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October 2018 Reading Round Up

I didn’t do badly in October. Looking at this list has made me realise how long the month was, and in a good way; whilst the last week of October was very cold – in relative terms – the majority was sunny and warm and I think the number of summery days, with the change following, afforded the effect of more time. This month was also about library usage – I’ve reviewed books I’ve borrowed from the library in recent times but this time it made up almost half of my reading, and I gave the books back with the idea in mind to purchase at least one of them at some point. (It’s likely the Whitehead will be on my ‘best of’ list, and I think not having my own copy when there’s a big chance I’ll want to re-read it or think on it further would be difficult.)

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Colm Tóibín: Brooklyn – A young Irish girl is sent by her family to a growing America in the hope she’ll find a better life there. Lacks a real plot and characterisation.

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Colson Whitehead: The Underground Railroad – Two slaves run away from the plantation and board an underground train to a less southerly state where life is likely better. Fantastic.

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Eloisa James: A Duke Of Her Own – Villiers needs a mother for his six illegitimate children and thinks to choose between enticing Eleanor and ‘mad’ Lisette; if Eleanor has anything to do with it it’ll be she he chooses. The best of the entire series – awesome characterisation and often very funny.

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Eloisa James: This Duchess Of Mine – Jemma knows it’s high time she and Elijah had an heir to the dukedom, and both husband and wife secretly hope love will blossom. Not as good as the rest of the series.

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Jenny Colgan: Christmas At Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop – Despite decreasing sales at her shop, Rosie is looking forward to Christmas in a snowy village and spending it with her reluctant-to-be-a-Lord boyfriend, but her family want to come over from Australia and there’s a problem ahead for the community to deal with. Pretty fun and festive.

No contest, the Whitehead won it this month. A Duke Of Her Own was a very close second, and certainly if I hadn’t read The Underground Railroad at the 11th hour, it would have won, but Whitehead’s commentary and ending was just something else. The Colgan was a lot of fun to read.

Quotation Report

This is another occasion wherein paraphrasing the quotation just won’t work. Here it is in full, from The Underground Railroad:

Yet when his classmates put their blades to a colored cadaver, they did more for the cause of colored advancement than the most high-minded abolitionist. In death the negro became a human being. Only then was he the white man’s equal.

Finally the end of my busy period is in sight, even if it’ll soon be replaced by Christmas planning. I’m looking forward to reading (I believe the vernacular is ‘well, duh!’), evenings on the sofa listening to Eva Cassidy, and looking for gifts.

How was your October, and how is the weather where you are?

 
September 2018 Reading Round Up

September was fairly good for reading. The weather has changed but the hours around noon, when there is sun, are hot enough to read outside. Otherwise planning is afoot, for both Christmas and autumn in general. In terms of reading, in keeping with my plans I’ve got a couple of Christmas books from the library; I found Dilly Court’s The Christmas Card and so loaned it out, and they had Jenny Colgan’s Christmas At Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop so I got that too. I’ve no idea what the Colgan is about or whether I need to read any previous books first, but the title sounds suitably warm and fuzzy. I like the idea of reading them now – well, I kind of have to, having loaned them! – and thus having reviews ready for early December. Interestingly, according to the issue slip, the copy of the Court has been issued out in the spring and summer months but never any later.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Americanah – A Nigerian student leaves behind the love of her life to study in America, where she discovers that she is now ‘black’. This book is fairly complex, summing it up difficult, but it’s incredible, albeit that the heroine isn’t particularly great (the hero’s fine).

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Özgür Mumcu: The Peace Machine – A Turkish writer of erotic fiction comes to know about a theoretical ‘peace machine’ that would eliminate hate in the world, and joins the highly political faction that is spending time with those working to assassinate the Serbian monarchs whilst working on their machine. Yep – it’s confusing all right.

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Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar – A high-achiever moves to New York but starts to fall into a deep depression over various social ideals; she had had periods of mental illness before. Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel, it’s one to read and a good literary text.

I’m just over halfway through Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn which is quite enjoyable and features department store work in 50s America which I’m loving – I enjoyed reading about and watching the following TV series on Mr Selfridge, as well as the glimpses of historical department stores in The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. Tóibín has included the social change wherein black Americans were finally invited in to shop, too, which is both fascinating and awful – lots of staring, and only 70 years ago! After this, I’ll be picking up those Christmas books.

I’m hesitant about the next few months as I’ll miss the weather. I also can’t get my head around the fact that it’ll soon enough be time to decorate for Christmas. We’ve got a new family member this year so more planning to do.

What did you read in September?

 
August 2018 Reading Round Up

August was pretty good. I’ve a couple of books on the go and finished a fair number, though I’m glad to have finished most of them, to have got them out of the way.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Glenda Young: Belle Of The Back Streets – A girl from a poor family in pre-wartime Britain takes to the streets as a rag and bone person and doesn’t follow the advice of others, instead spending time with the ‘wrong sort’. This was very much like a soap opera, with multiple people dying in quick succession just for plot points.

