Germinal

Germinal

I could in no way describe Germinal as a nice book. I could, however, describe it as surprisingly enjoyable and extremely well written.

Despite one of my shortest set books, this is the one I’ve been putting off. I blame it on the blurb. Describing it as a “sociological document depicting the grim struggle between capital and labour in a coal field in Northern France” does not make it appeal to the reader. I was emphatically NOT jumping off my seat in excitement.

However, when I actually forced myself to start reading it I found it really entertaining. The characters were so vivid that I felt I was really looking in on their lives, and the sheer grit and general filth provoked a slightly morbid fascination in me. A minor warning- initially the character names can be a little confusing (we have Maheu and Maheude, Mouquet and Mouquette, Levaque and La Levaque) but other than that the narrative really flows, sweeping you deeper and deeper into the mining society.

I have since found out that Germinal is number thirteen in Zola’s twenty volume ‘Les Rougon-Macquart’ series, so I will make it my mission to track down the rest… a Project Gutenberg-based mission I suspect. I don’t know what I liked more, the unrequited love scenes or the comically gruesome death scenes… all covered in a blanket of borderline depressing description. There really is something for everyone!

So tell me, what have you been reading this week?

D x

P.S. I get the impression that this is one of those Love/Hate kinds of books, let me know what you think!

Whimsical Reading – Zoo Animals

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I am not having a good day today. I forgot my kindle. I forgot my phone. My ipod died. I laddered my tights. I’ve just spent 6 hours doing invoicing. But I’m not here to cry about it, I’m here to share some more whimsical reading suggestions with you, this time on the theme of ‘zoo animals’.

1. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.
ON MY TO BE READ PILE. I don’t know what attracted me to this book… the fact that it has the word ‘elephants’ in the title is a good starting point. The fact that it’s about an olde worlde circus troupe even more so. It has to be great, it just has to!

2. Dial M for Monkey by Adam Maxwell
Available as a free ebook from here. It’s one of those books of shorts stories that not everyone will be ‘cool enough’ to get. Most are reasonably amusing, some a little icky but all extremely original. A good read if you don’t have much time to invest in books, but I could say that about any short stories!

3. The Camel Club by David Baldacci
ON MY TO BE READ PILE. I’ve never read a thing by David Baldacci, but his books seem to fill every library and charity shop I ever enter which is encouragement enough for me. I’m not really one for reading ‘conspiracy theory’ novels, but who knows? I might be missing something great!

4. The Tiger in the Well by Phillip Pullman
This is the third book in his ‘Sally Lockhart’ series, and the only one I’ve read. All I can say is READ IT. It’s so good. So, so good. I’m constantly trying to find the rest so I can start from the beginning. The story is chock full of intrigue and the characters are so well rounded you start to think they actually exist. His narrative style just sucks you into 1880’s London, it’s magical!

5. Folktales from Africa: The Girl who Married a Lion by Alexander McCall Smith
I really want to love Alexander McCall Smith, very possibly because his book covers are all so gorgeous and colourful. But I really don’t. This is the only one of his I managed to battle my way through and it was still quite a chore. And I hate to say it because I’m definitely a ‘folk tale’ kind of person… I’m determined to give him another go at some point though, everyone else in the world can’t be wrong!

So have you got any ideas for your ‘zoo animal’ books?
D x

Inky Doodles – Background Layers

One of the workshops I’m participating in this month is ‘Inky Doodles’ by Michelle Houghton. It’s fun, it’s whimsical and it’s very low pressure… very much more focussed on having fun than creating ‘real art’.

The first lesson was all about creating interesting backgrounds using a variety of simple mixed media techniques. From 5 sheets of A3 paper I’ve made 20 backgrounds that will later be bound in a journal:

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I can’t wait to get doodling!
D x

One Year Art Journal

As you know, one of my New Year’s Resolutions this year is to a little bit in my art journal every day. Sometimes that’s easy; I can crank out 3 or 4 pages in one sitting. Sometimes it’s not so easy… and that’s why I like to take part in weekly or biweekly challenges like Fall Fearless and Fly.

Sadly, Fall Fearless and Fly is coming to an end, so I’ve had to go on the hunt for a new one. Luckily, I happened to come across the first set of prompts from ‘a year in the life of an art journal‘. It seems perfect, especially as my ocd likes me start things at the beginning… I don’t love coming in half way through…

So here is the first set of prompts:
New Year’s resolutions or ONE WORD. Do you make New Year’s resolutions, or take part in the ONE WORD project?
Use watercolours on your page to emulate your word… (if you don’t have watercolours, watered down acrylic paint will do just fine.) use colour to convey that word and what it means to you. While your paint is WET, sprinkle salt on it, and let it sit. When your paint is dry, brush off the salt.

