Time to Read Blog

A coming-of-age story set in a vanished world: Sally Ashton reviews "All the Pretty Horses"

Posted Monday 4 June 2018 by Writing Squad in Writing Squad Reviews

“Because the question for me was always whether that shape we see in our lives was there from the beginning or whether these random events are only called a pattern after the fact. Because otherwise we are nothing.”

All the pretty horsesA coming-of-age story set in a vanished world, with every new read All The Pretty Horses seduces me all over again. It rewards any reader who bears with the confusing initial thirty pages and eventually orientates themselves, riding alongside John Grady Cole and Lacey Rawlins as they set out on horseback, travelling from their hometown in Texas over the border into Mexico. McCarthy’s powers of description, long, achingly evocative sentences and effortlessly realistic dialogue draw you into an open landscape of possibility and adventure as you ride with them into the sunset. Or not quite – neither the illicit romance between John and Alejandra, his boss’s daughter, or the overall story, end particularly well.

"my own travels will never quench the nostalgia that the long-gone world of McCarthy’s Mexico inspires"

I love that this is a story about male loss of innocence, a love story told from sixteen-year-old John’s point of view. It is romanticism at its finest, and along with Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, one of my biggest literary inspirations to start travelling. Sadly, my own travels will never quench the nostalgia that the long-gone world of McCarthy’s Mexico inspires. As the book explores loss of the past, its imagery and landscapes are so vivid that the otherworldly setting almost becomes your own. Almost, but not quiet; dangled in front of you, or rather behind, never to exist again.

In its protagonist, this book also manages to achieve a perfect balance between relatability and exoticism. The admiration I felt for John as a teenager is now also accompanied by sympathy as I read the book as an adult, commiserating in his loss and heartache.

All The Pretty Horses is a beautiful book. Everybody should read it, if only to suspend reality for a moment of unashamed escapism.

..............................................................................................................................................

Sally Ashton

The reviewer, Sally Ashton, is an avid traveller, living and working abroad for more than ten years. This is something which has helped enormously in both the development of writing and language skills.

Her first novel, Controller, was published in 2014 and her translation of LS6 Mario Crespo’s Spanish novel about Leeds in 2016. Both are published by Liverpool based press Dead Ink Books.

LS6 CrespoSally translates into English from Spanish, French and German. She accepts general linguistic work and has comprehensive experience translating websites, general marketing copy and communication materials. She is experienced in International Development, Hospitality/Travel, Sports, Animal/Equine, Retail Creative and Academic.

In her spare time Sally likes to play sports, read and drink coffee.

"A Series of Unfortunate Events has been teaching me not to trust anybody since the year 2000"

Posted Monday 28 May 2018 by Writing Squad in Writing Squad Reviews

Series of unfortunate eventsFrancesca Pidgeon on how the truly bad people are not who you may at first think.

A Series of Unfortunate Events has been teaching me not to trust anybody since the year 2000. Those 13 books have been with me throughout my conscious life and each time I read them I find another reason to love the densely woven fabric of the timelessly grim universe. 

In the series, three newly orphaned children called Violet, Klaus and Sunny are relentlessly pursued by a murderous distant relative and failed actor called Count Olaf, who wants to gain control of the enormous fortune their parents left behind. A bumbling Banker called Mr Poe attempts to keep them safe but refuses to believe the children when Olaf inevitably appears in a new disguise each time they are relocated. 

"The series doesn’t shy away from bitter storylines. Most people that attempt to help the children end up devoured by leeches or meeting some equally disgusting death."

The series doesn’t shy away from bitter storylines. Most people that attempt to help the children end up devoured by leeches or meeting some equally disgusting death. The books are best described as neo-Victorian. The series embraces some adult concepts and it is never assumed that something is too complex or highbrow for children to understand.

Series endUnlike the majority of children’s fiction, Snicket does his best to debunk the fairytale dichotomies. As the series goes on, the characters (‘villains’ included) are revealed to be more multifaceted than they first appear and the lines between 'good' and ‘bad’, and ‘moral’ and ‘immoral’ become increasingly blurred. They teach you to question what the ‘right' thing to do is and, when you find ‘good’ characters doing ‘bad’ things, whether or not that makes them ‘bad' people. And more than any other children’s story I've read, it makes you wonder whether there even was a ‘right’ thing to do.

