Sunday, 30 June 2013

Sugar Sin

I love the name of this shop 'Sugar Sin', it sums up treats perfectly- sweet and a little bit wicked. It sells traditional British sweets, licorice comforts, chocolate raisins and mint humbugs. They're a little bit pricey but are good quality and beautifully presented. I can vouch for the chocolate and yoghurt coated nuts.
sugar sin, gifts, presents, sweets, candy, chocolate, milk and white, pretty design, tasty, pink ribbon, quality, old fashioned
The interior of the shop is Willy Wonka territory, black and white stripy floors, pastel shelves and huge jars of pick and mix.
sugar sin, gifts, presents, sweets, candy, chocolate, milk and white, pretty design, tasty, pink ribbon, quality, old fashioned, jars, willy wonka

Sugar Sin is near to Covent Garden if you fancy dropping in, or alternatively you can shop online.

Happy 110th Belated Birthday George Orwell!

It was George Orwell's birthday on the 25th June, to celebrate street artist Front404 decorated surveillance cameras in Utrecht. This of course  witty reference to Orwell's most famous novel 1984, a dystopian fiction where the sinister government, Big Brother, constantly watches the public on the alert for 'thought crime'.  

Thursday, 27 June 2013


"To have memories, happy or sorrowful, is a blessing, for it shows we have lived our lives without reservation" 
- Tan Twan Eng, The Gift of Rain 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

I had loaded another weight onto his suffering

" while one person can never really share the pain of another, they can so easily and so heedlessly add to it"
-Tan Twan Eng, The Gift of Rain 

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Tan Twan Eng- The Gift of Rain

The Gift of Rain is currently available of Kindle for £0.99, I strongly suggest you snap it up.

The plot: Set in Penang, Malaya, this novel spans decades, from the dying days of the Chinese imperial court, to the collapse of the British empire to Japanese hostilities in World War Two.

The protagonist is Philip Hutton, who feels alienated because his dual British and Chinese parentage, until he meets Hayato Endo.  Endo, a Japanese diplomat becomes Philip's friend and mentor, teaching him about Japanese culture and the martial art aikido.

 With the outbreak of World War II, and Japan's brutal occupation of Penang, Philip comes to realise he has been betrayed by Endo, who is a Japanese spy. Philip becomes an unwitting traitor as he is forced to collaborate with the occupying forces in a hope to save his family. 

This novel is emotionally draining. Tan Twan Eng is a very talented writer, he made me sympathise with so many of the characters, but especially Philip, who's life is so tragic that I felt worn out by the time I'd finished reading. That's not to say it's not a good book- it's just very sad. 

Wartime collaboration is a contentious issue, usually when people talk of collaborators it is negative. Collaborators are seen as weak, cowardly traitors that should be shamed and punished. The Gift of Rain, shows how love and loyalty can be manipulated, and how people believe they are doing the wrong thing but for the right reason. Though The Gift of Rain examines the morality of collaboration, it isn't preachy and it isn't simplified. Both Philip and Endo have their reason for assisting the Japanese with the invasion of Penang, there reason's are not presented as an excuse. They are not blameless just because they are coerced.  

The scope of the novel is huge. I really enjoyed when the narrative broadened out, and included glimmers of Buddhist religion, Japanese philosophy and Chinese history and folk-tales. Penang sounds like a fascinating place, an interesting mix of different cultures, after reading this book I really want to visit. 

Although I learnt about the Second World War in school, we mainly focused on the Western front, so I am woefully ignorant about the battles in south-east Asia. Before reading The Gift of Rain, I was unaware that Malaysia was a former British colony, that during the war had been shamefully left undefended when invaded by the Japanese army. It is something, that after reading this novel, I really want to educate myself on.  

If you enjoyed this, I'd recommend Burnt Shadows, by Kamila Shamsie. As like The Gift of Rain, the novel depicts World War II in south-east Asia. 

Duty is a concept created by emperors and generals to deceive us

The Abbey Bookstore, Paris

The Abbey Bookstore
The Abbey Bookstore looks charming, it's going on my list of places I want to visit. I love bookshops that have piles higgledy-piggledy stacked books, a musty smell and peaceful hush of a library.  Places where you can browse for ages and find hidden gems.  

When I used to live in Sheffield, I used to regularly go to a second hand bookshop that looked pretty similar to this, though the building wasn't quite so grand. It was three stories high, and there were piles of books everywhere, all up the stairs, and in floor to celling mismatched bookshelves, precariously balanced. The man that owned the shop used to just sit behind the counter, reading, listening to jazz and ignoring the customers. I wish I could remember the name of it, it was really good to go to and get cheap editions of my assigned reading for uni. I think it might have closed down now, it used to be near Devonshire Green near a vintage jewellery shop. If anyone know if it's still open can you let me know?  

