Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

Reading Life: 12th April 2023

A photograph of Hever Castle's gardens

Allow me another of these in such a fairly short period of time. I’m deep into Voyager now, 300 or so pages in but it’s got to the good bit (where you know it will go if you’ve read the second book) and so I’m reading it in earnest. I’ve been watching season 2 of the show, and may well start watching season 3 within the next few days, just staying behind where I’m up to in the book. I’m still finding reading and then watching very satisfying and my high opinion of the show and the changes they’ve made continues to stay the same.

Book cover of Diana Gabaldon's Voyager, book three in the Outlander series

Spoilers incoming for Dragonfly In Amber: The one thing I’m really struggling with, on both sides as it happens now (which in many ways is another plus for the show because they are faithful to the book the majority of the time) is Roger and Brianna’s relationship. I’m thinking of writing a dedicated post on this but having spent time mulling it over I wonder if the reason has to do with the relationship being relatively mundane and ‘normal’ when compared to a heady and exciting time traveller romance where the focus on the handsome historical man is rather paramount. I wonder whether the fact that Roger and Brianna are present day (well, 1968 to be exact) is part of it, and I wonder whether their relationship is very bog standard and unexciting deliberately to either further highlight the romance between Claire and Jamie or as some sort of comment on the fact that Claire and Jamie’s is a once-in-a-blue-moon, literally fantastical relationship, whereas Roger and Brianna are realistic (well, beyond their capacity to time travel, as it appears they will be doing… and I’ve seen the screenshots of the show of them in historical dress). That latter thought, though, is, I realise, me applying literary thought to the book where it may not be warranted. I really hope the chemistry improves – for starters, I badly need to see more of them to start believing it, and this is where I think the show will do better than the books as the TV team were quicker to show a variety of viewpoints than Gabaldon is in her novels.

Book cover of Chloe Gong's These Violent Delights

Having finished Orlando Ortega-Medina’s The Fitful Sleep Of Immigrants – which I did very much enjoy – I started Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights. It has started pretty strongly but a little confusing in terms of motives for the characters, who in this book are gang members – the story is based on Romeo And Juliet – and I’m hoping for a strong set of reasons to feel empathy for the characters beyond the fact of their relationship to Shakespeare. The commentary surrounding colonialism, various countries taking their slice of Shanghai, and China in general, has a lot of promise.

My next book was supposed to be Amanda Prowse’s All Good Things but I’ve had a time of it on the download attempts front and so am not sure if that will happen – Chloe Gong’s book is me moving on in my reading for now. One I have added and successfully downloaded however, is Phoebe McIntosh’s DominoesAndrew Blackman wrote a very positive review of Dominoes on his blog and so I went looking for a copy. I’m very excited to get started on it.

What are you looking forward to reading after your current book?

Reading Life: 20th March 2023

A macro photograph of the side of a blossom

In posting this (writing it, too) the next day on my former schedule I’m not going to say I’m back to how I was before just yet – this is far too early to say – but I am going to try. The rabbits have a diagnosis and daily medications, and one of them has developed a way of telling me when she starts to feel ill so it is far easier to stop it getting to the level of a vet appointment; so whilst it’ll be lifelong for them, the daily stress has mostly gone away and with it the fog that was a constant in my head. Mental space is entirely underrated.

I’ve taken baby steps towards getting back into reading, if it can be called baby steps when you make your first ‘official’ read of the new practise a 1053 page book. It was accidental, in a way – in looks it is about 700 pages – but given it’s Outlander book three, Voyager, and I find the series a pretty easy read, I’m not too daunted. And not surprised the publisher opted for very thin paper to keep the heft down.

I unintentionally (well, accidentally but not quite on purpose while being conscious enough of it… I think I know why the US has created ‘on accident’) spoiled a bit of this book for myself by reading about Claire and Frank’s relationship on the Outlander subreddit and finding out something about Jamie which I wrongly assumed would happen in later books… it ended up happening within about 10 pages during my next period of reading. But it’s given me something to think about.