"more than any other children’s story I've read, it makes you wonder whether there even was a ‘right’ thing to do"

Sometimes ‘bad’ people die. Sometimes ‘good’ people die. No-one is safe from the bad luck that befalls almost every character in the series and although the children tend to escape any harm meant to befall them, there’s no truly happy endings for anyone bar the occasional rich fat cat, (as in life). 

A Series of Unfortunate Events teaches you that institutions are often completely useless at doing the things they are designed for, that hospitals might try to perform dangerous brain surgeries on completely healthy patients, that schools might make you endlessly measure mundane objects and force you to listen to terrible violin concerts given by the headmaster. That through no fault of your own the system might fail you and you might be forced to go on the run for crimes you didn’t commit. This series deals with circumstances that are both really absurd and absurdly realistic.

"The only real evil denounced is of never questioning authority"

The only real evil denounced is of never questioning authority. The only truly irredeemable people are the ones that are sucked into a lazy mob mentality and don’t choose to look any closer at an unconvincing disguise that a child could see through.

Series endEven finding out that Lemony Snicket was in fact a pseudonym that Daniel Handler used when writing was a seminal moment in my young life. What was real? Who could I trust? Not doctors or teachers or even writers of morbid children’s fiction books apparently. 

Though this skepticism has plagued me, in many ways I am grateful that I had these books to teach me not to blindly believe what others haven't bothered to challenge.

"I am grateful that I had these books to teach me not to blindly believe what others haven't bothered to challenge."

...

A little bit about the reviewer, Francesca Pidgeon:

Francesca PidgeonFrancesca is primarily a musician and makes her living playing covers sets in bars. However, her real creative interests are sprawling and incohesive, tending to end up a part of her main creative output – her band Kumiko (see Kumiko https://kumikoknew.bandcamp.com)  Francesca writes, records, orchestrates, produces and performs the music for this project, and also creates any artwork, videos or handmade CDs that they release.

Apparently this is not enough work for Francesca, so she also writes prose and irate non-fiction (though these rarely see the light of day), she composes for film, radio and TV and is co-writing a folk opera. She will soon be heading up the Manchester contingent of ‘Girls That Gig’ which is an organisation that focuses on supporting women in music.

Her other interests include learning French at a sickeningly slow pace and playing roller derby.

Francesca and the band played as part of A Little Bite Music at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 12.30 on the 4th May.

"It’s hard hanging out with celebrities and acclaimed authors, but someone’s got to do it."

Posted Monday 21 May 2018 by Samuel Thornley in Opinion

Oldham entrance

Libraries are an exciting place to be in 2018, no longer are they a place of “shush” or “be quiet”, but we all know this by now. By all accounts, I am still new to libraries, having only joined Oldham’s Library Service two years ago, and I am incredibly guilty of having those same old and tired misconceptions. “Libraries are quiet, full of books and not much else”… how wrong was I? Very.

Following my Master’s Degree in Archaeology, I viewed libraries as a stop gap, a place to bide my time before going onto my PhD. There was nothing wrong with libraries per se, I just didn’t view it as a viable career option for myself, I was destined for a career looking at history. I couldn’t be more wrong, I was actually destined for something much more exciting.

"I was destined for a career looking at history. I couldn’t be more wrong, I was actually destined for something much more exciting."

Whilst I had always enjoyed books, reading and writing, my chosen academic career turned the act of reading into a chore. Reading wasn’t an escape, it wasn’t something to look forward to, it was a task, a challenge, something needing to be done in order to achieve something more important. This often results in very dry sessions and a total distain for the written word. I’m sure this isn’t the case for everybody, but it certainly was for me.

"Reading was fun and exciting again, the reason why? Libraries."

My time at Oldham Libraries has revitalised that spark that had so sadly dissipated in recent years. Reading was fun and exciting again, the reason why? Libraries. My two years spent with Oldham’s Library Service has allowed me to focus upon different development areas from volunteers to digital, children’s to books & reading. Each area has given me a fresh perspective on the joys of reading, the best part is that the ideals of Books & Reading always remain at the core, informing what activities we choose to programme. Through events and activities we are able to enhance the primal joys one gets from reading a story, we can bring a story to life or bring you a behind the scenes look at the writing process. The possibilities are endless.