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Hiromi Kawakami: The Nakano Thrift Shop – Hitomi relates various times at the second-hand shop in which she works, as she finds love with a co-worker and tries to figure out more about her employers. Good as an example of translated literature, but you have to be aware that not much happens.

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Nick Spalding: Checking Out – A childrens’ musical creator, given a few months to live, looks to provide meaning to his life. Not bad but the comedy falls flat early on.

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Rosie Travers: The Theatre Of Dreams – A recently-disgraced actress moves to the coast to manage a dance school… or at least that’s what she thought she was doing – in actual fact she’s there to help save a historical pavilion from demolition. Good stuff.

My favourite this month would be the Travers; high above the others it added much needed enjoyment and the mystery element that starts about a third of the way through really raised the bar, which was a promise kept.

Quotation Report

A thought from The Nakano Thrift Shop worth mulling over:

When it comes to old things, whether buying or selling, why is it that people act so cautious?… With something brand new, they have no problem just ordering it from a catalogue, no matter how expensive.

For September the plan is literary fiction with a book or two in different genres. Over the weekend I got back to Americanah and am a fair way towards finishing; I’d like to have done so by the end of this week.

What are you reading? And do you have plans for autumn?

 
July 2018 Reading Round Up

For the first time in many years, I didn’t read lots of books in July. It was a busy month, not least in terms of events.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Ben Okri: The Famished Road – A ‘spirit’ child in Nigeria visits the inn, spends time with his father, runs away from home, and has visions, for over 500 pages. Nope, not for me. (I reviewed it at Shiny New Books for their Man Booker celebration.)

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Claire Fuller: Bitter Orange – Facing death, Frances looks back to her 40s; she was asked to work at a historic estate and fell into trouble when she met a charismatic couple, there for a similar reason. A good book with a tremendously written ending.

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Kirsty Ferry: Watch For Me By Candlelight – A woman who moved to a Suffolk village to run the local museum begins to have dreams and visions about a woman from the 1800s who looks very much like herself; the man with whom there was a spark when he visited the museum seems to be a part of it. A well constructed time slip romance that isn’t perfect but isn’t all that far off – you’ll have to excuse the cover as it doesn’t do the text justice.

I enjoyed two out of the three books in July; at a pinch I might pick the Ferry as my favourite because of the construction – it was very unique, with the author moving back and forth between the modern and historical versions of her character very well. But the Fuller was a great read and brought up discussions that we need to have more of in the world.

Now into August, I can say I’m reading Rosie Travers’ book from the launch I attended last week, a Nick Spalding, and I’m dipping into Americanah every couple of weeks, reading chunks of it at a time. All good books.

What are you reading at the moment and did you take part in the reverse Readathon?

 
June 2018 Reading Round Up

It’s 28c here. We’ve had only a couple of minutes of light rain, once, this past month, and on a sunny weekend if there’s no trip out planned then I like to be reading outside. Suffice to say I’ve been reading quite a bit.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Laura Pearson: Missing Pieces – When Phoebe dies, aged three, the resulting grief has a massive impact on her four surviving family members. A very good book that looks at different modes of grieving and the way communication and support is paramount.

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Marian Keyes: The Break – When Amy’s father-in-law dies, her husband tells her he needs a break from their marriage, a several months-long trip where he will be free… but he’ll return after that. This is a long book but there’s a fair amount of other commentary going on and Keyes ensures her characters work through their issues.

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Nicola Cornick: The Lady And The Laird – Lucy writes erotic letters for her brother’s friends when they require help wooing the women in their lives, but when her brother asks for her help she doesn’t realise that she’s throwing a spanner in the works for the wedding of the man she kissed many years ago and he must marry in order to gain his inheritance. Very good regency romance, full of communication and low on angst.

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Patrick Gale: A Place Called Winter – Sent on from an asylum to a treatment/retreat centre, Harry must look into his hazy memories to work out why he is no longer on his pioneer-era Canadian farm. It’s tough to sum up this book in one sentence – it’s an epic turn-of-the-century novel about a man whose affair with another man is discovered, and he must leave his family in order to not be exposed.

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Valeria Luiselli: Faces In The Crowd – A translator in Mexico chronicles her own life, her past and her work, and writes a book about a Latin American poet for whom she has ghostwritten some translations. As confusing as it sounds, this is a book in a book in a book, but has a lot of interesting literary elements to enjoy.

I enjoyed everything I read this month. The Pearson was the best on a personal level because her book is set in Southampton and that was a lot of fun to read through. Literary-wise, the Cornick was good for its use of communication and perfect balance of conflict and general story, and the Gale reminded me, in atmosphere, of Anna Hope’s work – the wonderful historical story full of important detail with great characters to match.

I’m currently reading Ben Okri’s The Famished Road and Özgür Mumcu’s The Peace Machine, and then I have some review copies to get to. Hoping to keep my annual trend of many books in July going this year, too.

What are you reading?

 

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