Friday, 30 January 2015

Read in January 2015

January was a really good reading month, which I'm really glad about because I know it's likely that the next few probably aren't going to be the best. But that's okay too. I have set a goal for the year but I'm keen to not really focus on it too much because I'm very much a mood reader. Sometimes I want to read a lot and other times I don't want to pick up a book for a week or so.

Anyway without anymore rambling, here are the books I read in January...
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel | ***
A post-apocalyptic novel that offers so much more. There's friendship and art and what it means to be alive. It's wonderful. Mandel is such a brilliant storyteller, she gives just enough without ever revealing too much.

The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton | ***
A sex scandal breaks in a high school, jolting a group of teenage girls into becoming far more self aware than they have ever been before. Add in a local theatre group dramatising the scandal and you're left with a complicated storyline; I would expect nothing less from Eleanor Catton. It was certainly an experience, maybe a little more into the pretentious territory than I'd rather go though. 

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith | ****
Robert sure does know how to write a cracking crime novel. As I expected I sped though, determined to reach the end so I could find out how everything tied together. The clues are there waiting to be pieced together, inviting the reader to really get involved. Very much looking forward to the next in the series already!

A Question of Identity by Susan Hill | **
From a great crime novel to a not-so-great one. I know that not all crime novels are about piecing things together, but everything was much too obvious without any other strands of the storyline offering any more substance. I guessed the ending a few chapters in and I was just a little disappointed overall because I was expecting more.
Lost At Sea by Jon Ronson | ***
A collection of essays and articles by Jon Ronson, the author of the psychopath test, and all round interesting chap. As with all collections some pieces were more interesting than others, but I liked it overall. I particularly liked the little insight into Stanley Kubrick and all the research he put into each of his projects. I believe Jon made a documentary about Kubrick's boxes of research so I'll have to try and watch that soon.

Lazy Days by Erlend Loe | **
Telemann and his wife are on holiday in Germany, a place his wife loves but he does not. Telemann loves the theatre and Nigella Lawson. It's an incredibly strange but very fast read. I think silly is the best word to describe it, but I'm not sure if it's meant to be silly or if it's meant to be something more. 

Morning Breaks in the Elevator by Lemn Sissay | ****
A small but perfectly formed collection of poetry. One I will read again and again.

The Mysterious Affair At Styles by Agatha Christie | ***
My first Poirot novel and certainly not my last. It was as delightful as I had hoped for. There's a lot of sass from Poirot, a murder of course, Hastings being a little bit useless as usual and lots of clues. Looking forward to picking up another one next month!

Orlando by Virginia Woolf | **
I'm so disappointed. I don't think Virginia and I are friends. I thought I would adore her work but this was a real struggle to get through. Maybe it's one I'll appreciate at another time, but at the moment I don't think I have the same connection with her writing as so many others do, of which I'm a little bit envious.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | ***
My first Adichie novel and she took me on a real journey, on which I experienced almost every emotion possible. She writes speech so naturally, it felt so real and very raw. I'll be picking up another novel by Adichie very soon.

When I Was Five I Killed Myself by Howard Buten | ***
A short novel that packs a big punch. The thing that has stuck with me since reading is the disconcerting atmosphere, the build up to the unveiling of the act that Burton has committed to find himself in a Children's Trust Centre. A clever novel, one to pick up if the blurb interests you.

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman | ****
A brilliant collection of 40 very short tales from the afterlives. In one you are forced to live with different versions of yourself that represent what you could have been. In another the afterlife contains only the people you remember. An interesting celebration of the power of the human imagination. 

You Are Not The One by Vestal McIntyre | ****
One of the best short story collections I've ever read. Each of the eight stories are smart, funny and full of charmingly flawed characters that feel so real. One story in particular has changed the way I now see car washes.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell | ***
This was a re-read for me because I was curious to see if I'd like it as much now as I did last year. I gave it 5 stars last year and 3 this time. I think it was exactly what I needed at the time, but now I can see its flaws a little more clearly. It's interesting how our opinions can change in a relatively short amount of time.

Life Of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht | ***
This is on my University reading list this term and I almost skipped it in favour of a poetry option, but I'm so glad I didn't. Brecht is brilliant, so much so I'm doing a risky last minute change of question for my next essay so I can write about this.

Was January a good reading month for you?

Monday, 26 January 2015

The Story Of How I Went into the Supermarket To Get Some Milk and Accidentally Came Out with a Book.

It was a chilly January evening. Saturday night to be precise. Neither of us felt like cooking so naturally we ordered pizza. We over ordered. We ate a lot of pizza and solved the age-old question of whether one can ever have too much pizza. The answer is yes, yes you can.

