Saturday, 10 June 2017

Books I Read in May!

I had a pretty good reading month in May! I was completely expecting to come back with another two or three book month because I had deadlines and health stress, but I think after having such a disastrous April, I needed to read some good books! Three of the eight were audiobooks which might've helped too because I can listen to them when I'm really poorly.

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Who got taken in by the new Audible audiobook editions of the Sherlock Holmes books read by Stephen Fry? I did! I snapped those babies up as soon as my monthly credit came through and immediately dived in.
The thing is- I'm not sure I like the books as much as I like the idea of the the characters? A Study in Scarlet was definitely the most interesting account of how Sherlock solved the case of the two novels and the bunch of short stories I've listened to so far. I'm always interested in the observations and deductions. There was such a tangent to tell the backstory though. It was just a weird anti-Mormon tirade that kept going, and it didn't even add anything. Motive is important. But I didn't understand why I needed the history of the Mormon religion with it.
"One's ideas must be as broad as nature if they are to interpret nature."

The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Oh boy, the racism. I get it, it's the time period that it was written in but it was really uncomfortable. And the quote from Sherlock; "Women are never to be entirely trusted", at least Watson brushes this off but it really held no purpose to the story apart from alienating me as a reader.
As far the story though, it was pretty interesting. The motive tangent in this one wasn't as long or as monotonous as A Study in Scarlet at least.
"-I never guess. It is a shocking habit- destructive to the logical faculty."

Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth
I've been reading this for months. I checked my Goodreads and I started it in February. That's a long time to be reading the same book, but it's also a long time for me to not completely give up and relegate it to my 'paused' shelf.
I really enjoyed the first book. But it had a lot to do with the format; short chapters encompassing a whole experience, while the book itself slowly moves forward along in time. This second book was written in such a different way that I looked in the acknowledgements, and even Googled, to find out if there was a ghostwriter. If there is, it hasn't been talked about but this is written like a fiction book rather than a collection of memories. It just didn't work for me in the same way. There was so much obviously fabricated because I really doubt that some of the people written about talked about their stories, and definitely not in the amount of detail this book wants you to believe. It's a shame because I want to know about Jennifer Worths life and how that was affected by the people she treated, not fictionalised histories where she plays a minor background role.
However, I've flipped through the next book and it does seem to go back to the format of the first book so I'm not put off yet!
"-The more I read, the more ignorant I realised I was. I devoured history like other chaps devoured booze."

The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
This is the only book I ended up reading from my A to Z Readathon TBR and it really deserves a full review like book one and book two because I loved it and have so many thoughts and feelings!

Not Your Average Nurse by Maggie Groff*
I wrote a full review here!

Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology by Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton
Lost Cat was so cute and I have a review coming with pictures posed with my cats. Because of course.

The Child by Fiona Barton*
I read and reviewed The Widow by Fiona Barton last year. This is being published at the end of June and I'll be writing a full review to follow that trend!

The Martian by Andy Weir
I listened to the audiobook of The Martian at the beginning of May and I liked it. The protagonist Mark Watney was funny and totally the type of guy whose diary log I can listen to for eight hours. I much preferred his first person segments to the prose style when Weir wrote of the characters back home, but maybe that's the podcast-fan in me. I listen to a podcast similar to this and it's just kept going, no ending in sight. Whereas all I get are feelings of disappointment that the ending was so abrupt from The Martian, it could've given us way more. Watney is also living my best life with all those potatoes, I don't know what he's complaining about!
The thing is, I listened to this at the beginning of May and now that it's a month later- I know I'm never going to listen to it again which is rarely my experience with audiobooks!
"How come Aquaman can control whales? They're mammals! Makes no sense."

What did you read this month?

Friday, 26 May 2017

Books I Read in April!

Please don't look at the date because this is extraordinarily late. But that accidentally rhymed so- it all evens out, right? I finished four books in April and three of them were one/two-day-reads. Most of my reading time was taken up listening to the audiobook of my new favourite, Lolita. And boy, I'm going to need an entire post to unravel that one!

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
I loved this book. I loved it. And I have a lot of feelings about it that I need to write so look out for that.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend
So it got to the 19th and I realised I hadn't finished an entire book so far in April. So I looked at the 500+ books I have on my TBR and picked out something I knew I could read fast and would probably enjoy. I might've been a little off with my choice.
Don't get me wrong, I read this fast (in a day) and it was entertaining to a degree but I got to the end of the book and was like- okay. Even now, I really can't really think of anything to say. It's a diary by a 13 year-old boy who is just a real rat bag. It has some really dated and offensive terms considering it's only 30+ years old. For example, Adrian wishes his father wouldn't wear an apron while cleaning because "he looks like a poofter in it". And Pandora has long hair "like girls' hair should be". Urg.

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend
I'm not one for continuing series if I don't love the first book but something about book one taking me a day to read, pushed me to pick up the next. It would've taken longer if I didn't enjoy it a little, right? This also didn't take long to read and it was amusing, but not laugh-out-loud funny. Adrian gets a little more self-aware but also more pompous. I get that he's supposed to be an immature teenage boy but he's just utterly unlikable.

True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole by Sue Townsend
Say hello to my breaking point! This was the last Adrian Mole book that I owned from the series, and also the only one I hadn't read as a kid. It doesn't have just the usual diary format. It starts with a letter from Sue Townsend talking about the book as if Adrian is real (he's not) which is very strange? It then goes onto diary entries, letters and essays that he's 'written' and therefore wasn't as quick or easy to read. Even as an adult, he is still the worst kind of pompous man. For example; "I never read bestsellers on principle. It's a good rule of thumb. If the masses like it them I'm sure that I won't." Can't you just imagine him mansplaining what a metaphor is to an English professor?
That goes on for 90 pages, then turns over to a diary from Sue Townsend. That's 50 pages of no-plot. Then we get 20 pages of a fictional teenage Margret Thatcher diary. Now, I'm from the North and therefore I was born disliking Thatcher. But I have no interest in reading a diary written by someone who clearly doesn't like her either and needs to villainize her as a teenager. It was just strange. A weird end to a chaotic 160 page mess that was still priced at £7.99.

