Monday, 29 February 2016

February Wrap Up

February ended up being a slow reading month than I had thought it would be, although the main shortfall for this month was my decision to stop reading The Letter for the King. I decided to put it down because I wasn't feeling that excited or enthusiastic about reading it, and I'm aiming not to persist so much with books that don't really feel right for me at the time!

I did, however, manage to read three books in February, as well as starting a fourth:

The Price of Salt (Carol) - Patricia Highsmith
I'm not normally one for love stories, but aside from the obvious difference between this and other more popular/common love stories available, this was incredible. Everything was so subtle and yet powerful at the same time. I didn't adore the characters, but I think that worked - they were both supposed to have their own flaws and reservations, and it made them both seem real and complicated in their own ways. I guess my only real disappointment with the book is that it wasn't longer. 

Room - Emma Donoghue
This was a re-read, partly in honour of the film coming out and partly because a friend was reading the book for the first time, and I realised I didn't remember half as much of the book as I'd like to! I read this in my time off this month and it was just as brilliant to re-read as it had been to read for the first time years ago. 
Satin Island - Tom McCarthy
I'm writing a review on this one which will be up not long after this post. I wasn't really a fan, although I may give other McCarthy books a chance in future (mainly due to the praise they've received from Zadie Smith, who just happens to have written the final book I finished in February)

Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays - Zadie Smith
I absolutely love Zadie Smith and her writing, so this was a pleasure to read. I definitely enjoyed some of the essays far more than others, partly because the content was more accessible (for instance, I could appreciate her essay about Their Eyes Were Watching God, which I have read, far more than essays about books I haven't) but I also thoroughly enjoyed reading essays about her life. I don't know if I'll end up writing a full review of this one or not - if I do I might end up focusing on one or two of the essays in the collection that I loved the most.


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Friday, 26 February 2016

The Moor's Account + A Spool of Blue Thread // Man Booker Mini Reviews

It's been quite a while now since I read both of these texts, but as I'm still determined to read at the very least all of the Man Booker shortlist for 2015, I want to make a quick post about these two. Since I don't have an awful lot to say about them individually, however, I'm putting my thoughts on both together into one post.

To begin with; The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami. I think I wanted to enjoy this one a lot more than I did in the end - the premise was fascinating, but I didn't find myself particularly invested in any of the characters or in the plot. I think part of my issue was the length; I would have appreciated it being more condensed and focused than it was. I ended up skimming through a lot of the text out, although I kept going because I cared about how the story would turn out. Now that it's been a while since I read it, there's very little of the actual journey they take that sticks in my mind - what impacted more on me was Estebanico's story from before the expedition. I suspect his history was drawn almost completely from the author's own imagination, compared to the journey the men take which would have been influenced by research of the accounts of the other men who survived. 

All in all, I would say that from what I've read of the Man Booker nominees so far, this didn't really deserve a place in the shortlist; however, that doesn't mean that it isn't worth reading - it just wasn't as exciting for me as I'd hoped it would be.

*

The second text, A Spool of Blue Thread, did make it to the shortlist. I think it was deserved, based on my own opinions and the books I've read so far. I've yet to read the winner, although I do now own a copy of it (I'll aim to read it soon to see whether I think it was better than my current favourite out of the nominees, A Little Life). Out of the books I have now read (full list here), I would probably place this in second place. 

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what I did and didn't like about this book (while I might put it into second place, it's not exactly a close call between this and Life for me), I just enjoyed the entire experience. I love books that delve into history, including family history; I love when books focus so closely on the lives of a handful of people, showing us how they develop over time, how they connect with each other. I did have a few issues with how underdeveloped I felt some of the characters were - there wasn't much of a look in to Red and Abby's daughters, compared to how much attention was paid to their sons - but overall I liked this book, and I think it deserved its place in the Man Booker shortlist.
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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

January Wrap Up + February TBR

I'm running a little bit late with this one, as we're already a couple days into February now, but here's a wrap up of what I read last month, and my tbr for February!

JANUARY

A Court of Thorns and Roses - Sarah J Maas
I started this one in December, but finished it in January. I'm still somewhat aiming to stick to my own rule of reading a YA book every month, so I guess this counts as January's. I seem to be repeatedly drawn towards books that are inspired by fairy tales lately, which doesn't exactly count as something new - I've always been a lover of fairy tales, so it makes sense that I'd get excited about fiction that has any connection to them, no matter how minimal. In fact it's a surprisingly common theme in this month's books! 
This one takes its inspiration from the Beauty and the Beast style of tale, although only at some of the core elements. Otherwise it's far more of a fantasy, which isn't usually something I'd go for. I struggled to get into this for a significant part of the book, and although I did find it more compelling towards the end I'm not sure I'll be in any rush to read the sequel when it comes. 

