Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Some New Books

I would describe my reading this year as sporadic. There are more than a few books sitting in my book cupboard unread, so I've made sure to slow down on the book buying and I've been surprisingly successful at that. I mean, apart from the fact that I may have bought a copy of the new illustrated Chamber of Secrets. But that doesn't count. That's purely me reliving childhood nostalgia, with the promise of a new book being released every year.

But here are a few newish-to-me books that I really wanted to mention.

Fell by Jenn Ashworth

'When Annette Clifford returns to her childhood home on the edge of Morecambe Bay, she despairs: the long-empty house is crumbling, undermined by two voracious sycamores. What she doesn't realise is that she's not alone: her arrival has woken the spirits of her parents, who anxiously watch over her, longing to make amends. Because as the past comes back to Jack and Netty, they begin to see the summer of 1963 clearly, when Netty was desperately ill and a stranger moved in. Charismatic, mercurial Timothy Richardson, with his seemingly miraculous powers of healing, who drew all their attention away from Annette. Now, they must try to draw another stranger towards her, one who can rescue her.'

The blurb manages to make this sound a little bit naff, but it's actually quite haunting.

Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

'Written in startlingly beautiful prose, Harmless Like You is set across New York, Berlin and Connecticut, following the stories of Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting to make it as an artist, and Yuki's son Jay who, as an adult in the present day, is forced to confront his mother who abandoned him when he was only two years old.
Harmless Like You is an unforgettable novel about the complexities of identity, art, adolescent friendships and familial bonds, offering a unique exploration of love, loneliness and reconciliation.'

Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin

'Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.'

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

'In the Hackensack Police Department, Vic Benucci and his friend Mad are explaining how they found themselves wrapped up in a grisly murder. But in order to tell that story, they have to go way back. It all started when Vic's dad died. Vic's dad was his best friend, and even now, two years later, he can't bring himself to touch the Untouchable Urn of Oblivion that sits in his front hall. But one cold December day, Vic falls in with an alluring band of kids that wander his New Jersey neighbourhood, including Mad, the girl who changes everything. Along with his newfound friendships comes the courage to open his father's urn, the discovery of the message inside, and the epic journey it sparks.'

What are you reading right now?

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Postgraduate Life: A Reading List for my MA in English Literature

When I got the email telling me that Postgraduate loans were being introduced, it was as though a new door had unexpectedly opened for me just as I had found the courage to walk past it. Since graduating last year I had been actively trying to figure out how I could afford to do a Masters and still, well, get by financially. I explored almost every avenue and ended up concluding that it was something that I just couldn't do at this point in my life. And so, I took some freelance writing opportunities and told myself to move on.

But as soon as the email dropped into my inbox I was clicking through and beginning the application process. The Open University gave me a second chance when I thought that all the doors that led to passages into education had been firmly closed in my face, so it never even occurred to me to apply anywhere else. And so, as of yesterday, I am officially a part time postgraduate student studying for my Masters in English Literature. Getting here feels like such an achievement and although I have many, many months of hard work ahead, I'm so very proud and feel very lucky to have this opportunity.

The Reading List

A Companion to the History of the Book by Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose
The Handbook to Literary Research by Delia Da Sousa Correa and W.R. Owens
Foe by J.M. Coetzee
Dusklands by J.M. Coetzee
Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Antigone by Sophocles
Antigone by Jean Anouilh
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
The Major Works of Lord Byron
The Complete Poems of William Blake

I may need reminding of how wonderful an opportunity this is when I'm crying into my laptop trying to write my first essay. I'm currently feeling fairly out of my depth, so I'm hoping that passes soon and also I don't say anything completely ridiculous at my first tutorial. My track record for that is actually pretty strong, and I suppose it'll, at least, break the ice!

- Jennie