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?

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