What did you read in April?

Monday, 15 May 2017

Book Review: Not Your Average Nurse by Maggie Groff!

My non-fiction shelf is dominated by medical memoirs; be it a doctor from the 1800s or a midwife from the 1950s, I can't get enough of the mix of medicine and drama. So when the opportunity to be on the blog tour for Not Your Average Nurse by Maggie Groff* came up, I jumped! Based in the 1970s? Covering student nursing? In London? It sounded right up my alley, and I couldn't wait.

To a young girl the life of a student nurse sounds exciting, but with long hours and short shrift it's never easy. So when Maggie Groff embarks as a student nurse at London's King's College Hospital she must quickly get to grips with the demands of her chosen career. It's sink or swim.

In a delightful romp through time, played out against the march of feminism and the fashion, music and movies of almost half a century ago, we follow Maggie's highs and lows as with trial and much error she becomes a highly skilled nurse and sets sail for a new life in Australia.

From the watchful gaze of stern ward sisters and the ordeals of nursing at a poor housing estate to becoming an industrial nurse at the iconic Sydney Opera House, Maggie shares her stories of mistakes and mayhem, tea and sympathy, and the life-affirming moments that make it all worthwhile.

This book is a wonderfully written memoir covering 1970 to 1985 and has some brilliantly written parts, as one would expect from an award-winning novelist. What I didn't expect was to be whipped away to Switzerland, Australia and Ibiza, and to be shown the differences between hospital nursing, industrial nursing and even elderly nun nursing. All while staying pretty charmingly British and cosy to read.

Maggie Groff has had a truly amazing life. She shows the up and the downs of nursing- and life at the same time. While I don't think I could handle the night duty and the emergencies, I'm totally jealous. I was quite close to looking into a nursing career while reading! But I think what this memoir really shows is what you can do with a strong attitude and determination. Maggie Groff knew what she wanted and she did it, be it quitting an underpaying job or flying out to live across the globe all alone.

The comparison to Call the Midwife has to be made because they're both memoirs about UK based nursing in the past, although set 20 years apart. I get the same comforting feeling I get from the books, and the slightly-less-so-but-still-there judgement of women by their appearance, but Maggie Groff has had a much more varied career. If you liked one, I think you'd like the other.

One thing I did raise my eyebrows a little at the one racist paragraph, where she tells the reader about a rumour implying the Chinese nurses were eating ducks from the park; "I never believed the rumour, especially as I had started it." It was obviously the 1970s and we all say things when we're young, but this was never addressed again which is unfortunate.

Overall though, this is what it says on the cover, an entertaining true story of a student nurse in 1970s London. And so much more. Prepare to see the effects of Feminism in nursing, a family lose a mother to cancer and a great balance of a polished story and the raw real-life events.

If you want to read it, you can pre-order here for it's release on Wednesday. And there will be more blog tour posts from KellyDeeJoLorraineCarly and Adele during the week!

"It wouldn't matter if he was a thief or a prince. Everyone who walks through the hospital doors receives the same respectful treatment. It's what underpins King's, Maggie. It's what's right."

 Where do you put memoirs on your shelf; fiction or non-fiction? Will you pick this one up?

*I was provided a copy of the book for the blog tour, this hasn't changed my opinion.

Monday, 1 May 2017

My #AtoZReadathon TBR!

Everyone joins the odd readathon the day they start, right? Denise has created an amazing readathon and I wanted in! You can hear all about it here but in short, there are three levels: Easy, where you use the titles and authors names to get all the letters A-to-Z. Medium, where you use the titles. And Hard, where you just use the first letter of the title. I so want to try that hard version but I have deadlines galore in May and I occasionally have to chose to be responsible. So- medium! I had a blast picking out my books and using a little excel spreadsheet to make sure I hit all the letters. Here's my TBR...

The Light Fantastic and Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
I haven't had the best time with Terry Pratchett in the past, but I've read enough on the internet to be reassured that his work gets better. And books with Q in the title are super hard to find. So, I'm going to give books two and three again. Especially since book three; Equal Rites is the first of the Witches books. They're what I'm super interested in getting to.

The Devil You Know by Mike Carey
I'm really excited to get to this book! I bought it years ago and it's about a gritty London paranormal detective. I completely forgot about it until I searched for books with a V in. I've seen a lot of comparisons to the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher, which I wanted to read a while ago and have since discovered it's pretty misoginistic, so I'm hoping this will fill the gap!

The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Despite loving the first book and the second book in this series, and being really excited for the third book to come out- I completely forgot about The Bronze Key. I ended up buying it months after it was released and still haven't read it. I'm not good with current series apparently. It's time I finally read it.

Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides
There were a couple of different books I could've picked to get the letter X but I've never read a book with an intersex character before. I think it's about time I did. Plus, I've been listening to a couple of modern classics on audiobook lately so I kind of want to see what happens when I try to read-read one.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This was actually the last book I added because J was the hardest letter to find and I still needed P. So why not read my first Jane Austen? This has been mentioned over and over on my blog so I'm glad to get that final push to start it! Plus, maybe after reading this I'll stop trying to spell Prejudice like 'Predjudice'.

Sneaky view of my spreadsheet for the curious!
So that's my TBR! I think I have a pretty neat little selection too, and a couple of books to read that I hadn't thought about in a while. I love that about readathons with interesting challenges.

Are you joining the #AtoZReadathon?

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