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Candy Cakes

Strolling around at lunchtime, I spotted this incredibly festive looking cake shop called Candy Cakes. There are some cute dotty tables and chairs outside, so once the weather gets nicer I'm going to bring the lasses from work for a cuppa and a cupcake. If the cakes taste as good as they look, we're in for a treat! 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Joffery Baratheon

reblogged from here 

"I'm not saying I'm gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world"- Tupac

Continuing my education into Tupac and concious rap, my younger sister's boyfriend recommended I watch the following documentaries and interviews:-

2pac- Thug Angel- Life of an Outlaw
and this interview, recorded shortly before his death

I'm finding it really insightful, Tupac was such a contradiction. On one hand he was this sensitive poet who believed passionately in education and empowering his community, but he had this whole other side that was violent, obsessed with guns and hustle.

 I totality respect how he gave a voice to people who were/are talked over or forgotten, but I'm also troubled by some of what he says. In the first documentary he talks about 'hustle' and the 'game' and how it is the reality for black people in America, which it is, but only to some extent, not all African-American's sell dope on street corners.

The prominent depiction of  young black men in the media (see HBO's very popular series The Wire), involves criminality, violence, and gang culture, and Tupac's comments seem to perpetuate this stereotype. At the same time, even though what he's saying in negative, I suppose it's positive that the hustlers and the gangsters are being represented, and the wider community gets an insight into what many people experience. See- these videos left me feeling very conflicted, I'm not sure I'm making sense!

I was unsure how much of Tupac comments about violence and his fixation with guns was part of a persona he adopted to sell records? He did however, have very real concerns about his personal safety, a fear that was proved to right, as he was murdered. Perhaps, all his talk about violence was defensive? He was beaten by police and in another instance shot two police officers in self defence.

Tupac was a very complex man. It is very interesting to see footage spanning from when he was 17 years old up to his death, these were obviously his formative years and there is clear change in his whole demaenor. What he experienced personally, and what he witnessed around him, obviously greatly affected his mindset and inspired his creativity.

Philippa Gregory, The White Queen

I'm so gassed about the new BBC adaptation of Philippa Gregory's The White Queen, the first episode is on tonight, 9:00pm BBC one.

The series is based on Gregory's Cousin's War trilogy, which focuses on England's civil war in the 15th Century. The war was a result of different factions of the royal family vying for power.  

Gregory and historical fiction is a massive guilty pleasure of mine, it might not be very accurate, but it gives a feeling for the era. I love the War of the Roses as it's all about family squabbles and political infighting. I have a particular fondness for Phillippa Gregorgy as she puts women centre stage, they scheme, manipulate and have a degree of autonomy and influence.  

I've got high hopes for this new series, it sounds like perfect Sunday night viewing.

Currently reading- Toni Morrison, Home

I quickly popped into the library yesterday, disappointedly nothing was really grabbing my attention. The only thing I came away with was this slim novel, Home by Toni Morrison. I've nearly finished it, so a review should be up in the next couple of days. I'm not sure what I'm going to read next, any suggestions?

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Books I've got my beady eye on

I had to put myself under a self imposed book buying ban until I'd finished We, the Drowned, but since I've finished it, I'm now looking for something else to read. Here's a list of books I've got my eye on:-

  1. Zadie Smith, NW: I'm a big fan of Zadie and have read most of her other books. I'm hoping this is going to be a better version of  John Lanchester's Capital (reviewed here) as both use the city of London itself as a main focus. NW has released in paperback, so I might have to pick it up. 
  2.  Khalid Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed: I found A Thousand Splendid Suns  and The Kite Runner, incredibly moving. Hossenini has recently been criticised for portraying Afghanistan only negatively, but I am interested to see his latest offering.
  3. AM Homes, May We be Forgiven: Homes recently won the 2013 prize for Women's Fiction. If she can beat the mighty Hilary Mantel, I'm curious to find out why.  
Has anyone read any of them? What did you think? What would you recommend?  

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Tupac Shakur- The Rose that Grew from Concrete

Tupac Shakur, study, poetry, leather, The Rose That Grew From Concrete, photograph, present, thug life, poetry, book, autobiographical

The Rose that Grew from Concrete was unexpected birthday gift from my younger sister's boyfriend, he's trying to educate me about conscious rap. Although I had heard of Tupac, I wasn't aware he was a poet. The poems in the collection are more insightful and political than I was expecting.

My sister's boyfriend had given me a brief introduction into the true meaning of' Thug Life' and Tupac's history and activism with the Black Panthers.  The poems are a refection on racism, empowerment and love.    
My Dearest One, Tupac Shakur, study, poetry, leather, The Rose That Grew From Concrete, photograph, present, thug life, poetry, book, autobiographical

In America you can take courses on Tupac's poetry and music and I think they'd be really interesting to attend. From an English Lit prospective, the poems would be fascinating to breakdown and look at the symbolism, syntax and influences.

