Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Books I Read in April!

I read two really big books in April! I'm not one for big books in general so this is actually pretty exciting. Probably helped by the fact that I went on holiday in April and took some real chunky books. But overall it was a good month; I liked everything I read and I covered a wide range of genres!

Cat next to The Coffin Dancer by Jeffery Deaver, Summer Lightning by P.G. Wodehouse, Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir and The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams.
Yes, these books did get knocked down about 0.2 seconds after this picture!

The Coffin Dancer by Jeffery Deaver
I started this series with The Bone Collector back in September of last year, which I adored so I have no idea why it took me so long to get to the next in this series! I picked it up and put it down a couple times over the past few months but holidays always get me in the crime-reading mood and it eventually got its hook in me.
This is Deaver at the beginning of his long writing career and I did find a few things in this book that show that; the most amusing being someone pointing their "alarmingly long thumb" which... what?But also, Sachs, who is a wonderfully fleshed out character in the first book, is weirdly jealous of another woman in this book and responds to that by thinking about how unattractive she is. Other characters mention this womans looks over and over which is icky and a little disappointing.
It's the second book in the series and, for the first time, I think I understand the whole second-book-is-tough mythology. Following up from The Bone Collector must've been a challenge, but I'm hoping these kinks get ironed out in book three.
On another note, I struggle with slurs in books when the intention isn't to be racist and it's a slightly older book. The Coffin Dancer was first published 20 years ago so the use of g*psy is, I guess, understandable- but still uncomfortable.

Summer Lightning by P.G. Wodehouse
Lord Emsworth has very bad luck in houseguests because in every book, someone comes in and uses his castle as the setting for some nefarious plot or other. This time, someone has stolen his pig.
I'm sure I'm a broken record at this point but Wodehouse has the most charming writing, I smile as I read these books and as we enter Spring, I find myself reaching for them more than ever.
Before, he would gladly have murdered Beach and James and danced on their graves. Now, he would be satisfied with straight murder.

Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir
You all know my love for this series by now. Book one and book two were incredible, and while I enjoyed this one slightly less, it was still great and I'll be giving it a full review soon!

The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams
Do you ever read a book and get totally turned around on an entire genre? I was starting to think that fantasy wasn't the genre for me because even though I love it in theory, in practice it's what I ever reach for. And now I'm completely convinced that it's not fantasy I don't like, it's male-written fantasy. I'll be doing a full review rave soon but I can hand-on-heart say that I think Jen Williams is a blessing to the fantasy genre.

Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading lately?

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Books I Took to Mallorca!

I had long decided Mallorca was going to be my 'reading' holiday where I do almost nothing but eat, read and rest. I was determined to get some good pages turned, mainly of review copies since I found myself with a pile of seriously exciting upcoming releases. Unfortunately it ended up being less relaxing then I hoped, but hey- lets talk about the books that made their way to Mallorca with me!

The Coffin Dancer by Jeffery Deaver
I planned my packing list of books carefully this time and I still winded up shoving The Coffin Dancer in my backpack on my way out the door. I'm ridiculous! In my defense though, I was about 50 pages in and it's so little. I read a good chunk of this while I was away and finished it soon after I got back!

The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon and The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald
Both of these were in my 'Required Reading' haul and that's why they were both packed. My next assignment is a choice between the two of them. I started The Emigrants but it's a tough read and I just wanted a week without university stress so I put it down again.

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh*
I missed the initial Flame in the Mist hype but with the new cover and the upcoming release of the second book, I'm hopping on that hype. Plus, the main character in this dresses like a boy and I'm named after a Shakespeare character who does the same thing. I didn't get round to it on the trip but it's top of my TBR.

Six Tudor Queens: Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir*
This is one of my most anticipated reads of this year. So delaying reading this when I got it about two weeks before my holiday was killing me. As I pack, I change my mind of what I want to take a lot, but this was the first thing in my suitcase. I powered through this on my trip and I liked it!

The Ninth Rain and The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams*
I really wanted to finish The Ninth Rain before I went on holiday so I could take The Bitter Twins but I didn't. So I brought both along because the idea of ten days without Jen Williams writing seemed like torture. I don't think I can go back to male written fantasy after this, Williams has opened my eyes!

Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio*
This is a science fiction book that Gollancz are putting out in July and I'm so excited. I haven't read a good and thick space war book in so long. I didn't end up picking it up but I've since started it and dang, it's going to be an interesting read!

Have you read any of these? What do you think of my holiday picks?

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Books I Read in March!

I didn't do a lot of reading in March! I had a pretty interesting February in reading but it was the beginning of a bit of a slump which continued through March, helped along by a really stressful deadline. I did manage to listen to two audiobooks and read one physical book though, so I didn't give up completely.

