2015 Book List

booksThis year, I only made four resolutions, but I should really add a fifth: read more. While I still prioritize getting lost in a good book, I noticed that over the course of 2014, I didn’t read as much as I’d like for a variety of reasons (coughSherlock, Downton Abbey, Call the Midwifecough). B isn’t much of a reader, so lots of times I’ll choose to watch a movie with him instead and I’m afraid this is becoming a bad habit.

So! Because reading is one of my favorite things and to get me going again, here’s the top (first) novels I want to read this year:

Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson: I first discovered Kate Atkinson in grad school and fell even deeper in love last spring while reading the brilliant Life After Life. Human Croquet is one of her earlier novels and follows the course of siblings Isobel and Charles. I don’t know anymore about the plot than that, but don’t need to. Atkinson’s writing is as evocative, lyrical and sharp as it gets.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert: This is one of the classics that, for me, has always slipped between the cracks. This is probably the first book I’m going to get my hands on and, while I’m happily married, I already feel like I relate to Emma Bovary. Sometimes life feels so routine; who doesn’t dream about an escape?

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant: I recently joined a book club and Anita Diamant’s newest novel (an Amazon Best Book of 2014) is this month’s read. B and I were recently in Boston, so I’m looking forward to exploring the city through the eyes of a young immigrant woman at the turn of the century.

Anything by Ian McEwan: Every once in a while you come across a writer who thrills you, so when it comes to Ian McEwan, I can’t choose which of his novels to read first—I want to read them all. I’ll let you know what I end up choosing, but Sweet Tooth (since I didn’t get around to it last year) and Saturday top the list.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I’ve read nothing but beautiful reviews regarding this New York Times bestseller set in occupied France during the second world war, and have already been waiting weeks to get my hands on it (all copies are checked out at the library). I’ve become fascinated by the countless faucets of WWII, but hardly know a thing about the occupation of France. Trusting in this novel to educate and delight me.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway: Was there ever a more glamorous time in literary history than 1920s Paris? Accepting this might be the closest I ever get to this magical decade, A Moveable Feast is a must.

The Mermaid’s Daughter by Jo Baker: Longbourn was easily among the best books I read in 2014, and Baker’s newest novel, to be released in March, sounds even more strange and wonderful. I rarely read fantasy novels, but trust Baker to create a world in which I don’t want to leave.

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster: Until I have the chance to explore this breathtaking place for myself, I’ve been getting my fix of India through great novels. (I’d highly recommend Behind the Beautiful Forevers and The Space Between Us). I find the intersection of Indian and British culture and identity especially interesting, making Forster’s novel an essential read.

What great books did you read last year? I’d love your recommendations!
Em
P.S.  I finished A Farewell to Arms last night and I’m still making up my mind about it (love the writing, digesting the plot). At times like this I miss being a student for the rich discussion opportunities! And I’m a geek.

P.S. S. There’s still a couple novels from last year’s list I still need to read, but plans got derailed when I decided to finally sink into The Harry Potter series. See! I told you I’m a geek.
Picture courtesy of littlegreennotebook.blogspot.com

Bestival, 5-8th September 2013 – Review

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After the kind of summer weather every festival-goer longs for, everyone with a ticket to the last big party of the summer was ready for one final frivolity session before the leaves start dropping.  Even the long-seen  clouds and intermittent heavy rain seemed unable to dampen the mood.

Although Bestival now falls under the ‘big’ festival category, it clearly hasn’t forgotten its boutique beginnings, the myriad of stages, sets, tents, fairground rides and performances are all set within several fields and are so spaced out that one can wander about what feels like many mini-festivals in one.

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After a brutal 4am wakeup for a crossing on the most expensive ferry in the world, we stumbled into Bestival’s site a little bleary eyed, but the incredible décor and beautiful setting of Robin Hill country park soon shook the sleep from our eyes.  The ever-present fairyland theme continued to amaze (this is not my first Besti), the visual delights almost outweigh the music for me as does the eclectic mix of people who take their chance to dress-up more than a little seriously.

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Since it began in 2004, Bestival has been able to blend a perfect concoction of mainstream acts with up and coming and slightly left-field artists, and this year was no exception.  I was lucky enough to get a press ticket this year and despite this, found myself struggling to name more than a handful of people skulking around the artists bar.  But little did this matter; in fact I prefer the spontaneity of stumbling across unknown bands from across the musical spectrum, rather than always seeing the crowd-pulling headliners time-after-time.

The weekend got off to a wonderful start, after a short nap, our first visit was to the Replay tent to see acoustic-cutie Lewis Watson in his early evening set, his mellow tones and deliciously humble manner made his repertoire the perfect accompaniment to a cold cider and the beautiful sunset.  The highlight of Friday had to be the epic FatBoy Slim, his headlining hour and a half set drew in well over half the attendees, and his classic beats certainly kick-started the hedonistic vein of the weekend.

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The gorgeous Lewis Watson

As with most modern music festivals, there is so much more than music, and as a self-confessed culture-vulture I was keen to explore the hidden magic of Bestival: the Ambient Forest hosted excellent poetry and storytelling,  the highlight being Scroobius Pip and his spoken word – perfect if your hangover just can’t stand a baseline. The cheery WI ladies offer delicious tea and cake at recession friendly prices, meaning the eclectic jewellery stands I simply couldn’t resist a purchase from were eased from guilt a little.

The Saturday night for me belonged to Simian Mobile Disco: their 3.15am set drawing in a mix of all-night ravers, hangers on and weird and wonderful creatures in their nautical attire (HMS Bestival was this year’s theme), Bestival’s dancefloor roots shone through in the Big Top tent, which was packed and heaving until the early hours.

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My favourite tea tent of all, I want this in my garden.

Throw into all this mix the most wonderful selection of food this side of the Spinnacker Tower, with the finest ethically sourced dishes, as well as an assortment of vegetarian, international and quintessentially English caterers and the presence of Elton John and Chic almost seems  redundant.  Luckily we got them anyway.

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Elton John performs his first festival on British soil in over thirty years.

By his own admission Elton John hasn’t played at a British music festival since 1969, his presence on this island is only because ‘he heard it was a good one’.  With over forty years of musical experience behind him, he certainly knew how to draw the squashed-in, slightly damp revellers out of their day-three-weariness and celebrate the end of the summer in style.  Although we were only able to stay for the beginning of the set (our boat departed that evening), his mix of eccentricity and spine-tingling classic tunes certainly made it a difficult stage to walk away from; as was Bestival and the glorious summer of 2013.

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Bestival maybe older and more mature, celebrating its 10th birthday this year, but it still delivers a fabulous end of summer party and exceptional entertainment for all.