Absolute credit for my reading and general ‘getting back into this habit’ consistency the past week has to go to my friend who is a keen reader herself. She also gave me a wonderfully detailed introduction to TikTok, in particular BookTok, and I’ve created an account. Only one post so far but I have ideas. I’ve realised that TikTok may be the answer to those ideas I’ve had that were never enough for a blog post unless I wanted to bore everyone, but were too much for social media in years gone by unless I wanted to try and subvert the instantaneous, scrolling nature of it. If you are on there, do let me know. I for some reason can’t follow people properly yet – I’ve been able to follow 3 and that’s it – but this appears to be a bug that’ll hopefully be fixed. Unsurprisingly I’m @carnelianvalley

And on the note of TikTok, I decided to get Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights. Gong is one of the biggest, if not the biggest author on the platform and I badly need to get back into knowing what is going on in the book world at the time it happens. I’m looking forward to it – Romeo and Juliet in 1920s China, yes please!

Let me know what you have read recently that you would recommend, particularly newly published books!

Reading Life: 27th July 2020 + Podcast

A photograph of a stalked flower bed at Hever Castle

Reading is going well at the moment; I’m aiming to have a good few books finished by this month, to try and get back to that ‘lots of books in July’… thing I used to have going on. And it’s thanks to some really excellent novels.

Inevitably I’m reading for interview; I’ve read and re-read both Sofie Laguna’s and Tracy Rees’ backlist (in the latter case it’s the present tense re-reading) and it’s been a ball. Laguna’s work is brilliant but difficult at times, in terms of the content. Her three current books (one more on the way in October) all look at formative childhood years and positives and negatives of those times; most cases include some level of abuse and neglect in a very caring way and the children are the narrators which allows for what is a balance of informed and uninformed look at what’s happening. Laguna has a superb talent for characterisation and realistic characters and she also looks at various learning difficulties and disabilities.

Tracy Rees’ books are far from Laguna’s in terms of genre, historical fiction with a tiny bit of contemporary plot thread – I say tiny bit because it’s a part of one book. I’m guessing most of you who read this will have heard of her and a good number of you will have read her books, they are often tomes, very high on the bestseller lists and with good reason. I’m currently reading her fourth book, which is very different to the rest of them. The first and second books, Amy Snow and Florence Grace, are set in the 1800s, and as noted in my review, the third, The Hourglass, is set in the 1950s and present day. However, despite the big differences in time it’s actually the fourth book, Darling Blue, set in the 1920s, that breaks the mold. The characterisation differs, the narrative structure looks at more people, and the storytelling, too, is new. I quite like it – I absolutely loved the first three books but the difference in Darling Blue is like reading a book by a different author and I rather like it when that happens without the book foregoing anything in particular.

I’m getting a lot out of the historical content; one of the things I love about Amy Snow is the detailing of what the average person’s day might be like, those people who are perhaps most like ourselves today; working in what we’d now call retail, visiting pubs and coffee shops. There’s only one scene in a coffee shop and only a very brief scene in a bookshop but when then added to Florence Grace‘s visit to a cheese shop (Rees’ second book) it adds up to some interesting context. To be sure, there’s a lot of this kind of stuff in TV shows and films, but in a book, where everything’s slower and there’s more detail to help you imagine what the places look like, it’s just… better.

On my list to read next are Orlando Ortega-Medina’s The Savior Of Sixth Street and Roselle Lim’s Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop, both out in August. It’s going to be another diversion in genre, two in fact as they will be very different, and I love that idea. I know the basics of both of them but am otherwise keeping away from information. I’m also hoping to return to Christina Courtney’s Echoes Of The Runes which I started at the very beginning of June and had to leave for a while; it’s a time-slip set, so far, in Britain and Sweden, and involves a present-day character who finds an exact match for the ring she always wears in a museum display cabinet for early history; in short, it’s right up my street.