We slipped into a pizza induced slumber only to awake eight hours later needing coffee but having no milk. A dilemma followed. To drink coffee with no milk or to throw on a giant coat over my pyjamas and hope no one notices that I'm wearing pyjamas in the supermarket. The thought of coffee without milk was too much to bear and I figured that because it was a Sunday no one would notice my baggy pyjama bottoms. They're more akin to jogging bottoms anyway. Maybe people would think I'd been for an early morning jog? ...Alas, it is painfully obvious that I do not jog.

I made it into the supermarket and to the milk, dodging small children having meltdowns in the sweets aisle & a very tired looking member of staff carrying several crates of cucumbers. I also did not wander into the crisp aisle where I probably would have bought all of the things. Crisps are a bit of a weakness and as I established earlier, I don't jog.

On the way to the till I was however distracted by the very large book aisle. I figured between successfully making it around the supermarket on a Sunday and having read 14 books so far this month I'd earned at least a look. But when you spot a copy of The Secret History for a mere three pounds and eighty-five pence, it just has to come home with you. It's the rules. It is now nestled on my to-be-read shelf where it's settling in very well.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
"Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and for ever."

Doesn't that just sound so delightfully pretentious? I haven't read anything by Donna Tartt before and although The Goldfinch is the novel I've heard the most about she's an author whose work I definitely want to read in order of publication. This copy is one of those books with incredibly thin pages so it looks a lot shorter than it is; hello over 600 pages! I'm not sure when I'll pick it up, but I'm very happy to have a copy on my shelf waiting for me.

Does the book aisle in the supermarket draw you in too? 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

A Few New Books.

Remember that 'read 5 before I buy 1' challenge I set myself? Yeah... It didn't really work out so well. Although I have read three of the five, it would seem I have a hard time resisting books. Pair that with the inability to feel guilty about buying new books (I know I'll get to them eventually), my bookshelves are getting quite full.

These purchases weren't technically my fault though. I mean, is it really possible to resist a 60% off sale as well as a free handpicked book? Because that's what Canongate were offering last month and when I heard about it on New Year's Eve, well, the inevitable happened. 

When I was Five I Killed Myself by Howard Buten. | £7.51
Howard Buten is an interesting chap. He's a violinist, a professional clown, a novelist and a psychologist specialising in autism. This book is as interesting and curious as he himself seems to be.

Over the 192 pages we get to know Burton Rembrandt, an eight year old boy whose parents and teachers seem to be speaking a language he can't understand. Burton is in a Children's Trust Residence Centre after an incident with his school friend Jessica and this is his story, as written by him on the walls of the Quiet Room.

The atmosphere throughout is incredibly disconcerting because it is clear that something is going to be revealed at some point. The incident is referenced so often and when it finally is revealed it's quick, confusing and unexpected. And then the book is over. It's quite disorientating and I was left with, what I imagine are, similar feelings that Burton himself experiences throughout. If the story intrigues you, I'd absolutely recommend giving it a try!

Morning Breaks in the Elevator by Lemn Sissay. | £8.34
Lemn Sissay is a wonderful poet and I must track down some more of his work very soon. He has somehow managed to capture quiet moments of inner contemplation and the exploration of overt public statements inside one very considered and relevant collection.

I'm really excited about this one. It's like putting on an old pair of jeans and finding a ten pound note in the pocket. It was unexpected but I'm very appreciative that it's in my life.

You Are Not The One by Vestal McIntyre. | £7.47
Was this mostly a cover buy? Absolutely! Do I regret it? Absolutely NOT! I'm currently two stories into this eight story collection and I'm practically having to force myself to put it down and not speed through them all. Give me a story about a flawed, believable, social outcast and I'm probably going to devour it.

So far I've read 'Binge', a story about a fourty-something pastry chef dabbling with cocaine for the first time, desperate to feel a meaningful connection with someone and 'Sahara' where a young man is kidnapped whilst wearing a kangaroo suit advertising a fast-food restaurant in an amusing case of mistaken identity. It's bizarre and honest and everything I like in a short story collection. I hope the rest are as wonderful.

Silence in October by Jens Christian Grondahl. | £6.99
I don't know much about this novel at all, I've never heard anyone talk about it but again, the cover initially drew me in. Oh the power of a good design, right?! After eighteen years of marriage our narrator wakes up to find his wife Astrid has packed her bags and left. Feeling loss and loneliness he is forced to reassess his life; his marriage, his children, his friends, his work and significantly himself. Can two people live together for years without ever truly knowing one another?