American Housewife by Helen Ellis and Blandings Castle.. And Elsewhere by P. G. Wodehouse

American Housewife by Helen Ellis*
So, I read this in a couple hours which is unusual for me. I haven't read a whole book in one day for a while! But this might have something to do with this being big print on 185 pages with 32 being blank or title pages.
Now, I'm not sure I actually enjoyed it no matter how fast I read it. It's a strange mish-mash of twelve stories within the theme of the American Housewife and while I think if any of these stories was fleshed out into an actual book, I could be convinced to pick them up... In short short story form they felt like the flash fiction that would be written from writing prompts of the titles.
On the other hand, her sister is one of the hosts of the podcast One Bad Mother which I adore! I'd reccomend that any day.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
I listened to the audiobook of this because it's read by the author and I adore her YouTube about death positivity. She's taught me a lot about grief over the year or so I've been subscribed and has helped me through grieving in my personal life. With the audiobook though, I actually found her voice quite hard to concentrate on, it's too soothing! But fall asleep to a book about death and expect weird dreams.
As for the actual book, I really liked it. I learnt a lot but it was an enjoyable learning experience filled with personal stories on a topic I don't think I've spent a lot of time thinking about. From the obsessive compulsive rituals she developed as a kid after seeing a young child die, to a suicide attempt, this book doesn't shy away from anything on Doughty's death journey.
I'm definitely going to buy a physical copy of this, and her newer book when I'm not on my book-buying-ban because I think they'll be a good physical read.
Note: There is use of the term 'hermaphrodites', rather than intersex which is really something writers and editors need to pick up on more. This isn't the first time I've read this outdated term in a contemporary book.
If the American optimist led to the 'prettying up' of the corpse... British pessimism led to the removal of the corpse and the death ritual from polite society.

Blandings Castle... And Elsewhere by P. G. Wodehouse
I'm not a big lover of short stories, I don't know why, maybe because I don't get the same sense of immersion. So while P.G. Wodehouse is fast becoming a favourite and these stories were good, I didn't love them as much as I hoped. His mastery of the English language and comedic timing is evident in everything he writes though.
There were six Blandings Castle stories, one concerning Bobbie Wickham who features in two of Wodehouse's other series as a bit of a side character, and five about the Mulliners of Hollywood- telling tales of old Hollywood from the point of view of a rather unreliable narrator. I prefered the Blandings ones as I'm rather fond of the family by now but they were all fun enough.
A ray of sunshine, which had been advancing jauntily along the carpet, caughts sight of his face and slunk out, abashed.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Book Review: Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession by Alison Weir!

When I finished Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen I was convinced. Yes, she was the true Queen. And Anne Boleyn? Nope, I did not like her and never would, she was the villain of the story. Well- obviously Henry VIII is the villain but Anne Boleyn was a minor villain and while not deserving of being beheaded, wasn't going to get my sympathy. Well, enter Alison Weir and A King's Obsession! By the end of this, I ended up crying for a Queen long since dead. Again.

It is the spring of 1527. Henry VIII has come to Hever Castle in Kent to pay court to Anne Boleyn. He is desperate to have her. For this mirror of female perfection, he will set aside his Queen and all Cardinal Wolsey’s plans for a dynastic French marriage.

Anne Boleyn is not so sure. She loathes Wolsey for breaking her betrothal to the Earl of Northumberland’s son, Harry Percy, whom she had loved. She does not welcome the King’s advances; she knows that she can never give him her heart.

But hers is an opportunist family. And whether Anne is willing or not, they will risk it all to see their daughter on the throne…

Oh, Anne Boleyn. Did you know that decapitation isn't an immediate death? I went on a Google deep-dive after this and science has some buck wild thoughts on the matter. I totally cannot un-read some of the details of experiments. But, even before this terrible end, I was feeling sorry for Anne Boleyn. She wants to marry for love, against her father's wishes, and ends up with just the worst man so that the family can gain points. Reading her whole story from childhood, you connect with her as a character and it feels all the more brutal when she's treated so badly.

There's also the blending of contemporary ideas with the thoughts of the time. Anne was surrounded by women leaders and was a strong independent woman who thought that women could rule. She was taught- at least in this fictionalised world- that she had the feminine power to flirt and lead men that way. This endeared me to her and I just wanted her to get a happy ending, goshdarnit. The author's note goes into feminism in 16th Century Europe and the women leaders Anne served, and it's so so interesting.

And that Author's Note. Obviously, any historical fiction is going to be that, fiction. But Weir's Author's Note at the end of these books show the detail of research and are often the most interesting part of the read for me- these books are fantastic so this isn't a slight. I just love reading about how she went about writing. There is much less source material to use when it comes to Anne, in comparison to Katherine, and a lot of the material comes from a hostile source. This just makes the depth of the story all the more impressive.

Alison Weir continues to amaze me. She completely turned my opinion on Anne around, my emotions were all over the place and even with 500+ pages, I always want more when it comes to this series.

