Supermassive Book Haul!

You know the feeling. You’re on Amazon and put a book in your basket. Just one. Your recommendations show another one that sounds interesting… plus one you’ve been meaning to read for ages is on sale, and….the next day a large box turns up at your door bursting at the seams with new reads.

So this isn’t really supermassive, I just liked the word play. I got 9 books recently; a few at a charity shop, and the rest on Amazon (I’m not wading in on that debate, of course I support indies but I don’t have any independent bookshops near me. It would be the dream to open one, though). I got some that I know will be absolutely brilliant, and some I’ve never heard of; some classics and some contemporary. I think I got a pretty good mix and I’m excited to get to reading!

So far I’ve only read one of them. Seeing them all in front of me made it so hard to choose which one to read first, so I did the only logical thing… numbered them all and used a random number generator to make the choice for me.

That choice was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. You have no idea how many people have nagged me to read this. Published in 2003, I’ve been told to read this since about 2006. I spotted this in a charity shop and knew I had to finally pick it up. I’ll review it at a later date, but I certainly don’t regret reading it.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

My current read is the first in Maya Angelou’s autobiographical series. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings depicts Angelou’s early years in 1930s/40s Arkansas. I’m about half way through and am really enjoying learning about such a remarkable, strong woman. Again, I don’t want to review it right now (especially as I haven’t finished it) but it’s a winner so far.

Several books I bought are classics. They’re books I’ve meant to read and should have read before but haven’t. If you’re looking to get into some classics I would recommend looking on Amazon around now; they seem to be selling them cheap around this time, presumably for students. Be warned that your recs will include GCSE/A level study books for the popular ones, though!

Mrs Dalloway

Mrs Dalloway.jpg

I’ve been told to read Virginia Woolf for years. Several people have been surprised that I’ve never read any of her work, so when I found this gorgeous copy of Mrs Dalloway in Oxfam I knew I had to pick it up.

The Great Gatsby

Okay, confession time. I did start to read it as a teenager, but I didn’t really engage with it. We’d watched a film adaptation in my GCSE English class but didn’t actually study it. When I say we watched the film adaptation, not that anyone at that age paid a whole lot of attention. I had very little idea of what it was /actually/ about, so when I tried reading it I got distracted easily and I don’t think I actually finished. That is to say, I don’t actually remember. I know how important the book is though, and adult me is ready to give it a second chance. I’m also loving retro fashion at the moment so some 20s vibes would be cool.

Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men

I feel like this and Gatsby are both texts everyone in the country seems to have studied at school…except me. I don’t really know what this is about but I know that I’m bored of getting funny looks for being the English grad who’s never read Steinbeck!

Nineteen Eighty-Four

One classic (or, modern classic at least) I have read is Animal Farm. I’ve wanted to read Nineteen Eighty-Four for a long time and so seeing it on my recommendations and on sale felt like a bit of a sign.

Now, The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t exactly a classic yet, but I have a feeling that’s where it’s heading. Another I’ve been nagged and nagged to read, this was another on sale that I had to get. I can’t wait to read it (then binge the TV show). I loved Atwood’s narrative voice in The Blind Assassin and it’s almost certain I’ll love The Handmaid’s Tale, perhaps even more.

The last two books I got recently are ones I’d not actually heard of.

The Blue Manuscript is a book surrounding an Islamic treasure of the same name, a fictionalised version of the Blue Qu’ran – an ancient text from the 9th/10th century, likely created in North Africa. As we all know, I’m a bit of a history buff, but I don’t know much about Islamic history. This is fiction, but I’m excited to learn about the truth behind the novel as much as I am about reading the novel itself.

The Blue Manuscript.jpg

The Lost Dog is a novel set in both present-day Australia and mid-20C India. The protagonist Tom Loxley is writing a book on Henry James (AKA my first Victorian Literature love) when his dog goes missing. Historical setting, Henry James AND dogs? It’s like this book was made for me.

That’s my haul, y’all! What’s on your TBR? Done any big book buys lately? Any recommendations for the next time I go on a binge?

See you soon,

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Dilemma of the ‘Did Not Finish’ | Book Blogger Problems!

So lately I’ve not been having the best luck with books.  Over the last few weeks I have picked up two books that I’ve not been able to get into, which poses somewhat of a problem for me. The first book was an ARC, requested via NetGalley. I haven’t reviewed this for one simple reason – I haven’t finished it.

