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June 2019 Reading Round Up

The past month has been pretty topsy-turvy. Whilst I still read a fair amount it was with the use of the lots-of-books-at-once method; I’ve two books not quite finished, and I read half of another that, in a rare show of defiance for my usual sunk cost reading fallacy I decided not to complete. At the tail end of last week, summer finally begun in Britain after weeks of rain, which led to some evenings outside. I have also given time to the Womens’ World Cup, switching reading for knitting as I cheer on England (next match is against the USA, tomorrow evening).

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Birgit Vanderbeke: You Would Have Missed Me – A young girl moves from East to West Germany with her parents, who look forward to the luxury to come whilst neglecting their child; she struggles to work out her life. A difficult but very good read.

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Louisa May Alcott: Little Women – Four girls learn to live with their mother in relative poverty following their father’s losses in investments and his leaving to serve in the American Civil War. Very good, but sugary sweet at times; the morality is strong, suited to the era and target audience.

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Nicola Cornick: The Woman In The Lake – A Lady is given a gown that, when asked, her maid does not destroy, instead hiding it away; centuries later a girl on a school trip takes a gown from a room (that suddenly looks nothing like the one she’d been viewing), and for the next several years finds the thrill from stealing things too attractive to ignore, and the gown a scary reminder of a strange time few know about. Pretty good, but not quite as good as Cornick’s previous two books.

It has been a month for literary satisfaction. Apart from the three above which were all enjoyable (the Vanderbeke wins) I’ve about 150 pages left of Michelle Obama’s Becoming and am a good way through Little Women part two, which I’ll be referring to as Good Wives and reviewing separately. (This two book set up seems to be the standard in the UK and is how I’ve always seen the series; it also means it’s easier to review as I’ve found part two very different and, for all the domesticity, the – spoilers until the end of this sentence – seeming kow-towing to anger-prone husbands, and Amy’s future that I know is coming up soon, it’s been enjoyable.) I’ve realised how silly it was to define it as something that should be read at Christmas – it certainly suits, but with the narrative taking place over a whole year it’s not really all that festive.

I’m going into July with a plan to continue reading as I have been; I’ve a couple of obligations but mostly it’ll be whimsical.

How is your summer (or winter) going? Are you watching the World Cup? And is it worth reading all 4 (3) books of Alcott’s series?

 
May 2019 Reading Round Up

Other than May being the month when I finished books – discussed last week – this month also marked my first non-fiction book of the year; I read two, in fact. (The scary thing to discover was that I haven’t read non-fiction since last February.) May was a very long month, cold and wet – it’s been pretty wintry here – but full of goings on. There have been book awards and interesting new releases, concerts, days out, and time with family.

The Books
Non-Fiction

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Dolly Alderton: Everything I Know About Love – Alderton looks back on her twenties, her previous decade that was full of parties, drinking, and spending time with friends. An okay read.

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Guy Stagg: The Crossway – Hoping to heal from depression, Stagg embarks on a pilgrimage from Canterbury to Jerusalem, following ancient roads, staying in religious guesthouses along the way, and learning more about himself and the famous religious people of the various regions he passes through. A good book, but it could have done with more information about the journey itself and more positive descriptions of those Stagg meets on the road and stays with.

Fiction

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Maria Edgeworth: Belinda – A young woman, the last of several nieces to be taken under the wing of a notorious match-making aunt, enters society and surprises everyone with her differing personality. Worth reading – I believe – if you find a copy of the first or second edition, those that talk about interracial marriage.

It’s hard to choose a favourite here because I don’t really have one; the reading experience of the books above was good, but in terms of enjoyment the one in my mind is Michelle Obama’s memoir which I haven’t finished yet.

For June I’ve a rough plan to spend half my reading time on two books – Obama’s included – that I started in May, and half on ‘new’ books, which includes a reprint of an early 2000s novel and the Nicola Cornick I haven’t yet got to.

How many books have you read so far this year? (I’m on 19.)

 
April 2019 Reading Round Up

I did fairly well this month, all told. I’ve still got a number of books ongoing but I finished the two below and am not too far from finishing two more. In related news, my sister asked me if I’d like to look through her historical fiction before she unloaded a number of boxes to the charity shop and it was very exciting to see her collection included old Anya Setons and Jean Plaidys (she also had an unopened bundle of Maggie Stiefvater. I’m considering a special acquisitions post. (On this note, she had a copy of Castle Dor attributed to Daphne Du Maurier, and whilst I didn’t take it has an interesting backstory. It seems to be news to most people – it’s actually the completion of a draft by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (‘Q’); Du Maurier was given it by his daughter. Although it’s based on an interesting story – Tristan and Isolde – readers have stated that due to a seemingly hands-off approach to the initial draft, it’s very noticeable where Du Maurier comes into the picture, and unfortunately this leads to a disjointed text with a beginning that’s very much at odds with the values suggested in Du Maurier’s own books.) Books aside, April has otherwise been good, a busy but fun Easter, and many days without rain – being able to have breakfast outdoors has been wonderful.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Anne Melville: The House Of Hardie – Two sets of siblings in late 1800s England work towards their wishes for life which mostly go against the norms of the day. It feels repetitive considering my last post was the review, but ‘fantastic’.

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Orlando Ortega-Medina: The Death Of Baseball – The night of Marilyn Monroe’s death, a Japanese American boy is born and as he grows older he finds a particular kind of kinship with her; meanwhile a devout Syrian American Jewish boy is struggling with extreme, dangerous, compulsions. This is out in June and I’m reviewing it then so for now I’ll just say if you like psychological thrillers and films from Hollywood’s golden age, you’ll appreciate it.

