Clearly, I need motivation and help to finish or even choose a book from the list.

I managed to get about a quarter of the way through Vanity Fair and will definitely, absolutely finish it.  Unfortunately, life has interfered and I’ve forgotten what’s happened AND it took me so long to get that far I don’t want to have to read it all again.

I thought it would be really handy, and appreciated, if you lovely people could help me decide what book to read next. Of course, I’ll get through as many as I can in the remaining six months of this year (how did that happen!?) and will probably end up extending it to 2012. I’d just like a gentle nudge in the most popular book direction.

Also, I’ve never done a poll before so I thought I’d have a go!



Nike+ – Security issues



So, I use Nike+ to track my runs.  Better detail can be found via the google, but it’s basically two chips – one for your shoes and one for your iPod. The signal passes from one to the other and records how fast/long and, if you’re super pro, where your runs are. When you get home, you plug in your iPod and it transfers to the nikerunning website via iTunes.

It’s not very expensive (around £18.99 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Apple-Nike-iPod-Sport-Kit/dp/B002WGX19C/ref=dp_cp_ob_ce_title_3 ) but I think that’s reflected in the quality.

Writing about all of the glitches on the site, the fact that it takes two correct tries to log in, graphs very often don’t render properly if at all, runs stop feeding to twitter, iPod and nike+ numbers don’t tally and the site is generally buggy, would take a long time. So I will only mention the one that’s bothering me the most.

Nike+ allows you to set challenges and goals for yourself. The goals break down into run frequency, run distance, run speed and calories burned.  A week before they are due to expire, you get a reminder e-mail.  It’s a little inconvenient, especially as you can set goals for one week, which means as soon as you set it you get a reminder e-mail. Motivational, thanks Nike+.

I hope you can make it out.  Here’s a screenshot:

I’ve blanked out identifiable details.

Here’s the page for the link it takes you to:

It’s quite hard to see with the details blanked out, but basically – that’s not me.  So I received an e-mail from Nike+, one of the biggest sportswear manufacturers in the world, using someone else’s details.

That concerned me as it raised questions about what’s happening with my details if I’m getting someone else’s e-mails, but there are no bank details or other information that could point to the real me without a google or two,  so I wasn’t panicking, the first time this happened.

I must have received no fewer than five of these e-mails. Each time, I’ve e-mailed Nike+ to inform them of the error. I have either been brushed off or not even replied to.

Please see below:

The reply from Sebastian doesn’t at all answer my query – and that was the best reply!

I’ve even posted on Nike’s forum, but haven’t had any replies.

Has anyone else experienced the same issue? Does anyone have any suggestions for other things to try?

A Room of One’s Own


Warning:  there are spoilers within this review which you may not want to read if you haven’t read the book. Ta.

Room is the seventh novel by Irish-Canadian Emma Donoghue (thank you, wikipedia). Five year old Jack tells his story in the first person throughout the novel. Aside from the young narrator, the other interesting part of the novel is the knowledge that Jack lives in Room. Room holds everything Jack could ever need, including his Ma. The only blot on the landscape is Old Nick, who visits Ma when Jack’s asleep in Wardrobe via Door, whose code you need to know to get out.

It might not be a surprise to learn that this is based on the five year old boy from the Fritzl case,  without the icky incestuous bits. As far as I could tell (not being an expert on the Fritzl case) this is where the similarities ended, and Donoghue has merely used this as inspiration.

When I first read the blurb on the back of the book, I thought that the premise couldn’t possibly support a whole novel. My initial thought turned out to be incorrect, thankfully.

Jack and his Ma’s lives within Room are written as claustrophobic and monotonous, filling their days with manual tasks such as hand washing sheets and towels in order to get through the hours between waking up and going to sleep as quickly as possible. Little events take up hours for Jack, such as the leaf that came to visit on Skylight. Usually I get irritated with affectations in novels, such as adopting patois or capitalising nouns, the latter of which is what Donoghue does with Jack. In this instance it makes sense – Jack has only ever known one Room so why would he not load it with importance? I have heard complaints about Jack’s extensive vocabulary, but that is also understandable – they have television and a limited number of books and his mother is there 100% of the time to teach him all of the words and knowledge pockets she knows. Added to that, he is the only other person there to have a conversation with, so it’s no wonder his speech is more mature than for the normal five year old. Similarly, Jack and his mother play a game called Parrot, where Jack listens to the TV until his mother presses the mute button, at which point he has to repeat all of the words he can remember. Normally it is the news, which means that Jack can literally parrot long or politically complex words and/sentences without having a clue what it’s about.

Inevitably, a plan is hatched to escape from Room. This relies heavily on Jack, although I won’t spoil all of the details here. He is reluctant to be involved, and pleads with his Ma to let him wait until he’s six. I found that to be the most thought-provoking part of the story – why would he leave his whole world to go somewhere that he’s only just heard about and might be rubbish? This is handled very well in the writing – just enough emphasis on how bewildered Jack is without labouring the point.

Although The Escape doesn’t happen until about half way through the book, it doesn’t feel like the story is confined at all. This may be due to the references to Jack’s fantasies and the books he and his Ma read. If were to read it again, or read this with a book club (the popular choice, I think) I’d read Alice in Wonderland alongside it. There are repeated references to Alice by Jack, and it’s quite clear that he is comparable to Alice – down the rabbit hole and trapped in a strange world where nothing is as it seems. Of course, for us we would perhaps assume that Wonderland is Room, but in Jack’s case, as mentioned previously, it’s the world as we know it.

Another aspect of the story that I enjoyed was Jack’s perspective on ordinary things, especially in the real world. He dislikes rain and even showers, as he has only ever had a bath. This means that although he is five years old and his literacy levels are advanced, he cannot do basic tasks such as climb stairs. He is also confused about why people keep mistaking him for a girl – he has never had a haircut and wears a big t-shirt which looks like a nightdress, so for us it’s an easy mistake to make, but for Jack it’s unfathomable.

Although this book is the first one in a long time that I have read and enjoyed (Wicked! By Jilly Cooper, I’m looking at you) it’s not without criticism.  The device of a sole narrator, a five year old one at that, was a very clever one as it added a new slant to a story that had perhaps been seen before. However, it made for slightly narrow chapters as Jack was filtering everything he had seen and heard through his own personality. It also meant that everything was about Jack. Although it was a bold move to retain the narrator for the whole book, I would have liked to have seen more from his mother.

The other slight criticism I have is that the book was anti-climactic, despite being very tense in places, I felt that there was always something else, waiting around the corner. Unfortunately, whatever it was did not materialise.

Looking back at the last two paragraphs, both of the criticisms are about areas that are absent from the novel, not present. I don’t think it’s fair to judge a book (or film, or anything) on what’s not there as at that point you’re trying to make it yours and not the creator’s.

I would recommend Room as a book that is easy to read and yet stays with you for a while. No doubt there will be a glitzy Hollywood film version in production at some point in the near future, but I would urge you to read the book first. No film can conjure the feeling of comfortable claustrophobia that Jack does.  I’m also going to see if I can find another of Emma Donoghue’s books to read.

PS I have a confession to make. I haven’t finished reading Vanity Fair. I will do at some point though.  Pinky swear.