Review Wednesday | Summer Reads
Recently I’ve read a lot, but I haven’t reviewed a lot, so I thought to remedy that I’d just do one big post to sum up everything I’ve read (but not reviewed) this summer. I hope you’re ready.
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.
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!
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
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!
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 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,
Last Post: Dilemma of the ‘Did Not Finish’ | Book Blogger Problems!
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,
Last Post: Review (not) Wednesday | ARC Review – How to Stop Time
A Bookshelf For… A Year Later
A few days ago Always in the Write turned one and yes, I’m still celebrating. I’m truly amazed that I haven’t quit yet if I’m honest – I don’t like being a quitter but I know what I’m like and didn’t have high expectations of myself! What better way to celebrate than the first in that one series I mentioned ages ago and haven’t touched since my A Bookshelf For…series! Here are my top books I’ve reviewed for each month, along with links to the full reviews if you’re interested. It’s been quite the year, with some damn good books taking centre stage.
Review Wednesday | Book Review – Paris For One and Other Stories
I was given a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Paris for One and Other Stories is, as you might expect from the title, a book of short stories. The book features the titular Paris for One, more of a novella than short story, followed by 10 shorter stories of varying lengths.
Paris for One, the main story, follows an anxious Nell as she travels to Paris for the first time. What was supposed to be a romantic weekend with her uninterested boyfriend soon turns into a journey of self-discovery and of Nell finding her courage. The story also follows Fabien, a Parisian writer who was left heartbroken by his now ex-girlfriend a few months before the story begins. He is working on a book but lacks the motivation and confidence to finish it.
Okay, so you can probably see where this is going. I can’t say the story isn’t predictable, but it’s well written, charming and sophisticated.
All of the stories follow similar themes of romance and self-discovery. Relationships are the central theme for this collection. There are marriages, new loves, break ups and old friends. Couples who can’t make it work and couples who work through thick and thin. The protagonists are all strong, realistic women. Some of the stories are set in Paris, but this isn’t a running theme.
As a historical fiction junkie, it comes as no surprise that my favourite story in the collection is Honeymoon in Paris. I adore when stories combine the past with the present, but it is so easy to get wrong that I approach these kinds of stories tentatively. Moyes got this trope completely spot on, however, with her tales of Liv and Sophie. It was only on googling the book for this review that I learned that this is a sort of mini-prequel to a novel based on the two women, The Girl You Left Behind – it’s safe to say that I will be giving that a read!
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I was in London when I started it and I feel like it would be a perfect commuting read. The stories are gripping but wrap up nicely, and can be read in short periods of time. While I have found myself wanting more from some of the stories, they work wonderfully as stand-alones and are all paced really well. They might not be deep, brooding or particularly “literary”, but these are lovely little stories to brighten your day with and help restore some of your faith in humanity. I hadn’t read any of JoJo Moyes’ work until now, but I can see what all the fuss is about.
See you soon,
Last Post: Spoiler-Free Thoughts on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Me Monday | A New Post Series!
What better way to kick off the new year than to announce a new post series?! I’m so excited to see how the blog develops this year, and to put more time and energy into creating better quality content. I really want to focus on my writing and find more motivation to blog; this new series will definitely help with that. I’ve not spent much time on blogging as of late, but this has to change.
‘A Bookshelf For…’ will be a series of collections. The series will aim to showcase some of my favourite texts in different lights. It will allow me to discuss different themes within books that I love, including those I’ve reviewed in a more general way. I’ve often found, both in reading and reviewing, that certain themes or aspects of certain books stick out for me more- things I could talk about all day, but have never really found a chance to. Aside from books I’ve written assignments on, I’ve never really written a focused analysis or review.
I don’t fancy producing university-style essays every week, nor do I imagine you’d like reading them, which is where this series comes into play – I’ll be discussing certain aspects of books, for example the use of location, in short review-style paragraphs. Books with several different themes that I find interesting may be mentioned in several ‘shelves’. It’s almost like Desert Island Discs, only I can discuss as many as I want in as many ways as I want…so it’s really nothing like Desert Island Discs.
Following on the example of location, ‘A Bookshelf For The Traveller’ would focus on books with vivid scenery and writing of place, or plots focusing on journey, whereas others may focus on character or pacing. There are so many different ways to look at books, and obviously there are books for every occasion – this series will aim to show you my favourites.
I’m hoping to get the first in this series out soon, so be sure to keep an eye out! In the meantime, tell me your 2017 goals!
See you soon,
Last Post: Review Wednesday | Book Review – A Monster Calls
Books on a Budget: The Miracle of The Charity Shop.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but charity shops are a beautiful thing. Not only is your money contributing to good causes, but they’re also incredibly cheap. I have a lot of love for the charity shop. I just finished my book (review in two weeks – you’ll see why on Wednesday!) and although I have another on the go, I’m not quite in the right mood for the style of writing it’s in – it’s not an easy one to get into, and the language can be difficult to tackle. Having only just finished Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, another one with rich and heavy language, I need a break.
I’m travelling to London for a few days on Monday, so I need plenty to read for the train journeys as well, but don’t have a lot of funds – here’s where the charity shop comes in. I bought 3 brand-new books for 49p apiece at Barnardo’s, a children’s charity. All 3 have prices printed on them, and should’ve cost £22 at retail value – not a bad discount!
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my Kindle – I’m not a snob when it comes to paper vs electronic – and I love a brand new book, but charity shopping for books is generally speaking cheaper, and works much better than Kindle when you don’t know what you want exactly. Of course, you’re less likely to find independent authors or self published works, but they tend to be fairly cheap on Kindle anyway. The main problem I have with charity shopping for books that you don’t get with eBooks is that I never get rid of any – while I should donate my existing books before I buy any new ones, it never happens and the mountain of books I need to sort through just gets bigger and bigger!
I had the added benefit last summer of working at a charity shop, and intend to return once I’m settled in a paying job. I worked at a Cats Protection shop, and not only was the experience incredibly rewarding and something I thoroughly enjoyed, I also often got first look in with the books! I used to sort donations, particularly gift aided ones, so I was often the first person to look at the stock. Clothes go through the process of being steamed, tagged and priced before being ready to be sold, which could take a while if we had a backlog, but books could be put out straight away – meaning I could hoard any I wanted and buy them at the end of the day. This was not a healthy environment for my purse to be in.
Even if you don’t have the time to volunteer, I would definitely recommend going into charity shops for books, especially if you’re on a tight budget or looking for something different and unexpected – you never know what you’ll pick up!
See you soon,