I think this is going to be a quiet novel, full of contemplation and exploration. I'm hoping for something really quite beautiful and it's one I'm very much looking forward to. 

The Boat by Nam Le. | £7.99
I don't know very much about this one either, but the seven short stories contained within The Boat promise to take the reader on a journey all over the world; from New York to Australia, from Columbia to the South China Sea.

It sounds like it's going to be incredibly character driven, entering the hearts and minds of a hit man, an aging artist and a refugee. I'm very much looking forward to this one too. Canongate sure do seem to publish some real gems!

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman. | £9.99
Finally we come to the book that was handpicked for me by Louisa over at Canongate. I've written a slightly more detailed paragraph about this little collection of 40 tales here, but I will say that it was delightful and it's one that will stay firmly on my shelf for many years to come in between numerous re-readings. Isn't the cut out detail on the front cover charming too? A wonderful little book!

Have you read any of these before? 
Or have there been any new additions to your bookshelf over the past few weeks? 

Friday, 16 January 2015

Reading This Weekend #1

Hello and happy Friday!

I'm definitely ready for the weekend, even though I have a stack of text books waiting to be leafed through in an attempt to try and find anything relevant to my assignment. I really love the texts we've been given, but I'm not getting on very well with some of the critics that have offered their perspectives on things. They mostly appear to waffle and repeat themselves three times. But, you know, I'm sure they've all got a point in there somewhere - I'll wade through the overtly fancy words they've thrown into every sentence unnecessarily to try and find it!

Apart from that though I'm looking forward to having some time to dedicate to this space. I've been thinking a lot about what I'd like to do here and how I can fit into the book community. It can be difficult fitting into such an established community, everyone is super friendly and I don't want to step on anyone's toes as it were by rolling up and unwittingly mimicking anyone's style that they've worked so hard to establish. Some have totally mastered the detailed reviews, some with the knack of picking out the most beautiful quotes from books, and some who are on top of all the new & upcoming releases.

I think what I'd like to do most is to share my excitement (or absence of excitement of course, but hopefully that will be few and far between!) for the books I'm currently reading or have just read, and to hopefully pass that excitement on. My goal is to share just enough, without revealing too much. Because sometimes a bit of mystery and jumping into the unknown is a good thing!

Anyway, I've gone off on a huge tangent. Here's what I'll be reading over the weekend in between studying...

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman | £7.05
A little book that is full to the brim with wonderful short musings. There is the afterlife where you must wait in a large corridor until the last person on earth who remembers you passes on. Or the afterlife when you're an actor playing a part in someone's life who doesn't know you're acting - quite Truman Show-esque. I've been slowly making my way through and I think I'll finish it this weekend. It's certainly one of my favourite books on my shelf already and I've only had it for a couple of days. It packs a big punch. 

When I Was Five I Killed Myself by Howard Buten | £7.51
I purposely don't know very much about this novel, but it caught my eye one day and I couldn't resist picking it up. Burton Rembrandt has a perspective on life that adults struggle to understand and this is his story, written in pencil on the walls of a room in the Children's Trust Centre which he finds himself in after some kind of incident with a classmate. It's a very short novel and to say I'm intrigued is an understatement.

Morning Breaks in the Elevator by Lemn Sissay | £8.34
This is a poetry collection I've read once already but it's calling out to me from my shelf, almost demanding to be read again. That's what I like about poetry, it can be read again and again, each time offering a new symbol or idea that you hadn't quite revealed on a first read.

What are you currently reading? 
I'd love to know! 

Monday, 5 January 2015

2015 Bookish Goals

This year I'm taking part in the GoodReads reading challenge for the first time. Last year I read 82 books so I've set my goal at 100. There's no real reason for that particular number, I just figured it should be a challenging number and 100 is nice and round. I'm not going to look at the little counter thingy though because I'm sure there will come a point over the next few months with University deadlines etc where I'll fall however number of books behind. And reading is supposed to be fun, so if I don't make it then that's okay too.

Last year was my first year of reading a lot since my early teens I suppose, and I spent a lot of it focusing on my University reading list. This year I don't have any specific goals in mind other than continuing to read a lot because I'm still figuring out the kind of books I like. With that in mind I'm hoping to try and pick up as many diverse books as I can because I don't want to find myself stuck within just one genre.

Other than that I'd like to figure out what I'd like to do with this space. There are more of you reading now than I ever would have dared to dream might read, which is lovely and amazing and a little scary! Good scary though. The best kind. The kind of scary that's inspiring.

Do you have any book related goals for 2015?