Sunday 14 January 2018

Review: On The Bright Side

'On the Bright Side' is the wonderful new 'secret diary of Hendrik Groen.' I received an ARC from NetGalley, although it was published a couple of days ago and you can grab a copy from Amazon here, or (preferably) your local book shop. (For a list of more ethical places to buy books, try here.)

'On the Bright Side' is the sequel to Hendrik Groen's first diary, which I read in 2016, also courtesy of NetGalley (you can find my review here if you're interested!) For those new to Groen's story, I'll give a brief introduction: Hendrik is an octogenarian living in an old people's home in the Netherlands. In the first book, he set out to write in his diary daily to keep his mind active - and it certainly did! A group of friends set up the 'Old-But-Not-Dead-Club' who aim to have as much fun as they can, while they still can - which they certainly did! "Stop spending so much time studying life’s instruction manual. Just do it!! Yes, you may fall down a few times, but so long as you get up again, you’ll be ahead of where you were!"

The first book isn't a complete barrel of laughs though, and it ends with the demise of two members of their club: one lost to dementia, one lost to the world. As I said in my first review, this book deals with the three big Ds: Dementia, Death and Disability. There's no shying away from it.
I remember thinking that the first book felt a very fitting place to end, and was slightly surprised to see a sequel but requested it all the same. It was a joy to be reunited with Hendrik and the Old-But-Not-Dead-Club. This book has many of the same elements there are a lot of laughs, a great deal of interesting voyeuristic people-watching, and even some up-to-date social commentary. 

They continue to get up to their amusing antics as in the first book, with some added extras: trying cuisine from a new culture every month, and even spending three nights away on holiday! As you can imagine, chaos ensues at regular intervals. Many of the residents spend their time going to various acquaintances' funerals - but not Hendrik and best friend Evert. They'll be at their own soon enough, won't they?

But this book is a shade darker than the first; perhaps this is unexpected. There's a lot about the possible closure of old people's homes in the Netherlands, and what to do with the growing age of our populations. This book is written/set in 2016, and covers the major world events that went on n that year, many of them grave. Groen has decided opinions on asylum seekers that most of his more conservative neighbours do not share. But it is a reminder that not all old people are racist (covertly rather than overtly), and sometimes it is okay to challenge people, not giving them a 'get out of gaol free card' because of age. I certainly know and have known elderly people who are accepting and inclusive. Groen is one of these, making him instantly likeable. It is also a great way of switching perspective: one minute global, the next minute the saga of fruit appearing in strange places around the home that is a major source of excitement for the residents...

The other darker shades to this book are what inevitably comes with ageing. Hendrik himself continues to ponder the advantages of euthanasia, and his best friend falls further into ill health as does he himself. It's a very real book, not shying away from any subject. Written in diary format makes it very intimate and the reader can feel very much inside Hendrik's head, whether he is pondering where to go on their next club outing, what his current feeling on wearing nappies is, or whether they should invite asylum seekers into the spare rooms at the home.

Although the optimism of the first book is diluted, this is still a very easy read with a good few laughs. And if it hadn't been a touch more melancholy, it wouldn't have felt true. It can also be read as a standalone without the first, although I would recommend both.

I would urge people to read this book; having worked with elderly people, I feel they are often misunderstood, and this book is very good at correcting misconceptions. Apart from that, it is a darn good read: funny, sometimes meandering, touching, and sad.

Some words Hendrik says that I think we all, 85 years old or not, can muse on:

 'I should count my blessings even if it's only because I can still experience summer, autumn and winter by sight, sense and smell.'

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin for the opportunity to read this wonderful book. Four stars.

Bout of Books 21: Day 7

So, here we are at the end of the readathon! In terms of reading, this is probably my worst Bout of Books thus far 😒 So, I finished listening to an Audiobook ('Fahrenheit 451'), read 'On the Bright Side' by Hendrik Groen, and then... well, I couldn't really commit to a book after that. I read 'Here Lies Arthur' by Philip Reeve, started a number of other books along the way without getting very far.
I went to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition yesterday and bought the book that went with that, which I also read - if that counts! There's not much text, just some information about the photographers and then information about the species/place they are photographing, as well as information about the award, the charities it supports, and general information about endangered species. The exhibition was fantastic!

