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April 2020 Reading Round Up

As discussed last week, I have a number of books on the go, so it’s not surprising that I finished very little this month; beyond a small reading slump that has coincided with the onset of rain (I’d been reading mostly outside) reading a number at once means I’m in right about in the middle of a few.

In unrelated news, I watched My Fair Lady on bluray yesterday and it was like I’d never seen it before. If it’s a film you enjoy, I very much recommend the bluray – it makes the theatrical aspect far more obvious and somehow brings more clarity to the slightly ambiguous (wholly ambiguous?) ending. It was like it was released yesterday.

The Books
Non-Fiction

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Dan Richards: Outpost – The author travels to various buildings and locations around the globe that are isolated, seeking to discover why they draw us, and what their various roles in creativity are. Good stuff; some of it is unexpected but that does round it off well.

Fiction

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Caroline Lea: The Glass Woman – A young woman in 1600s Iceland agrees to marry the leader of another settlement so that her mother will always have money, but the man seems to hide a secret, and they say he killed his wife. This one creeps up on you – the story goes along fairly steadily for a long time, with some Brontë/Du Maurier aspects before turning into something rather spectacular; it’s a well-written, haunting, last several chapters.

No thoughts of favourites; I’m looking at reading in terms of enjoyment – did I enjoy my reading, as an interest? Yes. The variety definitely helped and my laid back attitude to it all did, too. Looking forward, I’m going to continue as I have been [pauses typing as a massive booming firework goes off and after a shock I realise it’s 8pm on a Thursday in UK lockdown], just perhaps not add any more books to it until at least one is finished…

Due to our present situation, I’d like to note that Nicola Cornick’s The Forgotten Sister (link goes to my review) was released yesterday. On 14th May, Nicholas Royle’s Mother: Memoir, will be released (he wrote An English Guide To Birdwatching – awesome literary fiction with a lot of meta content). Finally in late May, Isla Morley’s The Last Blue will be published.

What kind(s) of stories are you drawn to at the moment?

 
March 2020 Reading Round Up

March has been a month, hasn’t it! We’re just into our second week of lockdown here and my house has been in self-isolation for almost three. I like being indoors during winter as I’m not a cold weather person at all, but I do miss being able to go out and about as spring arrives. We had one day without the internet working and that was difficult; being able to be online really helps. The initial poor response by our government led, the day after they essentially announced they weren’t going to do anything, to a massive number of people deciding they would stay home, so the lockdown, when it came, was more relief than anything. And now here we are.

I haven’t read all that much; I’ve been reading for podcasts but I’ve still some to finish – anyone else finding it difficult to concentrate? My guess is it’ll be easier as lockdown becomes more and more normal. Given the number of good things that have happened during this awful time – wages paid by the government; lots of kindness; a more socialist idea of society; the environment! – I do wonder if it would be difficult, especially the more this whole thing continues, to go back to normal life without that ‘old’ normal being changed somehow.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Caroline Lea: When The Sky Fell Apart – A group of residents live through the Nazi occupation of Jersey. A great, if harrowing, book.

Laura Pearson: I Wanted You To Know – A young mother is diagnosed with cancer and as she struggles through the changes to her world and future she writes letters to her daughter for the girl to read after she is gone, making preparations and healing relationships beforehand. An incredibly emotional read; difficult but important.

Weike Wang: Chemistry – The unnamed narrator has been proposed to by her boyfriend twice and can’t find it within herself to say yes; there’s a lot of confusion – she’s struggling with her PhD and is unconsciously still suffering from the neglect of her parents. A search for identity where the reader is more privy than the character, this is an excellent book full of vignettes, humour, and boasts an interesting writing style.

I haven’t a favourite this month; I appreciated all of them. I’m currently reading Dan Richards’ Outpost, where the author travels the globe to explore isolated stopovers for those walking in the wilderness (accidentally perfect timing), Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar Of Wakefield which is very funny, and Caroline Lea’s second novel The Glass Woman which is set in 1600s Iceland and currently seems to have a woman in the attic thing going on – very intriguing.

What are you reading, how are you, and how are you keeping busy where you are?

 
February 2020 Reading Round Up

Reading in February was mostly in view of podcasts. I have a couple of carry-overs too. The fourth of March marked 10 years of this blog being online. I will celebrate it at a later date with stats and so on.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Fran Cooper: The Two Houses – A couple buy a holiday home that is in fact two houses, one house with the middle missing, and when they go to put them back together they start to unravel the mysteries therein. Fab.

Fran Cooper: These Dividing Walls – The various lives of those in an apartment building in Paris, set against the current day sociopolitical background. Excellent.

Laura Pearson: I Wanted You To Know – At 21, new mother Jess finds a lump in her breast and as she continues her hospital appointments she writes a series of letters to be given to her daughter. A heartbreaking book, very difficult to read, but important.

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 (and a re-read).

Laura Pearson: Nobody’s Wife – Emily and Michael are newly married and Jo has just met Jack, but Emily isn’t sure about Michael and the newly-introduced Jack is very much like the men she always fell for. An easier read compared to Pearson’s other books and very different in content, but also very good.

No favourite this month; all are great books.

I’m currently reading more for podcasts, though I’ve also got a 1700s classic on the go. No further plans than that at the moment.

What are you reading?