"The possibilities are endless"

logo impression of books side by sideLong gone are the days of tired book collections and even more tired looking readers. As I see it, libraries are a place of fun, excitement and community interaction. Hubs for events, entertainment and much, much more. This brings me to Bookmark Festival 2018, my first literature based festival and my rite of passage back into the world of books. Oldham Libraries are a dab hand at running events by now, from Comic Festivals to Writers Workshops, Coding Clubs to brunches with authors; we’ve got it all. What could I add to this? Not much I imagined. What I could do however was aid the running of a landmark calendar event and in doing so, maybe I would get back into something I had sadly long since forgotten.

Excited, keen and green in my new role, it was going to be blast. It was going to be easy. It was, but not without its hurdles, and it’s here that I realised how much our libraries do for the community. Whilst many only see the end result, I truly got to appreciate all the hard work and effort every library service across the UK puts into their events and activities, ensuring a level of excellence that anyone would be proud of. I’m certainly proud of my library service, and I imagine many of you reading this feel the same way about yours.

Oldham BookMark Festival 2018Bookmark was a big event for myself, we managed to book a favourite, Simon Mayo, to headline and close the festival. Score! What a great individual he was, whilst high profile for our humble library service, he was truly down to earth. I have the signature and photograph to prove it! Being able to get a name like Mayo’s proved two things; 1) Libraries are still the place to be and 2) Libraries are as relevant as ever. If authors are asking to visit a library as part of their book tour, we’re certainly doing something right. Needless to say Bookmark 2018 was a resounding success, we had great attendance and even better feedback. This is where it hit me, books are fun! Who knew?

"Being able to get a name like Mayo’s proved two things; 1) Libraries are still the place to be and 2) Libraries are as relevant as ever. If authors are asking to visit a library as part of their book tour"

GNWR logoIt wasn’t straight away that I got back on to reading, Time to Read played a major part in that as well. My, admittedly brief, time working as a representative and partner of Time to Read has been pivotal in getting me back on the reading wagon. Fantastic initiatives such as the Great North West Read have inspired me to get back into stories, as I realised I was missing out on so many adventures and undiscovered worlds. It also helps when you get to read exclusive books, before their even published, bragging rights are a big perk! Deliberations and discussions over books made me realise that not only is this fun, but reading can be enjoyable. I was firmly back on the path to absolution. As I returned to my old friend Stephen King (don’t judge me), I felt at home. This felt right.

Oldham Library Sensory roomI suppose you can say I realised that I have a great job, work within an amazing field and this is only the start. I wasn’t waiting for anything, I just needed to realise I was already here. Libraries continue to be places of excellence for the community, a safe space of learning and caring, constantly innovating and inspiring. Did I mention we have a Sensory Room and 3D printer? Stories for another time. We inspire the community and encourage reading in so many innovative ways that it is a crime to call libraries anything lower than exciting.

When you’re next in your library, I implore you to stop for a second and take it all in. Despite how you may feel on some days, we really do have the best job going and, for me, it’s only getting better. Each day is a new adventure, each event a new world and experience to explore. Who knows what’ll happen next? I’m certainly looking forward to finding out!

It’s hard hanging out with celebrities and acclaimed authors, but someone’s got to do it. If it has to be me, I’m not going to complain. Maybe I’ll return to archaeology in the future, I might finally complete that PhD, but for now I’ll remain quite content, and perhaps a bit puzzled, as to how I found myself in such a privileged situation.

With thanks to Samuel Thornley, Library Development Officer & Volunteers Coordinator of Oldham Libraries

Trafford WordFest

Posted Tuesday 15 May 2018 by Ian Anstice in Latest Libraries News

Wordfest 2018 runs during June. Events are being held in Trafford Libraries throughout this period. All are welcome to come to the events but booking is recommended.

Bird Boogie in the Library

Old Trafford Library, Thursday 7 June, 11am-2pm

Celebrate National Bookstart Week with a boogie at our silent disco in the library! When you fancy a sit down, there will be bird-themed crafts and colouring to keep the entertainment going. We'll also be giving away free copies of this year's National Bookstart Week book, A Busy Day for Birds to under 5s. Suitable for early walkers (dancers) upwards!

This is a free Wordfest and Chatterbooks event. No need to book, just turn up.. For more information please contact libraries@trafford.gov.uk or phone 0161 912 3189.