Today’s podcast is with Sofie Laguna. Email and RSS subscribers: you may need to open this post in your browser to see the media player below.

Charlie and Sofie Laguna (One Foot Wrong; The Eye of the Sheep; The Choke; the forthcoming Infinite Splendours) discuss beginning with acting, writing from a child’s perspective and not labelling those who are different, bad fictional parents, not liking John Wayne… and we have the inaugural reading of Sofie’s October release.

To see all the details including links to other apps, I’ve made a blog page here.

Reading Life: 29th May 2020

A macro photograph of the side of a blossom

How are you all? I’m officially bored of not being able to leave home but the sun, whilst reminding me of days out, is also helping. I went through a few weeks of taking photographs of various everything things before running out of interesting subjects – the birds have past their courtship phases; the flowers were spring flowers; the rabbits are a bit sick of their human taking photos of them being cute for the 123456th time of the day, particularly as it doesn’t tend to result in treats. I’m looking at finding a metaphorical angle for books and playing around with different settings.

I’ve still a number of books on the go but I’m making headway; I’ve been adding books, so technically, the over all number is same, but the titles have changed. I’m also adding bookish films to both my ‘watch’ and ‘watched’ lists. I loved the 2019 Little Women to distraction, and enjoyed Booksmart and this year’s Emma.

My current priority is Chibundu Onuzo’s Welcome To Lagos, which I’d been wanting to read for a while. It’s an interesting one – a book that seems too simple until you scratch the surface, after which it seems almost too clever. It’s definitely different but I’m enjoying it a lot.

Before that I read Isla Morley’s Come Sunday in preparation for our podcast recording. The initial idea was to focus on her newest book but we increased the scope and I’m glad we did; Come Sunday is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. I think I like it even more than her latest… (Having just reviewed it I won’t go into detail on The Last Blue here.)

Diana Evans’ Ordinary People is still on the go. The title is proving to be correct, but this shows how stories are everywhere.

On the subject of re-reads, Terri Fleming’s Perception has made me want to catalog my books properly. I already keep a basic list of physical books in order to track how many I’ve read (this ranges between 68-70%, a number that understandably changes little due to new arrivals). I also note where I got the book from. Now I’m thinking more info on the ‘where’, including, where possible, ‘when’. I’m thinking genres, ISBNs, format, new or second-hand… it’s ridiculous how exciting organising book collections can be.

I should add that there’s been an additional ‘push’ to expand my cataloguing. Whilst researching Jane Austen I fell down a rabbit hole – a necessary phrase given last weeks’ post – and discovered a project that is cataloguing the contents of the library at the old Godmersham Park estate, a library Austen visited when staying with her family. The website for it, Reading With Austen, is absolutely fascinating: the team have made it graphical so you can digitally peruse the shelves; they’ve gone to great lengths to identify all the books and their placements.

It was perhaps inevitable that my various research projects and reading would lead me to note other past authors. I’ve downloaded Lady Sydney Morgan’s The Wild Irish Girl, which was popular in its day but largely forgotten now. The prolific author had a number of books published but it’ll probably be a while before they’re all available. (Despite the recent uptick in interest in Charlotte Smith and Charlotte Lennox, these authors works are still difficult to find. On Sarah Burney – yes, the sister of – I’m currently considering scans of the original editions.)

I’ve got a post on the aforementioned Alcott adaptation to write and a few books to choose from next. I have finished a good number of books this month, six – a breakthrough – and want to see if I can squeeze in one more in addition to the Onuzo before June.

Do tell me what you’re currently reading or, if you’re struggling to read at the moment, what you look forward to reading when you can. Also, if you have any favourite book-related podcasts that are currently active, do mention them in the comments. (I’m following Smart Podcast Trashy Books, Charlotte Readers, and the two Jennys’ Reading the End.)