I managed to commit to a book finally last night, and have read just under 120 pages of 'Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race' by Reni Eddo-Lodge, which is a good read so far, although I am looking forward to getting into reading some more fiction. Non fiction can be brilliant, but I'm a fiction gal at heart!

Despite having only read 2 1/2 books (plus the end of an audiobook, and a coffee-table book), it hasn't felt like a complete failure of the readathon. I know that most people tot up their page counts and lots of people were aiming for 1000 pages or so, but I'm trying to be sanguine about it. Because... I've managed to do some writing instead! So, as a reader I haven't done too well, but I've made movements forwards with writing. 

I'm not sure whether to take part in Bout of Books next time round; it'll depend on when the week falls I suppose. Reading other people's page counts is quite intimidating, so I just need to remember that I read what I can. And what I want to read: I'm finding it hard to enjoy reading so much when my TBR pile is so big. I'm a non-book-buying ban, but I have been for ages and it doesn't seem to be helping! I'm drowning in books still! (#firstworldproblems)

But, I'm a writer too. 

(Practising hand lettering!)

I don't make new year's resolutions, but this one could pretty much sum it up. It's all about balance - but who seriously has that??

Hope everyone enjoyed Bout of Books - and happy reading!


UPDATE: Review of 'On the Bright Side' is here! Good reading :)

Saturday 13 January 2018

Bout of Books 21: Day 6

So, I missed signing up to the linky for yesterday - boo. I wrote the post and then forgot to link up. Here's my post for yesterday - thanks to Liz for the great challenge, I loved the headlines!

I thought I'd get in early today and update with my reading progress later in the day. I did the challenge for today yesterday and posted it on Instagram a day early (days get very muddled in my head!) so at least I'm ahead! Here is my Book Spine Poetry:

March out of the ashes into the beautiful North, rebel girls

Really enjoyed this challenge! Will update later with reading progress, but I'm out most of today, so I'm not sure how much reading I'll get done...

Have a go at Book Spine Poetry - it's really fun! I thought it would be impossible, but I actually had more ideas than I realised when I started looking through my books. If you have a go, let me know in the comments, even if you don't take a photo.

Happy reading!

UPDATE: so, finished 'Here Lies Arthur' by Philip Reeve (author of Mortal Instruments books) which was... I'm not really sure. I didn't enjoy it quite a lot of the way through it, but looking back it
seemed quite good. Do you ever find that with a book? Have one feeling whilst reading it, and then another when looking back in hindsight? I will have to ponder it awhile...

Friday 12 January 2018

Bout of Books 21: Days 4 and 5

So, another day ran away from me and here I am at the end of day 5! I've totally failed at the readathon aspect of this - I've got to be honest. I tend to read 2-4 books a week on a normal week, and this week (a week where the aim is to read MORE!) I've only finished one book! And an audio book. Really not doing well. I'm managing to be quite sanguine about it, instead of beating myself up as usual - so that's a bonus! And the other bonus is that I've got quite a lot of writing done, so I'm not that disappointed. Feel I've sort of let the challenge down, but there we go.


Challenge, the fourth: ALL THE FAVOURITES

This is fairly open to interpretation, but I'm assuming it's famous book-related things at least! Personally, I hate making favourite lists, but here goes (using their suggestions):

Favourite audio book reader: Stephen Fry. Why? Because he's read the only audio books that I actually can't count the number of times I've listened to them. HARRY POTTER!

Favourite illustrator: Shaun Tan who did the most wonderful book 'The Red Tree' among others.
Exquisite illustration, really amazing and intricate. Other classic favourites include: Quentin Blake
(Roald Dahl), Arthur Rackham (Goblin Market, among others), and Eric Carle (The Very Hungry Caterpillar).

Favourite series: how is this a question?? I think I may have to refuse to answer. Series I love include: Harry Potter (obviously), Lord of the Rings, The Dark is Rising, Across the Nightingale Floor, Swallows and Amazons, The Moomintrolls... and that's just the classic ones! An impossible question, I'm afraid.