-she added her name, so that anyone finding the inscription in years to come would know who had written it. By then she would either be famous or forgotten.

Have you read any good books about Anne Boleyn?

Saturday, 7 April 2018

What's your Favourite Book? Feat. Rebecca Reads!

Welcome back to my cruel, cruel interview series where I ask book people the most difficult question of all- what's your favourite book? I've loved seeing everyones reaction to Jenny's answer and I love Beckys answer. I think it's fascinating how people answer this question and the reasonings they have behind their choices.

Becky blogs over at Rebecca Reads with a focus on childrens literature as she is a trainee teacher. I think this is such a wonerfully unique perspective, as most people reading this age group probably don't spend as much time around so many different kids. I know when I read MG, I haven't got a clue what kids these days would think! So, Becky, what's your favourite book?

Becky: As a reader, whenever someone asks me the question, what is your favourite book? I panic. It’s one of the most difficult questions you could ask me. It’s like asking a parent who is their favourite child! So when faced with this question for this blog post, I had a really long think about my answer. So I decided to narrow it down a little more, to just children’s literature. And how could I choose between two?

As a trainee teacher, I love reading children’s literature, and over the past couple of years it’s brought me so much joy! I have two favourites in children’s literature, Wonder by R.J Palacio and The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange.

I first discovered Wonder 2 years ago thanks to Twitter! I thought it sounded interesting and I very quickly added it to my tbr list! It’s about a boy called Auggie, who has a facial disfigurement and is going to school for the first time. The book follows his early experiences in school and how those around him react to this transition. I love this book, because it covers such unique and difficult topics to discuss with children, but in a way that makes it more accessible for them and allows them to connect with a character who is experiencing difficulties. The lessons that can be learnt from this book are immense! You can read a full review here.

The other book, the secret of Nightingale Wood, is a book about a young girl, Henry, in 1919 who has experienced great loss and her father has gone away for work. She is at home with her mother, who is seriously ill. Doctor Hardy wants to take care of her, but Henry suspects that the doctor isn’t treating her mother correctly. Then she discovers that there is a fire lit in the woods just beyond her house, which may hold all the answers she needs. I again loved this book because it dealt with such difficult topics, such as loss and mental health, but in an accessible way. Lucy’s writing style is so lovely and the book flows really well. You can read a full review here

I have never really had favourites in other genres, I don’t know why, I just don’t think I’ve found ‘that book’ yet. The one that really sticks with me and I want to re-read constantly. Obviously Harry Potter is another favourite, and whilst I watch the films all the time, I don’t have the urge to constantly re-read the books, maybe the length puts me off a little!

As a child, my favourites were the famous five series by Enid Blyton, I couldn’t get enough of her books, and constantly re-read them, but now I struggle to get into them as much, maybe it’s because the writing style is quite old fashioned, and I’m used to a more modern writing style. My favourite books are ever changing. Who knows if these two books will be my favourite this time next year?

Make sure to check out Becky's wonderful blog here and her Twitter too! I'm definitely going to have to pull out my old Enid Blyton books, she was such an influence on my childhood so I wonder if I'll still like them now!

What do you think of Beckys choices? Were you an Enid Blyton fan?

Monday, 2 April 2018

Fostering: The Kittens of Wildfell Hall!

I tend to focus on books when it comes to my blog, but today I want to take a minute and talk about something that goes hand in hand with books- Cats! More specifically, the first foster cats that I had for longer than 24 hours. You can read about that experience and what I learned here! But if you love pictures of cats, this is the post for you.

So, let me introduce to you: The Kittens of Wildfell Hall. Gilbert and Esther were named for characters from my favourite book of 2017, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë.

I fostered Gilbert and Esther after they were spayed/ neutered for a little over a month before a place opened up for them in the nearby Cats Protection adoption centre. My task was to socialise them because they had been feral for the first six months of their lives. Feral life is not easy. Along with finding food, unless these ferals are TNR'd (trap, neuter, return) they won't be vaccinated and will constantly be reproducing. Not to mention that around 80% of feral kittens die in their first year.

Socialisation is a sooner-the-better kind of deal. It takes longer the longer they're out there and not interacting with humans. And the general idea is that six months is about when it stops being effective. So Gilbert and Esther got taken in just in time, the vet that neutered them aged them at about six months! It's actually pretty lucky that Esther wasn't pregnant as cats can start reproducing at four months.

It was a long and tough journey socialising these two. Esther was much more amiable and loved to play, but Gilbert was frightened half to death by humans. He spent the first few days hidden under a side table in the corner, creeping out for food and occasionally batting at the toys. I even heard him having a nightmare one night, whining in a way that made my heart break.