Here is the page I created based on the prompt:
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I used watersoluble crayons on the surface to write my word, and then embellished with doodles and journaling. It’s not the most art journal page I’ve ever done BUT I was just experimenting with my brand new Neocolor II’s to see how they’d interact with a bunch of other pens. I’ll probably cut it up and use it in another arty project at some point.

I hope you’ve all had a great weekend!

D x

New Blooms

I had so much fun with this next Life Book lesson… nothing beats discovering and experiment with a new technique! This class was taught by Christy Tomlinson (check out her blog here).

The idea behind the page was to celebrate the new starts offered by the New Year while remembering all of your previous experience using the symbol of flowers (that ‘rebloom’ each year, starting fresh but still remembering where they were the previous year).

Starting with a background made by cleaning various stencils and brushes, I added a bit of freewriting based on the theme of ‘reblooming’:
“Acknowledge the wondrous blessings your future is filled with but hold on to those snippets of difficulty that have shaped your journey so far. The road ahead may be bumpy but look back at the mountains you’ve already scaled. All those bumps and bruises you try to cover are the bits and pieces that have made you so wonderfully you.”

She also showed us this awesome technique for creating mouldable 3D flowers on our pages. I got so attached to my background that I didn’t want to cover it up with the flowers, but I’m glad I bullied myself into it:

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On this picture you can see how dimensional they are… I had to tear the page out of my book to protect them from getting squished:
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I really loved making these flowers, and as usual I got a little over excited and made about 200 spare petals, so no doubt I’ll be making some more textured florals soon!

Have a great weekend!

D x

Whimsical Checklist

As promised, here’s the step-by-step instructions for my whimsical reading checklist:

1, created for the Quirky Crafts ‘Rainbow Bright’ challenge. Find a surface any surface. I used a piece of brown paper that was inside a roll of wrapping paper.

2. Cover in paint. I dripped some magenta and some metallic red acrylic on my paper, then spread over with a foam brush:

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3. Add collage elements. You could use anything from photos, to images from magazines to your own drawings. I used images that I’d stamped on separate sheets of paper with acrylic paint and the ‘I’m so busy’ digital stamp from Stitchy Bear (which I coloured with Prismacolor pencils):

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4. Add doodles to bring all the elements together. I added patterns using acrylic paint, and then added outlines with a black gel pen. Bear in mind that a gel pen on top of such a shiny surface will not give you a constant line, but I was going for a ‘sketchy’ look, so that was fine with me:

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5. Add your list! I used the ‘stained glass snail’ digital stamp from Stitchy Bear, mounted on black paper, for the bullet points and then correction pen for the scrawling:

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6. The final touches – add any extra doodles you fancy. I simply outlined my lettering with a cd marker so that it would pop off the multicoloured background:

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I’m hoping that having this on my wall for the next year will keep me motivated with the reading challenge… as sometimes I start of very enthusiastically but get bored quick… so tell me, how do you keep yourself motivated?

D x

Whimsical Reading Challenge – Profession

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I have been reading like an absolute fiend recently… I go through these phases of obsessively reading everything I can lay my hands on from novels to poetry to blog posts to recipes to the back of the shower gel, and I think I’m in the midst of one right now!

To aid in your fiendish reading of books for my whimsical reading challenge, I’m back with a few more suggestions, this time on the theme of ‘professions’.

1. The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen

It has been quite a while since I read this one… I think I was seventeen and just embarking on my crime fiction obsession… it was great. I literally could not put it down. I pulled an allnighter and read it in one sitting.

2. The Seamstress by Frances de Pontes Peebles

ON MY TO BE READ PILE. This book is about two sisters living in Brazil who end up separated and living very dramatic lives. It’s had some pretty good reviews, and I have it on my kindle, so I’ll probably read it at some point.

3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Everyone who has read this raves about it. Maybe I’m just a bit dense, because I didn’t really get the appeal. It’s quite a little book, so doesn’t take too long to read but I still couldn’t help feeling like it was a waste of time. I just found the narrative style quite disjointed, although there were some exquisite descriptive passages… I don’t know. Torn. Let me know what you think?

4. The Sculptor by Gregory Funaro

ON MY TO BE READ PILE. More crime fiction, which in case you haven’t noticed is one of my faves! This one sounds very edgy and original… according to the blurb the murders are linked to art history (specifically, Michelangelo’s sculptures) which I’m sure will be a nice contrast to the ‘forensicky’ crime novels that are everywhere at the moment.

5. The Abortionist’s Daughter by Elisabeth Hyde

I read this last year after having it on my shelf for a pretty long time… it was ok. Nothing life altering, but a pretty good story with some good imperfect characters (which is one of my personal ‘must haves’). I’d definitely recommend it as a holiday read, when you’re not feeling up to investing much brain function in your reading materials.

Let me know if you come up with any more ideas for ‘profession’ book titles.

D x