Favourite bookish blog: I really like The Broke and Bookish and The Midnight Garden, but there are so many good blogs out there that I don't want to miss out some awesome people. Those are just two - and The Broke and Bookish is no more! Very sad times. I also miss the Midnight Garden's Middle Grade readalong, which was lovely. But there are plenty more fab bloggers out there doing their stuff!(A lot better than I do...)

Favourite vlogger: I don't watch vlogs, so not really one for me.

Favourite librarian: my darling friend who is living far too far away in Canada. But she is an awesome librarian (and writer too!)

And there was day four!

Challenge, the fifth: Newspaper Headline (create a headline for a favourite story/book)

Ooh, this could be fun!

(Tess of the D'Urbervilles)

(Moby Dick)

(His Dark Materials)

(Animal Farm)

(The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe)

That was a great challenge - thanks to Liz!

Anyone think of any good book headlines? It's good fun!

Wednesday 10 January 2018

Bout of Books 21: Day 3

Challenge, the third: Take a selection of your favourite book spines to make a rainbow. 

This one, unbeknownst to me, was set by my Secret Santa Liz Whitehouse! I am an awful blogger and didn't do an unboxing post but she was beyond generous. Go and check out her blog!

So, here is my rainbow spine - and they're all brilliant books, which is the important thing. (Although the whole rainbow part is pretty darn cool too,)

(PS My review for The Power by Naomi Alderman is up on the blog!)

As for reading, I haven't done so much today - because I've been writing! I know - how did that happen? I haven't been writing for ages, and now suddenly I've been writing this week. It means I won't reach any sort of 'target' for Bout of Books this time round but - to be honest - I don't care, I'm just happy that I've got some kind of writing mojo going on! I can read anytime!

So, my review of 'On The Bright Side' hasn't quite got written yet either... Well, it's a great book - and is out tomorrow, and I'll definitely have a review up soon.

Started reading Philip Reeve's 'Here Lies Arthur' - I wanted something light and easy while I am on a (potential) writing kick.

Happy reading friends. What books are you reading right now?

Tuesday 9 January 2018

Bout of Books 21: Days 1 and 2

So, Monday flew away from me and I tried to post the first challenge (introduce yourself in six words) as a comment to Bout of Books, but it didn't work for some reason...

So, here is Monday's Challenge: introduce yourself in six words.

(Someday, I'll be on your bookshelves)

Tuesday's Challenge: Share your 2018 Reading Goal (s).

Well... I don't really have specific goals. Sorry, I know that's boring but it's the truth. Or - more accurately - they're the same as every year. To read some more classics, to write some decent reviews, to stop starting series and not finishing them, to read the books that I actually own rather than getting new ones from NetGalley... Nothing exciting, I'm afraid.

Finished one book so far this week, review to come! (Spoiler: it's great.) On the Bright Side comes out on January 11th, so I'll probably post the review before Sunday (Bout of Books day for review-writing).

Hope everyone else is having a good week so far!

Thursday 4 January 2018

Bout of Books 21

So, it's come to that time of year again (several times a year) when Bout of Books is a-happening, and I'm going to give it a go. I think this is only my second time doing it officially - for those who don't know about Bout of Books, go along here and read all about it!

Basically, there's a challenge for each day of the week and a whole load of book bloggers join in! I'm not sure I'll manage all the prompts, but I will hold myself accountable with the number of books/pages I read - that's the other part.

Here are the challenges for this time round:

Monday 8th January: Introduce Yourself #insixwords
Tuesday 9th January: Share Your 2018 Reading Goal (s)
Wednesday 10th January: Book Spine Rainbow (yay! I like this one! Although I'm not sure
whether I can do as good a one as I did last time without just using the same books... which wouldn't be the point. Hmm.)
Thursday 11th January: ALL THE FAVOURITES (not sure what this means...)
Friday 12th January: Newspaper Headlines (nor this one...)
Saturday 13th January: Book Spine Poetry (I'm not too sure about this either - oh dear...)
Sunday 14th January: Leave a Book Review (at least I can understand this!)

Anyway, I'll see how I get on - wish me luck! (if anyone's reading this...)