But persistence, spending every spare second holding and stroking, and even hand-feeding (jelly cat food is gross to touch) softened up both of them to the point where I think both of them could be definied as lap cats! When they were taken to the adoption centre, I'll admit, I shed a tear! I was constantly refreshing their pages on the site, keeping an eye on the centre's Facebook and double-checking my emails. In the end, they were adopted seperately.

Esther is now called Dotty. Her adopter was lovely and sent me a couple updates. She has settling in nicely and they adore her. She'll always be Esther to me though!

Gilbert took a little longer to be adopted. They found a heart murmer at the vet check that happens when a cat is taken in to the adoption centre. You can imagine that a pre-existing condition, unable to be covered by insurance, can be a major consideration for someone! He was eventually adopted, but not before I was seriously considering foster failing (a term for when you just can't give them up).

So that was my experience with the Kittens of Wildfell Hall! I'll be posting a little more about cats I foster but don't worry, lots of book posts too!
Aren't they just the cutest? 

Friday, 23 March 2018

Books I Read in February!

February was a weird reading month for me, in that I read a lot but I stopped getting a lot of feelings from reading about half-way through the month. As you can imagine, that kind of pumps the brakes. But this had me testing out a lot of different genres and continuing series, starting new series and jumping around which can be fun.

The Fear Within by J. S. Law*
I really liked the first book in this series; Tenacity. I felt that the female main character was written wonderfully, the plot worked for me and there was LGBT+ representation in a military setting which- yay! The Fear Within was good but didn't hit all the high spots of Tenacity.
The plot was great and while the links to the first book were a little heavy-handed, I can see where the narrative is going with that overarching plotline while the book deals with a new case. And Dani was as wonderful as she was in book one.
However, I felt like this slipped into gratuitous violence, specifically towards women. The characters talk openly about Feminism and even reference the misogyny rife on Twitter so I don't think this is the issue. I think it's just a norm in this genre that women are often victims of physical and sexual assault. But I'm not really sensitive to these kinds of things, so for me to feel uncomfortable- that's quite a level to reach.
I'll read the next book, but I'll definitely be going with my guard up.
"If I want to hear childish, misogynist crap like this I'll go and speak my mind on Twitter."

I have to say, I didn't find the cast of characters that breifly inhabit Blandings Castle as charming as the ones from Something Fresh, which I read in January. But the wit and charm of Wodehouse stay constant and is super refreshing. I can't think of any modern books that quite manage the same vibe and it's genuinely calming. When I want a book that isn't life-and-death, with low stakes but great plot, Wodehouse is my new go-to.
Situated in the middle of one of those districts where London breaks out into a sort of eczema of red brick-

Recently I've been un-hauling a lot of the series I read as a teen because I tended towards not-great YA. It turns out that teen-Imogen had some taste after all though because, while I'm pretty sure I only read one of these books, I bought eight of them. And they're not half bad!
The whole thing is very mid-2000s. You get words like 'skank' and the idea of 'girl games'. But even though she sees it as 'abnormal', I like having a narrator that loves school and learning. She's smart and her intelligence is useful in a way that makes her a strong female character without having her take on male sterotypes of strength.
For the second time since starting my Twitter thread of 2017 reads, this was a book I originally gave four-stars and marked down to three while writing my wrap-up and thinking it over. I'll still read the next one but whether I buy into the whole 15-book series is hanging on that. I don't want anymore women called skanks, but I do want to dive into more of Rachel Caine.
She resented being scared in a library! Books weren't supposed to be scary. They were supposed to... help.

Full review coming soon!

I've really liked Katherine Clements historical fiction books in the past! The Crimson Ribbon and The Silvered Heart were my first foray into the genre and convinced me to keep giving it a chance. But The Coffin Path is a historical ghost story and maybe historical ghost stories aren't for me... For example, I didn't like The Woman in Black by Susan Hill at all. And while I liked this better, it wasn't something I was reaching for whenever I had a free minute. The setting and vibe were great, super creepy, but I didn't click with the characters or plot that much.
Although this is set in Yorkshire, my Greater Manchester town got a mention for being rebels against the King. That was pretty neat.
The truth weighs heavy on my. If only my purse did the same.

Oh boy, I cried. I don't think I've read this one since the original release day so it was kind of wild to listen to the audiobook for the first time. Stephen Fry could read the phone book and make it wonderful.
As for the story, I'd say everything was resolved okay but, much like the ending of Lost, I'm not sure I completely get it? But the whole book felt much more densely plotted, full of action and emotion, it didn't drag like some of the other books in the series. I feel like JKR knew exactly what needed to happen to get from A to B and that was a lot. So it was all packed in.
Overall, I'm glad that I've gone from start to finish with this series as an adult. But I have a lot of complicated feelings about the diversity, or lack of, and seperation of author and story can be hard.
There was a brief silence in which the distant sound of Hagrid smashing down a wooden door seemed to reverbarate through the intervening years.