 
January 2020 Reading Round Up

This month has seemed both very long and incredibly short; people do say it’s February that drags, no matter the fewer days. I’ve spoken enough about my reading this month so I’ll simply say here that I managed to finish everything I planned and have made a start on another; two, actually, though the second may be a longer-term read.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Andrew Blackman: A Virtual Love – Various narrators discuss their time and dealings with Jeff, a man who posed as a famous blogger when a woman mistook him for that blogger and proceeded to show a romantic interest. Very good commentary what was in 2013 a current issue and still is today (the environmental issues have expanded, now, too). A re-read.

Andrew Blackman: On The Holloway Road – A man discontent with his life embarks on a journey with a notorious local, aiming to find true freedom in a country full of restrictions. Excellent. (This was a re-read.)

Camilla Bruce: You Let Me In – Aged 74, popular romance novelist Cassie has disappeared, leaving a letter in the form of a manuscript for her niece and nephew to find; in it she explains her version of the story of her childhood, during which she believes she saw fairies (she still does) but that a therapist at the time saw as a coping method for severe abuse and neglect. This is a debut novel by a Norwegian writer; it’s out on 5th March and is absolutely fantastic.

E C Fremantle: The Poison Bed – Frances Howard and her husband Robert Carr have both been arrested for murder and are being held separately in the Tower of London; they each tell their stories. Dark, thrilling, fab.

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Nicola Cornick: The Forgotten Sister – Dudley’s wife, Amy, has died, and, seen by the media as his likely lover, popstar and presenter, Lizzie, finds herself caught up in a suspected murder case; whilst this is happening, we read about Amy Robsart, wife of Robert Dudley, Elizabeth I’s favourite, who was found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs. A thrilling, compelling, tale with time-slip elements and an intriguing, well-thought-out way of offering a solution to the historical mystery. The book will be published late April.

Sherry Thomas: Delicious – An ex-member of the nobility has a relationship with an Earl, and later a one-night-stand with his brother, somewhat unknowingly; years later, her lover is dead and she finds herself in the role of Head Cook for the brother. Strictly okay – the heroine was rather annoying and the plot artificially drawn out.

Susmita Bhattacharya: Table Manners – A collection of stories about human relationships and connections, linked by the theme of food, whether the food is an item, an idea, or a construct. Awesome.

Tracy Chevalier (ed.): Reader, I Married Him – A collection of stories by twenty-one women writers based on Jane Eyre. Seems longer than it is but the stories are all pretty good.

This was a stellar month; five 5 star reads, one 4 star, and only one less than those. I had a ball.

I now have a sort-of plan for this new month; I have three books I’ve started tentatively – subject to change, effectively. One is a book I want to read but is a little longer than I should be reading at the moment, another is a short-ish classic comedy I started purely because I only had my tablet with me and have read the majority of the books I had on there, and the last is a potential re-read. I’m going to take February more slowly in terms of planning – have a basic idea but some options for those.

What books have you started the year with?

 
2019 Year Of Reading Round Up

This year I read 47 books in total, and have three books carrying over into this year. It’s not a particularly high number, but I’m happy with it. The nine books in November really helped, as did re-reading. (I’ve had a number of re-reads this year, many of which made the best of list for the year I first read them. For this reason I’ve excluded re-reads from this years’, though I’ve included them on my list of personal favourites below.)

As always, books that have been reviewed include a link in the text. From here until my personal favourites list, all books are rated as objectively as possible. If you want to skip the objective list, click here to view my personal favourites.

The Best Of The Best

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  • Raymond Antrobus: The Perseverance – A collection about the poet’s life as a Jamaican Brit, a person in the deaf community, and various related historical and contemporary stories. Utterly fantastic.
  • Samantha Sotto: A Dream Of Trees – As Aiden waits to die he is joined in his hotel room by a stranger, a lady who wants to help him by taking him to his ‘rooms’ in the period between life and death. It’s incredibly hard to sum up this book in one sentence, not least because there is so much mystery involved – it is an incredible and very moving fantasy/magical realism story of souls and unfinished business told with an immense amount of heart.
5

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4.5

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4

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3.5

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3

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2.5

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  • Ali McNamara: Secrets And Seashells At Rainbow Bay
  • Guy Stagg: The Crossway
My Personal Favourites

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I did well on the classics and older decades front – I’ve 13 books noted for ‘pre-1970’ and they are all from the 1940s or earlier which is good. (1970 was the date I chose for the ‘split’ but it nevertheless often seems too young.) I could certainly have done better on the gender front. I did okay on my goals, which I’ll discuss next week. Certainly the biggest change was in the re-reading statistics; I’m happy with the way it’s changed my reading. Beyond the natural consequence – learning more about a book the second time around – I’m also finding I re-read quicker, which for me is excellent as I’m naturally pretty slow.

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.

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.

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.

I’m going to leave this as is. From Good Wives:

Gentlemen, which means boys, be courteous to the old maids, no matter how poor and plain and prim, for the only chivalry worth having is that which is readiest to pay deference to the old, protect the feeble, and serve womankind regardless of rank, age, or color.

In Conversations With Friends, the narrator ponders the idea of kindness, whether it’s more about being nice in the face of conflict, and whether she only wonders whether she’s kind because she’s a woman. Whilst in This Must Be The Place, a teenager, new to the age group, discovers one of the changes that come with moving away from childhood, that lack of total oneness of self and the innocence of a child in regards to the rest of the world and life.

Next up is my film round up post. I’ll be thinking about goals next week and I’ll have a review for you, too.

What was on your best of list for 2019?

 

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