Reasons to Stay Alive - Matt Haig
Non-fiction is another category I seem to be finding myself reading with more frequency lately, although it's a good thing as it's one of my aims with my reading. I'm glad I read this book; it's the kind of thing that I almost missed and ignored. I wrote a review on this one for a lengthier idea of how I felt about it. Overall, I think it's probably my favourite read of January and of the year so far.

The Dressmaker - Rosalie Ham
I started this one in December as well. My interest was piqued because I saw the film trailer, and if I can I do always like to read the book first so that I get a fuller enjoyment from it without knowing anything about the plot. It was definitely an interesting and unexpected book and I thought it had a particularly rich cast of characters who all stood out well. Although I liked it generally speaking and I did finish the book, I didn't really get that excited about it either. I would still like to see the film, however, as I think it might work better on screen than on paper.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up - Marie Kondo
Another non-fiction book, and a self explanatory one from the title! I enjoyed reading this, especially for all of the things I've learned about tidying - my favourite being the principle that if you don't love it or need it, you should get rid of it. It's 

Becoming Unbecoming - Una
I picked this up on a whim in the library one afternoon and started reading the first couple of pages, mostly out of idle curiosity... and then I ended up sitting down and reading the entire thing in one sitting! It's my first real graphic novel, although having said that, it can't really be classed as a novel as it wasn't necessarily fiction. There's a blurring of the lines in terms of genre, as there's little information provided about the author of the text - who appears to be the narrator. It was a fascinating read, somewhat a given since I ended up reading it in one go! The text wove together the experiences of the narrator in her youth as she faced misogyny, assault and cruelty with the cases of young women being murdered in the Yorkshire area, making poignant points about the standards put on women and about the police's determination to follow a victim blaming narrative for so long. It seems to be an underappreciated text based on the Goodreads page for it, which is a real shame as it was an incredible text.

The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey
As with A Court of Thorns and Roses, this is another fairy tale inspired novel. I wasn't actually that familiar with the fairy tale that this was based on, but I've been meaning to read it for a while now. It made for a good wintery read as most of the novel is set around winter in Alaska, which makes for a very cold and snowy setting. I struggled to get into this one too at first, mainly because I didn't find myself connecting well enough with Jack and Mabel. Further on I did start to enjoy it more, mainly because I felt that the novel opened up; there were more characters, the plot moved faster, and I felt more invested in the story and the world the author was creating overall. 

Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
I hope to write a lengthier review of this in time, although it's potentially going to be difficult to say much about it without giving away the plot. Something I enjoyed immensely while reading this was how little I knew about the story in spite of the fact that I've been aware of it for so long I can't even remember first hearing of it. Another one that to me has a loose connection to a fairy tale (saying which one is definitely a spoiler), and certainly a close runner up to Haig for book of the month and year.

FEBRUARY TBR

The Letter for the King - Tonke Dragt
I've read a few chapters of this so far, and although I can't say I'm hooked on it yet, I am interested to see where it goes. This is an Overdrive book, which is a shame in a way because it's got such a beautiful cover! I've heard a couple of people talk about this one and I've even seen it on display in bookstores more recently, so I hope I do get into it and enjoy it this month. It's also my YA choice for February!

Satin Island - Tom McCarthy
This is back on the TBR list again as I've still not managed to read it yet... I've got this as a Kindle book so I aim to get started on this one after I finish The Letter for the King, as I tend to aim for one ebook and one physical book at a time where possible!

The Price of Salt (aka Carol) - Patricia Highsmith
This has been on my list for a while now, but has been bumped up to the top now that the film version has come out. I am hoping to read it in time to catch it in the cinema too, although time will tell - I do however have some time off this month which will give me plenty of opportunity to read, as well as to take a trip to the cinema!

Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
One of my new reading resolutions is to choose at least one book a month that I've had sitting on my shelf for a long time. I'm not sure how I'm quantifying 'a long time' exactly, but at any rate if I didn't buy it recently enough to remember how long I've had it, then it's been a long time! I'm quite interested to read this one due to its topic/themes and see how it compares to the other Eugenides books I've read (I liked Virgin Suicides but wasn't particularly impressed by The Marriage Plot).

Changing My Mind - Zadie Smith
I wouldn't normally be so optimistic as to put five books on my TBR - which is odd since I'm quite likely to read at least that many in a month, even if they're not the same ones I chose at the start! - but I do want to read this one soon. I got it for Christmas, so it's not been waiting for long, but it and the other books I got at Christmas have all been sitting calling to me for weeks, so I owe it to them/myself to make a start! This fulfils the unofficial non-fiction quota for February, too. I love Smith's writing, and I've been getting quite into non-fiction lately, so I'm excited to read it!

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