What did you read in February?

Saturday, 3 March 2018

What's your Favourite Book? Feat. Jenny in Neverland!

A question I get asked a lot when people find out I like to read is: 'oh! What's your favourite book?' and I never have a great answer. I can narrow it down to top ten, I can give you my favourites within genres, I can tell you my top-rated. But my favourite? Not a chance. So I'm starting a new series of blogger interviews with one question: What's your favourite book? In hopes of finding new favourite books, introducing my readers to my favourite bloggers, and seeing how other people answer this impossible question.

I'm starting the series by asking Jenny, from Jenny in Neverland. She was one of the first book bloggers I ever followed when I started and is one of the most hardworking women I know. I was super nervous when I first internet-spoke to her but you'll not find a bigger champion for small bloggers anywhere. So, Jenny, what's your favourite book?

Jenny: I have so many books that I would consider favourites. I have a shelf dedicated to my favourite books (which is slowly getting more and more full with the more books I read!) and when someone asks what my favourite book is, I usually find myself rolling off book after book after book. Some of them include; The Beach by Alex Garland, The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson-Walker, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and basically everything that John Green has written.

But when I think about it, there’s only one book that I come back to time after time after time. I’m sure we all have them; that one book we slip into conversation at whatever chance we get. That one book we reference to all the time. That one book that holds the largest part of our bookish hearts. So that being said, although there are tons of books I would consider favourites and all of them are incredible and beautiful in their own way, there’s only one book which for me, is endless and timeless in my little world of “favourite books”. That’s The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. 

I think Markus Zusak is an incredible writer anyway as his other novel, I Am the Messenger is also up there amongst my favourites. They’re both very different books but The Book Thief holds a very special place in my heart. I may sound presumptuous here but I honestly don’t think another book will compare to that one for me for my entire life. It’s so beautifully written, such a unique way to read a book (if you’re not familiar with the book, it’s narrated by Death and Death is very much personified throughout the book so it’s really unusual but gives you a massively different insight and perspective) and the characters… My gosh. The characters. 

The Book Thief is my favourite book for so, so many reasons if I were to list and talk about them all I’d be here all day. I love the writing style, the unique approach, the setting, the storyline but most of all I think I love the characters, their relationship with each other and what that all means. I love Liesel, the main character. I love her passion for books and reason and her deep desire to know more, read more and learn. I know stealing isn’t condoned (she does literally steal books in the book) but I would confidently say that Liesel is quite a role-model, considering everything she goes through in the book. Everything she loses, everything she has to see and witness in a time where tragedy tore through the streets. Despite being so young, she’s definitely someone to look up to. 

I’m going to wrap it up here but above all else, I love The Book Thief because it shows and teaches you what the power of books and words can do. They’re magic. They can pick you up, lift your soul, even in times of absolute desperation. Books are there to save you and The Book Thief definitely portrays that perfectly.

Check out all the pages Jenny has turned over for quotes she loves!

Make sure to check out Jenny's wonderful blog here for book, lifestyle, travel and blogger tips posts! And follow her on Twitter. I'm off to find my copy of The Book Thief and add it to my immediate TBR. Thank you Jenny!

Have you read The Book Thief? What did you think?

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Books I Read in January!

I read five books in January which is pretty good for a busy month! Four of the five were audiobooks which I think is going to be the trend for this year unless I find a treatment that works for my chronic migraines. But for now, audiobooks are amazing it's great to have an option to read that doesn't include me opening my eyes!

Pile of books: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard, Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I've had a long relationship with this book; I started reading it in January 2016, then again in May 2017, and now finished it in January 2018 via the wonderful Stephen Fry Audible audiobook! I read two Sherlock Holmes novels between starting these stories and ending them.
I find the Sherlock Holmes short stories a mixed bag in general. On individual ratings, they literally ranged from one to five stars. But I like the various television adaptations of the stories and it's always interesting to read the source material. Some of them really show how impressive the retellings are because while the story is familiar, the modernisation is masterful to keep the same 'vibe' in a current-day setting.
"Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than the crime that you should dwell."

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Another collection of short stories and the same experience. I liked some, I didn't like others.
I did find the death of Sherlock quite moving, especially when it sounded like Stephen Fry was getting a little teary at the end! Moriarty is one of the better villains I think, and I really can't wait to listen to the next book.
"I am afraid that I rather give myself away when I explain," said he. "Results without causes are much more impressive-"

Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
This is the second year that the first book I've read has been a Feminist non-fiction. Last year is was We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and this year the historian Mary Beards manifesto. She is a wonder. Again, I got this for Christmas and again I loved it! By looking at the classical world, which is her speciality, she brings something fresh to the movement. It was empowering, and the perfect way to start the year that is the anniversary of some women getting the vote for the first time. It was such a unique way of looking at the subject and I really recommend it as a short burst of energy if, like me, the world weighs on you at times.
I'll definitely be continuing this little fledgeling tradition of starting the year with a Feminist book. Now what to read next January...
When it comes to silencing women, Western culture has had thousands of years of practice.

Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse
I originally bought a collection of P.G. Wodehouse's Blandings Castle series back in March 2014. And I just read the first one, which is pretty ridiculous. But, I really enjoyed it so maybe the wait wasn't all bad!
It was completely charming, and I really loved all the characters introduced. I didn't immediately understand the way the cast all fit together but once it clicked, I was surprised at how brilliantly everything weaved together. It might've been easier if I have been reading the physical book, but the audiobook was narrated by Jonathan Cecil who has the most perfect posh British accent that made the characters really come to life and the sharp wit of Wodehouse really sparkle.
Plus, originally written in 1915, there is a wonderful commentary on the idea of women getting the vote that ends up being in favour. Even if the male character does struggle with it a little, the female character refuses his unwanted chivalry and is determined to be treated equally.
It was with the sullen repulsion of a vegetarian who finds a caterpillar in his salad that he now sat glaring at them.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling
Continuing my journey through the Harry Potter books as an adult has been eye-opening. But I'm glad that book six brought me back to solid ground. After a terrible read of book five, I was actually dreading this book. But hey, that page count got lower and I got happier.
There's still ableism, the common-of-the-time use of mental illness as an insult but there's only one occurrence. And for the first time, I had no quotes to write out. Don't get me wrong, I love sassy Harry as much as the next person, but he has the only memorable lines in the whole book.
Although I initially gave it 4 stars, I've now knocked it down to three because writing is one of the main factors in a book for me, and if I haven't got any examples of thinking- wow, what a good sentence/ paragraph/ expression, then that lets down the whole book for me.

What did you read in January?

Monday, 26 February 2018

Book Unhaul #3

I'm back with another unhaul! Mainly because I've bought a book and to stick with my 2018 book goals I need to unhaul ten real fast. And I need to get back on the bandwagon of clearing off my shelves, I have so many books that I have no interest in anymore. Ideally, I'll be excited about everything I have on my TBR, and love everything on my read shelf.

Pile of Books: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Rober Louis Stevenson, Raven's Gate and Evil Star by Anthony Horowitz, The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness and The Countenance Divine by Michael Hughes

Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenDracula by Bram StokerFrankenstein by Mary Shelley and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Rober Louis Stevenson
I actually read all of these last year! But one of the things I'm discovering as I go on this journey of unhauling is that I own a lot of multiple copies of classics where I have a fancy copy that I've bought as an adult but I still have the old copies from when I was a teen. I'm not into having multiples of the same book, so these are going.

Raven's Gate and Evil Star by Anthony Horowitz
I wasn't sure I was going to keep these when I originally organized my TBR books after the big redecorate but I did thinking that I might get around to them.  I didn't, but last summer I did read several other books by Anthony Horowitz and found them lacking. Maybe these would be better but I have no motivation to find out.

The Knife of Never Letting GoThe Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
I know a lot of people who love this trilogy so I picked it up and gave it a go in July of 2016. And I didn't get past 200 pages. It just wasn't for me! Maybe because it's middle grade, maybe it's just one of those things, but I'm okay with never reading these. The only thing that makes me sad is how gorgeous these copies are.

The Countenance Divine by Michael Hughes*
I didn't write a Books I 'Paused' in 2016 post because I, luckily, didn't have that many. But if there was one, this would've been top of the list as probably the most hated book I've ever read. I don't like saying that, I think every book and writer has merits. But I feel that if someone is writing in 2016 and there's outright misogyny and one minor female character for the six or seven main male characters- something has gone terribly wrong.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Book Review: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller!

I've been wanting to read Catch-22 for years and years, long before I even started blogging, but I put it off. However, since one of my reading goals was to stop delaying, I figured Catch-22 was the place to start. It's been a year since I read it and I've finally collected my thoughts up into one handy blog post.

At the heart of Catch-22 resides the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero endlessly inventive in his schemes to save his skin from the horrible chances of war.

His problem is Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempts to excuse himself from the perilous missions that he's committed to flying, he's trapped by the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, the bureaucratic rule from which the book takes its title: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes the necessary formal request to be relieved of such missions, the very act of making the request proves that he's sane and therefore, ineligible to be relieved.

It's been a long time since I've laughed out loud as I read. It so rarely happens that I found myself surprised! I listened to the audiobook read by Trevor White and he was a perfect narrator, but even after, when I wrote down all the quotes into my notebook- they all stood out without needing his fantastic narration. I ended up with five pages of quotes when the average book gets half a page!