The plot sounded brilliant, right up my street – a museum setting, a powerful female protagonist, a mystery to be solved. On trying to read the book, however, I just couldn’t get into it. The writing was difficult to engage with and the characters just turned out to be annoying. I put it down and instead picked up Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad; at 110 pages long I figured I could finish it in a few days and try again with the other book. Here I am two weeks later still struggling with it. (I must admit that I did put it down to read How to Stop Time before publication day.) It’s an important classic and shows imperialist British views wonderfully, but Christ is the protagonist boring. He drones on and on and on about nothing, with some racism thrown in for good measure, in long rambling paragraphs leading nowhere. Now I’m a lover and writer of literary realism, so long rambling paragraphs leading nowhere are kind of my thing, but must be engaging. I find myself opening the book and being unsure if I’m on the right page because it feels like I’ve read it all already.

As a reviewer, I feel like I have a duty to finish these books even though I’m not enjoying them. I can’t only post good reviews to have a well-rounded blog. As a writer, I feel as though it is insulting to accept an ARC from a writer who has clearly worked so hard on their book only to not even finish it, even if my review wouldn’t be great. As a person who unfortunately doesn’t get paid to read books all day (the dream!), though, I don’t feel like have enough time to put energy into books I’m not getting on with. So the question is:

Do I stay or do I go now?

What do you think – do I have a duty as a reviewer to stick it out and finish these books, or should I just move on to the next one on the pile? Help!

See you soon,

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Last Post: Review (not) Wednesday | ARC Review – How to Stop Time

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Review (not) Wednesday | ARC Review – How to Stop Time

**I was given this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

Okay, first things first, HOW EXCITING IS THIS?? If you’ve been around a while you’ll know that I adore Haig’s work. In fact, he’s the only author I’ve reviewed more than once on here. Saying that, there’s a kind of fear in reading a book you’ve been looking forward to –and even more so when you have to put your thoughts on the internet for the whole world to see. It’s very easy to be disappointed by an author you’ve read a lot of, because you expect certain things from that author, but luckily that wasn’t the case here.

How to Stop Time is centred around Tom Hazard, a man with a rare condition – at the age of 13 the aging process slowed down for him completely, leaving him to age 15 times slower than the average human. At 439, he’s lived a lot of life. Determined to feel normal, Tom decides to become a history teacher – he’s certainly qualified for it.

The book is what I expected from Haig. In a lot of ways it was like The Humans, which I haven’t reviewed here but read recently – watch this space. The protagonists are similar in a lot of ways, though technically no one is more human than Tom Hazard and no one less so than the nameless alien entity now occupying the body of Professor Andrew Martin. This is a bit of a negative – some aspects felt a little like I’d seen it before (and not just because of the historical throwbacks). Despite this, I thought that overall the book was brilliant. Haig has a strong voice that engages the reader, the story was well paced and I was gripped by the plot. It was that wonderful blend of serious, thought provoking, emotional and funny that Matt Haig combines into the social commentaries I adore reading so much. The plot could have been incredibly convoluted and difficult to follow, but it was actually an easy read and a lot of fun – while still pulling on your heartstrings.

Without spoiling too much, the book does include some flashbacks, but the plot is generally pretty linear. There are a few name drops in said flashbacks, some of which I felt worked and moved the plot along (Tom is given work by a famous playwright), and some I felt didn’t really add anything to the plot (Tom meets a famous couple in a bar). They were entertaining and I like the concept, but it did sort of feel like some famous names were there for the sake of a famous name.

I really enjoyed the book. It was what I wanted and expected from Haig, but at the same time I felt that it could have gone just a little further. We are introduced to a few institutions who are linked to or interested in Anageria, Tom’s condition, but aren’t shown much of them – I’d love to know more about them and perhaps see more of their influence first hand. We hear about their previous actions and understand that there’s always the threat of being tracked down by these groups (think E.T) but don’t really see a whole lot of the actual groups. I can’t believe I of all people would’ve liked more action, but it was a little jarring that we’re warned about all these people and then they don’t really show up when everything else is being tied up.

The concept is fantastic as ever and I am always astounded by Haig’s voice and narrative. I feel like this review is quite critical but I really did love the book – I just felt like a few things could have been cleaner. I would absolutely recommend, even if you haven’t read anything by Matt Haig. This would be a wonderful place to start.

See you soon,

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