 One thing I noticed was Tupac's preoccupation with sight, seeing and blindness. The poems are introspective, Tupac looks at himself and society and the repetition of 'see' 'I' and 'sight' emphasise this. I really want to write/read a compassion of The Rose that Grew from Concrete  and The Great Gatsby. Both Tupac's poems and Fitzgerald's novel examine the gaze of society. Both Gatsby and Tupac are outsiders looking in, and they are in turn looked at and judged by mainstream American society. 

"With my eyes closed I can c 
we have a chance 2 discover ecstasy 
but the clouds of doubt have made u blind"
- What I See! Tupac Shakur    

One of my favourite poems was 'Black Woman', as it is the complete opposite of the misogyny often found in rap. The poem is a celebration of female empowerment. The male voice of the poem is not emasculated by the strong women. He praises her and acknowledges it is her endurance and strength that enriches their relationship.      

If you are unfamiliar with Tupac or not a fan of rap, I still suggest you give The Rose that Grew for Concrete a try, it may surprise you. The collection give a reflective, inspiring and considerate insight into issues of racism and Black pride.  

Monday, 10 June 2013

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

It's been ages since I read The Great Gatsby, I intended to re-read before I saw the film, but haven't had the time. Baz Luhmann's adaptation is a visual treat, the costumes and set are beautiful, colourful and detailed. The opulence and glamour of the decade is perfectly captured.

 I read a new theory recently (sorry I can't remember where) that argued that Jay Gatsby was white passing, a light skinned African-American hiding his heritage by 'passing' for white. It's an intriguing theory, and would explain why Gatsby invents a history and is an outsider to high society, despite his wealth. It's a shame Luhmann didn't use this theory in his film, though it would probably be controversial. Lot easier to cast Leonardo Dicaprio as Gatsby, even though he has the annoying habit of saying 'old spore' instead of 'old sport'.         

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Rose the Grew from Concrete

poetry, Tupac, The Rose That Grew From Concrete, autobiography, handwriting, gangster, symbolism
Tupac Shakur 

Carsten Jensen- We, the Drowned

I've finally finished We, the Drowned, it taken just over a month the read, which is really slow for me. In my defence I've been working a lot of over time recently and it's a pretty hefty book. My slowness isn't an indication that I didn't enjoy it- it fact I'd highly recommend Carsten Jensen's maritime epic. It has sold over 300,000 copies in Scandinavia and has been voted as the best Danish novel of the past twenty-five years.

photograph, book cover, Carsten Jensen, We the Drowned, paperback, pretty, sea, ocean, read, Scandinavian, literature, stormy, paper boat, blue, dolphin, waves
The plot: Spanning from 1848 to World War II, three generations of sailors leave the small Danish town of Marstal and sail the world. They find adventure, opportunity wealth, love and death.

The scope of this novel is huge, it's hard to summarise it neatly without turning this post into an essay. Jensen has created a contemporary Odyssey, as both the Homer epic and We, the Drowned recount seafaring adventures. The story includes descriptions ship hierarchy, hardships and mutiny, tales of exotic ports,  cannibals and foreign women. Those left behind also have a voice, like Odysseus' faithful Penelope, the women of Marstal wait and morn for their sons and husbands. The 'we' that narrates the novel, is the omniscient voice of the downed, lost souls that record the history, present and future of the town, similar to a Greek chorus.    

grey clouds, stormy, ship, London, Cutty Sark, London, visit, day trip, outing, mast, rigging, sailors
Cutty Sark- London

 I've posted a fair few quotes from the novel recently, which is evidence of how well written I think the book is. The translators Charlotte Barslund and Emma Ryder have done a really good job. I've read a lot of books about war, and they have sort of lost their power to shock. However, I had a renewed sense of horror when I read the passages about the shipping coveys during the Second World War.

Each generation from Marstal who goes to sea has a different experience. The sailors begin on huge ships with sails and masts and by the end of the novel steam powered warships and u-boats rule the waves. I had very limited knowledge about sailing and maritime history, and I really enjoyed the insight this novel gave me.  Though the type of ship evolves through the novel, common themes remain, the sea is perilous but the life of a sailor offers adventure and opportunity.

figurehead, bow, ship, woman, Cutty Sark, visit, London, maritime, old, waves, resorted

Saturday, 8 June 2013

A woman in an oversized winter coat was standing in the middle of the platform

"She was pushed and shoved from all sides by the blind throng, and the suitcase that she carried suddenly sprang open and an infant fell out. Kund Erik saw it clearly. It was the burnt body of a little child, withered and practically unrecognisable, a mummy shrunk by the heat of the same fire that had clearly devoured its mother's mind, too"     
- Carsten Jensen, We, the Drowned 

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Grind a man

"Grind a man into the dirt and observe him beneath your heel. Is he fighting to get up? Does he cry out against the injustice he has suffered? No, he stays there, proud of all the punishment he can take. His manhood lies in his foolish endurance" 
- Carsten Jensen, We, the Drowned