The timeline does make it a little confusing, especially since I didn't know going in that it wasn't chronological. But it really is a very cleverly put together book. I always admire writers who try a non-linear timeline and it worked wonderfully with Catch-22. By the end, I just wanted to pick it right back up again and read knowing what I know now. I've managed to avoid this because I generally don't like re-reading, but the urge is so strong I'll be surprised if I don't within the next year.

For me, Catch-22 is a book of comparable situations. I see the current world reflected in Yossarian's', as terrifying a thought that may be. The contradictions, the absurdity and the lies. It's right there in our politics, on the news and on Twitter.

For example, the Illamasqua Anti-Fascism Pledge. That gives me an uncomfortable feeling, even though I'm obviously anti-fascist. And it stuck in my brain until I figured out what it reminded me of. In Catch-22, Captain Black has a Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade where he makes all his men sign loyalty oaths, many many loyalty oaths before they can get food or equipment. After all, people who are loyal "would not mind signing all the loyalty oaths they have to." And really, Illamasqua wasn't asking you to do anything differently if you're not a fascist. So maybe that's the stickler, they weren't really doing anything. They told us what they believe, that we must agree with them or to not buy them. But that feels like a slippery slope...

"And this whole program is voluntary, Milo- don't forget that. The men don't need to sign Pitchard and Wren's loyalty oath if they don't want to. But we need them to starve to death if they don't. It's like Catch-22. Don't you get it? You're not against Catch-22, are you?"

Don't get me wrong though, this is not a perfect book. I struggle with the misogyny and recognising if the book is misogynistic or just the characters. This book hits a couple sore spots for me: female characters not given names, e.g. 'Nately's whore' and 'Nately's whore's sister', every female character being sexualised, and sexual assault is common. One story of rape is met with disgust, yet even the main character sexually assaults a woman.

Of course, it was written in the 1950's about the 1940's and we're not talking about hugely progressive times although there are books written at the same time that are. Plus, there were no female American pilots in WWII, although there was in other countries, so the main cast being men makes sense. Let's not forget Colonel Cathcart asking the Chaplain; "-you wouldn't want your sister to marry an enlisted man, would you?" And being told; "My sister is an enlisted man, sir... She's a master sergeant in the Marines."

And this rather interesting view, that I've pondered over: "It was a man's world, and she and everyone younger had every right to blame him and everyone older for every unnatural tragedy that befell them; just as she... was to blame for every man-made misery that landed on her kid sister and all other children behind her. Someone had to do something sometime. Every victim was a culprit, every culprit a victim, and somebody had to stand up sometime and break the lousy chain that was imperilling them all."

This review might've ended up being 99% quotes, but in the end, this book has changed the way I view the world. I finally understand Catch-22 for one thing! And any book that has a plan that looks like this and manages to stick with me for so long, is pretty dang good. I definitely need to re-read it. If you haven't already got a dusty copy waiting to be picked up like I did, you can pick one up here or I really recommend the audiobook.

"Catch-22 did not exist, he was positive of that, but it made no difference. What did matter was that everyone thought it existed-"

Have you read Catch-22? Are you planning to?

Friday, 9 February 2018

Books I Read in November & December!

Better late than never! I had a bit of a slow reading month in November as I had a tough essay due on The Duchess of Malfi (which I didn’t completely finish, don’t tell my tutor) and then with another essay planned for the beginning of December on Oronooko- I just didn’t get around to a lot of ‘fun’ reading, despite my Hallowreadathon, a holiday to Mexico and Christmas. So why not put the two together?

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Oh boy, I had both low expectations and high hopes for this one. Low expectations because every Gothic horror type novel I’ve been reading lately; Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, have all been disappointing me. High hopes because, well- I can be an optimist sometimes. Although I didn’t plan to read this during the Hallowreadathon, I started the audiobook on the day and it ended up being the only book I completed in November of the two!
But in reality? This was both great and not great. It started out wonderfully, I was spooked to my very core at Jonathan Harker's diary as he spent time in the Count Dracula’s Castle. Everything from then on just didn’t work for me though.
There was a lot of repetition with Lucy being sick then Mina being sick, and the methods of actually killing Dracula was a lot more organisation-based and a lot less stabbing through the heart than I hoped for. Plus, despite Mina clearly being the smartest of the bunch, there's a lot of talk about how this is because she has a "man's brain". I know, I know, it's the time but damn. It is possible to compliment a woman without comparing her to a man!
I have only the Count to speak with, and he! - I fear I am myself the only living soul within the place.

Night Shift by Charlaine Harris
One of my reading goals for 2017 was to only buy one book once I have unhauled ten, and the first ten I unhauled was because I wanted to buy this book and complete my copies of Charlaine Harris’s latest series before I started it! I took it to Corfu, where I read the first two books. I took it to Norway, where it sat unread. And finally in November, I took it to Mexico where this now quite beat-up, at least for me, and the well-travelled book was finally read! And then lost.
Anyway, it comes as no surprise to anyone who has watched me read my way through every series Charlaine Harris has written, that I liked it. But it wasn’t my favourite. It just didn’t hold the same vibe that the past book had. The sense of a community wasn’t there for me in the same way as the other books. I haven't watched the TV show yet but that's next on my list.

Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
I don't know how much more I can talk about this book after an essay addressing what kinds of narrative techniques are used, what the distinctive features of the language are and how context helps to illuminate my understanding of this goshdarn story.
All I will say is that it's an interesting point of view but if I was going to read another book about slavery, it wouldn't be written by a white person.

Hello Again by Brenda Novak
I read the first book in this series in October of last year and really enjoyed it. In fact, my only issue with it was that the main character seemed to flip-flop around with her feelings, but that didn't happen in this book.
It was another dramatic plot-based story where a new serial killer is introduced and bad happenings abound. But I will say, I wasn't as hooked. And the writing wasn't great either. I normally have at least one line that I put a sticky-note on because I like how it was written, but nothing stood out in Hello Again.
I'll continue the series but- we'll see. Are there other series focusing on serial killers from a psychology point of view?

I had wanted to read Poison City for a while before I eventually did. I've been in a real mood for some urban fantasy and this; an occult investigator in South Africa fits the bill.
Straight away there's some casual ableism in the use of 'schizophrenic' to describe a mix of colours and impressions in the city he lives in. I'm getting really tired of finding this in books that are recently published and should know better.
I'm probably not going to pick up the next book. I loved the idea of this and I enjoyed it well enough when I read it, but I know there are other urban fantasy series out there that will blow me away.
-dawn eventually clambered into my room and told me to give up even trying to close my eyes.

It's official. This is my least favourite Harry Potter book.
I had a crisis when the Goblet of Fire wasn't as good as I remembered but oh boy- this one. The ableism continues; within one page Harry is called a 'crackpot', 'potty', 'barking', 'mad', and that was one instance of many. Not to mention the uncomfortable treatment of Lockheart at St. Mungos.
And as for length, I couldn't tell you what happened in the middle of this one. I remember quite vividly, sitting at my desk just after finishing it and feeling like I might have missed a huge chunk, despite listening to the full 30-hour long audiobook. I miss the tightly packed 300 pages of books 1-3. This didn't need 766 pages at all. Luckily, book 6 cut this down but this was a rough going.
"And from now on, I don't care if my tea-leaves spell die, Ron, die- I'm just chucking them in the bin where they belong."

Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenAnother Austen read! I liked this one only a little bit more than Emma, which I read back in July and found charming. I don't think either is my 'favourite Austen' though.
There's not much I can add to the many opinions of this book! I listened to this over Christmas and was surprised at how quickly I sped through. Jane Austen's wit and views had more opportunity to shine in Pride and Prejudice and I can see why it's Kathleen Kelly's favourite book (from my favourite movie: You've Got Mail).
My one issue was that while Mr Darcy seemed to learn his lesson about Pride, Elizabeth just seems to switch to being really judgemental of her family. I would've liked if that forgiveness could've stretched a little more.
"- You shall not, for the sake of one individual, change the meaning of principle and integrity-"
What did you read at the end of last year?

Monday, 29 January 2018

2017 in Reading!

In 2017 I read 59 books, and according to Goodreads, that figured out at 17978 pages. Not half bad! I didn't manage my goal of 80 books but I read some really good books last year. The biggest change in my reading has actually been a format change! 2017 was the year of the audiobook with 22 of the books I read being listened to. In fact, my top three books this year were all read via audiobook! And all classics... Who am I?!

I rated 13 books as 
I rated 19 books as 
I rated 11 books as 
I rated 13 books as 
And 3 books as 

While I definitely had more one-star books than ever, I also had two reads that made it to my six-star shelf on Goodreads that I save for my absolute ultimate favourites and that's pretty neat. And my top three...

Third place goes to... Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
It's strange that this found its way onto my top three because when I first read it, I gave it four stars. But over the year I haven't been able to get this book out of my head. I've still not finished my review because my thoughts on it are so hard to pin down. All I know is that I loved it and I don't think I've ever wanted to re-read a book so much, despite having some problems with it.

Second place goes to... Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov
I've got many a strange look after telling people that one of my new favourite books is Lolita but it is. It's massively misunderstood and I think more people would really like it if they gave it a chance. But hey, all I know is that I really enjoyed it and I actually think I'll re-read this one too. Not something I do often!

My favourite book in 2017 was... The Tenant of Wildfell by Anne Brontë!
I read a book by each Brontë last year for the first time. I didn't like Jane Eyre, I liked Wuthering Heights, but The Tenant of Wildfell filled my lil' Feminist heart with joy. A woman taking her son out of an abusive situation at a time when everything she owned legally belonged to her husband? I love Anne, and I love this book. 

                                                        What was your favourite read from 2017?

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