somewhat when I made a proper Russian friend, and when I visited that Russian.

An obsession with maps was also born, but that’s perhaps another story.

When I saw this book in Waterstones before Christmas I didn’t buy it, reasoning that it would probably appear in my stocking on Christmas morning. Well, apparently nobody else spent quite as much time lurking in the Russian travel section as I did, and it did not appear. The Amazon voucher I received did the trick, though. Let’s gloss over the fact I said I wasn’t going to buy any more books.

The book starts with a history section which is really interesting, before moving onto different areas of Russian life, explaining the customs that you should bear in mind, and providing an insight into the Russian way of thinking.

My favourite section was about Russian superstitions. I love a good superstition, so it was great to add a few to my list: never shake hands across a threshold (this is repeated many times – must be important), always sit for a while before making a journey, don’t return to the house if you’ve forgotten something, do get married in the rain, always give an odd number of flowers.

Overall, the book was very interesting, and the illustrations made it feel quite fun, although I sometimes felt that I was told something but the details behind it weren’t fully explained. I found it a nice addition to my carefully stored up Russian knowledge, and I look forward to investigating the answers to the questions it left me with in the future.

James Bond: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

James reckons he’s killed Blofeld, and to be frank, he gets quite cocky about the whole thing, pissing M right off. He gets sent off to investigate a diamond smuggling operation, much to his disgust. Things perk up a little when he thinks he’s going to South Africa, but he ends up in Amsterdam instead – in your fashe Mishter Bond.

Everyone who’s touched the diamonds seems to end up dead – maybe they have some kind of poison on them? Oh, no. That’ll be the two possibly-gay probably-retards following them around. They’ve even knocked off the kindly diamond smuggling nana!

Of course, Blofeld isn’t actually dead. He’s just got a bunch of doubles hanging around. Bond cleverly/meanly kicks Blofeld’s cat so he boots it off to his real owner, but easy-B has cloned his cat as well, and James just kills the clone. I would dispute the accuracy of this – if you kick my cat, he’s not going to be running in any specific direction. He might not run at all if you have any food in your hands.

The plot gets a little confusing at some point and it’s very early in the morning and I can’t remember the order things happen in. Bond definitely stumbles across what appeared to be the faking of the moon landing, steals their moon buggy and had the slowest chase in history across the desert.

He heads off to set free the billionaire, who’s life Blofeld has confusingly managed to take over, and gets into a fight with the billionaire’s bikini clad bodyguards. Strange that they’ve made no effort to free their employer from the small apartment downstairs, where he is being stored. Presumably, they’ve been too busy backflipping around the sitting room.

It all ends as you’d expect, with Blofeld in a tiny submarine being smashed repeatedly against a wall by Bond in a crane. No mention is made of his dead wife, and Bond takes a cruise back to Blighty with Jill St. John in tow. How she avoided going to prison for her role in the whole diamond operation remains a mystery.

Better than the last film, not as good as that one in Japan.