Quotation Report

In The House Of Hardie the irony of women having the strength to get through multiple births is noted alongside the expectation that they also be completely afraid of mice. Noted also is the fact an education is important in moving up in the world, and that novels ending with wedding ceremonies doesn’t account for the wedding being a beginning.

May will be about finishing more of my current reads, and I’m likely to choose one of my sister’s books to add to the list.

What are you currently reading?

 
March 2019 Reading Round Up

March was pretty good: I didn’t finish many books but I’ve been reading a fair amount. I started the month with an easy re-read and that really helped; reading something you already know meaning less things to keep in mind and work out and as speed is something I struggle with it was very beneficial.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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D H Lawrence: Lady Chatterley’s Lover – Unhappy with her life and marriage, an upper class Lady begins an affair with the estate gamekeeper as English social structures start to change. As full of sex as commonly believed, but also about the affects of industry; lengthy chapters and philosophising make this difficult but it’s a good read in terms of its place in the literary world.

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L M Montgomery: The Blue Castle – A woman still living at home, stifled by her dysfunctional, critical, relatives, abandons all to live the way she wants following a sobering diagnosis. Fantastic.

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Sofie Laguna: The Choke – A young girl from a bad background struggles to live her life despite her inability to understand what’s going on around her. A brilliant look at the cycle of abuse.

This was a high-quality month: The Blue Castle was obviously known, but I was pleasantly surprised just how much I enjoyed them – The Choke presented itself as interesting but is a lot better than it looks, and Lady Chatterley’s Lover had more to recommend it than I’d thought it would. I’d probably say the Montgomery still wins, but that’s partly because I’ve history with it; the Laguna deals with the extreme side of the same ballpark subject, so to speak, and is exceptional in its handling of it.

Quotation Report

Lawrence, on the changing nature of England:

“I consider this is really the heart of England,” said Clifford to Connie, as he sat there in the dim February sunshine.
“Do you?” she said, seating herself in her blue knitted dress, on a stump by the path.
“I do! This is the old England, the heart of it; and I intend to keep it intact.”
“Oh yes!” said Connie. But, as she said it she heard the eleven-o’clock hooters at Stacks Gate colliery. Clifford was too used to the sound to notice.

I’m currently almost half-way through Belinda and recently started The Death Of Baseball; both are over 400 pages so I knew I’d probably not finish them before April (Belinda is tough going) but I plan to chip away at the page count of both over the next couple of weeks.

What’s a recent favourite book of yours?

 
February 2019 Reading Round Up

Linen trousers and a t-shirt outside in British late February when the earliest opportunity had previously been mid-March… it has been lovely but also very worrying. I digress.

My literary February was all about classics. Looking at my shelves after each finished final page I attempted a contemporary novel, but nothing worked. Polly Clark’s Larchfield had to go back to its space, only a few pages read, and even the last Sherry Thomas book I have waiting for me, in all its easy-reading goodness, didn’t get my attention. Instead I found comfort in the mid-1800s; I thought it might be time to explore the world of the youngest Brontë writer and that proved correct, and later L M Montgomery’s famous series – written in the early 1900s but set in the 1860s and onward – drew me. I’ve often thought I might like to read the Anne novels, yet reckoned it might stay an idea unfulfilled – I think that would’ve been fine in regards to the first book, but the second is not to be missed.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Anne Brontë: Agnes Grey – In order to help her family, a young woman becomes a governess, but finds a lot of problems in the world of the wealthy that she did not expect. The plot isn’t particularly thrilling but it’s well-written, an easy read, full of memorable paragraphs, and sports a nice romantic thread.

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L M Montgomery: Anne Of Green Gables – The Cuthbert siblings arrange for an orphan boy to be sent to them to help on the land, but when they receive a girl instead, they decide to keep her despite her inability to stop talking and her penchant for daydreaming. It doesn’t really go anywhere, prefers to work in cycles of events, but it’s an easy, fair, read.

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L M Montgomery: Anne Of Avonlea – Details the years following Anne’s childhood as she steps into her role as a teacher. A much better book: it’s got the same atmosphere of the first, but the plot here is more thought-out and interesting.

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Monica Ali: Brick Lane – When Nazneen was married to Chanu, he took her from Bangladesh to Britain with the promise of a better life, but they continue to reside in the flat the council gave them and Nazneen wants a little more from life. There needed to be a lot more to this book – everything in it has been done before and it’s quite frustrating when it starts to look like it’s going somewhere only for Ali to drop the subject soon after she’s begun (this happens a number of times).

The second Anne book pipped Brontë to the post at the eleventh hour; I loved the grown-up Anne and Montgomery seems to have got into her stride in regards to creating fun characters.

Quotation Report

In Anne Of Avonlea a woman, so fastidious about her house, lays newspaper down not only on her floors but all the way down the garden path, and requests her visitors to wipe their feet before treading on it. And, unrelated to this, a little boy wonders why male angels can’t wear trousers; he’s the very same boy who later pulls up his plants by the roots to see how they are getting on at the other end. Unsurprisingly, his twin sister’s garden is more successful.

The plan for March is to read at least one more classic and get to a review copy that I was sent in January that is published in April – Sofie Laguna’s The Choke. I also have an Elizabeth Chadwick on the go which I’d like to make more of a priority, and I will most likely keep reading Montgomery: I’d like to read the next Anne book, and having started the series I’m very tempted to return to The Blue Castle.

I have been away – update me on your reading!

 

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