Reading Life: 20th April 2020

A photograph of a trellis in Hever Castle's gardens

I have talked previously about being able to have two books on the go, and every now and then I’ll have three, which includes an ebook. With the Coronavirus causing concentration issues, I found taking on extra books to be helpful. And whilst I’ve gained more focus, I’ve still those books on the go, and I’m adding more. Although it’s not particularly sensible in terms of getting anything finished, starting a new book when I fancy has helped keep my spirits up.

I currently have… (seven)… books on the go. It’s a variety, which has been key, and I do have a small raison d’etre for each of them beyond the ‘want’.

Book cover

Lillian Li: Number One Chinese Restaurant. I’ve been trying to get into this one for a while, so it is the book on this list I’m likely to finish last. I’m hoping the familial connections are better explained as the book moves on, because keeping track of who is family as opposed to friend or business associate is difficult, however I recognise that that confusion may be part of Li’s point, with the restaurant’s future and effective spin-offs centre stage.

Book cover

Oliver Goldsmith: The Vicar Of Wakefield. A book that was wildly popular in its day (1766), this one is pretty funny, though at the moment the humour is all in the travel; a previously well-off family have to move elsewhere when they lose their money. The language is easy, it’s simply that I made the mistake of starting it when the news turned grim and so I haven’t followed the narrative as closely as I normally do – I may well restart it.

Book cover

Caroline Lea: The Glass Woman. Lea’s book is incredibly different to her first; whereas When The Sky Fell Apart, was a devastating story of fictional residents of Jersey during the Nazi occupation, The Glass Woman is set in Iceland in the 1600s. The use of history is good; it’s very much character-driven and has few of them so it’s easy to keep a hold of even whilst there is lots of story detail. The social details are abundant. There’s a long-term woman in the attic atmosphere to the book; I’ve since gone past that part and as you’d expect, there’s a difference, but regardless the atmosphere of the Brontë novel remains and it’s incredibly interesting; 1600s Iceland is pretty different to 1800s Yorkshire but there are interesting similarities between her story of an isolated married woman (which, considering her first book, could well be based on facts) and the governess on a deserted moor.

Book cover

Michael Wolff: Fire And Fury. In any other time the following would make no sense: I’m reading this for the escape. Given the presidential events of the past week, I should add that I started the book a couple of weeks ago; after finishing Dan Richards’ Outpost, and having thoughts of non-fiction at this time due to my spring-summer non-fiction reading last year, I picked it up. It’s to be a purposely slower read.

Book cover

Shannon Stacey: Yours To Keep. My reasoning for this one is the good weather. It’s an enjoyable contemporary romance set in Maine and steeped in family that I first read some years ago. It’s my read for when the sun is out. I’m speeding through.

Book cover

James Rebanks: The Shepherd’s Life. Bedtime reading was going well until I forgot to choose another book to follow my previous; I remembered. I’ve had Rebanks’ book sitting on my desk for a couple of years; it’s actually my Dad’s copy that I bought for him, he read it, then lent it to me. Dad said I’d like Rebanks’ book. Reviews and the general raving a few years ago said I’d like the book. I like the book. I’ve only just started but the introduction is great in itself, detailing a day at school when Rebanks was a child; a teacher waxed lyrical about the Lake District in romantic, tourist-like terms, which the pupils – born and raised there – cannot yet relate to.

Book cover

Diana Evans: Ordinary People. Another ‘sun’ read. It’s different enough to all the others, and it’s very good – a promising beginning and a lovely, somewhat relaxed, literary style. I’d been interested in Evans’ work since last year’s Rathbones Folio Prize; I’m happy to have gone for it.

As I’m speeding through the Stacey re-read and am mostly through the Lea (68% – ebook) I should at least have some content for a round up at the end of this month. I highly recommend breaking at this time previously-imposed reading rules.

Are you reading differently at the moment?


Older Entries