Vaseem KhanAn evening with Vaseem Khan

Stretford Library, Wednesday 6 June, 7.30pm

Join us for an evening with Vaseem Khan, author of the bestselling The Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, as he talks about the latest in the Baby Ganesh series, Murder at the Grand Raj Palace.

This is a free Wordfest event. Book online at Eventbrite. For more information please contact libraries@trafford.gov.uk or phone 0161 912 3189.

The Pankhursts and the Suffragettes

A talk by Janet Pickering from The Pankhurst Centre

Altrincham Library, Thursday 7 June, 7.30pm

This year we are celebrating the centenary of the act of parliament which gave some women the right to vote. The Pankhurst family from Manchester were leading suffragettes and founder members of the militant Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).

This is a free Wordfest event. Book online at Eventbrite . For more information please contact libraries@trafford.gov.uk or phone 0161 912 3189.

Oliver TearleBritain by the Book with Oliver Tearle

Hale Library, Tuesday 12 June, 2pm

Why was Agatha Christie investigated by MI5 during the Second World War? Why was Thomas Hardy buried twice? A multitude of curious questions are answered by Dr Oliver Tearle, author of Britain by the Book, a fascinating literary travelogue taking in writers' unusual haunts and the surprising places that inspired some of our favourite fictional locations.

This is a free Wordfest event. Book online at Eventbrite. For more information please contact libraries@trafford.gov.uk or phone 0161 912 3189.

Children's Author Jane Kerr

Urmston Library, Thursday 14 June, 4pm

Come and meet children's author Jane Kerr, author of The Elephant Thief, and discover more abut the amazing real life Edinburgh to Manchester adventure of Maharajah the elephant.

This is a free Wordfest and Chatterbooks event and is aimed at children aged 7+. No need to book, just turn up.. For more information please contact urmston.library@trafford.gov.uk or phone 0161 912 3189.

Happy BrainThe Happy Brain with Dean Burnett

Sale Library, Friday 15 June, 7.30pm

After a hugely successful visit to Wordfest in 2016 with the acclaimed The Idiot Brain, neuroscientist, writer and stand-up comedian Dean Burnett returns to talk about his latest book, The Happy Brain.

This is a free Wordfest event. Book online at Eventbrite. For more information please contact libraries@trafford.gov.uk or phone 0161 912 3189.

Ashley DeyerCrime Scene: Call Forensics with Ashley Dyer

Altrincham Library, Wednesday 20 June, 7.30pm

How do the forensic experts deal with a crime scene and how do crime writers make sure they get the facts right? Examine the evidence at our 'crime scene' and chat with the writer and forensic expert who together form Ashley Dyer.

This is a free Wordfest event. Book online at Eventbrite. For more information please contact libraries@trafford.gov.uk or phone 0161 912 3189.

Sahera PatelMeet author Sahera Patel

Old Trafford Library at Limelight, Friday 22 June, 7.30pm

Sahera Patel is a British Muslim, teacher and public speaker. She has a passion for her faith and it is with this passion that she wrote her first book, the inspirational I'm not a Celebrity, I am a Muslim. In her latest book, Unveiling Arabia, Sahera writes about her experience of living and working in Saudi in a refreshingly vivid way.

This is a free Wordfest event. Book online at Eventbrite. For more information please contact libraries@trafford.gov.uk or phone 0161 912 3189.

Lucy Diamond An evening with Lucy Diamond

Urmston Library, Tuesday 26 June, 7.30pm

Meet bestselling author Lucy Diamond as she visits Wordfest for the first time to talk about her new novel, On a Beautiful Day.

This is a free Wordfest event. Book online at Eventbrite. For more information please contact libraries@trafford.gov.uk or phone 0161 912 3189.

Sonic Youth Slept on My Floor with Dave Haslam

Urmston Library, Wednesday 27 June, 7.30pm

Dave HaslamWe are delighted to welcome back former Hacienda resident DJ Dave Haslam as he talks to Abigail Ward from Manchester Digital Archive about his new book Sonic Youth Slept on My Floor, a masterful insider account of the rise of Manchester and the birth of the rave era.

This is a free Wordfest event. Book online at Eventbrite. For more information please contact libraries@trafford.gov.uk or phone 0161 912 3189.

North West Libraries

Librarians in the North West have pioneered partnership working to encourage new readers into libraries. Time To Read is a partnership of librarians engaged in reader development activity in public library authorities in the North West Region. 22 public library authorities in the region currently support Time To Read.

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