Book Eight

This is the first book that I have read by Caitlin Moran. I am not sure why I started with this book and not How to be a Woman. This book is completely different from any other book I have read this month. I normally really love coming of age books so knew from the offset that I was going to enjoy this book. I also love feisty yet tragic characters and this is exactly what Johanna Morrigan is. I feel like this book has set me down a Caitlin Moran path and I am sure I will read more of her books over the course of the year.

This book is blunt and to the point from the opening line. I would normally say not to read this book in a public place but you know what, we need to talk more about the female sexual experience so read this book on a plan, train, in fact just read this book out load! I should warn you though, this book is not child friendly. It is refreshing to read a coming of age novel where the character in question develops physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually. Very few coming of age stories explore a character sexual development. Well unless you include the American Pie series and that is hardly a relatable life experience. Although slightly over the top the protagonist Johanna Morrigan is completely believable. A social outcast coming from a large family living on a council estate in Wolverhampton, Johanna is like a breath of fresh air in the coming of age genre.  She is independent and driven, a Lady Sex Adventure as she chooses to call herself. Johanna has an alter ego Dolly Wild.  This persona give Johanna the confidence to go out and become a music journalist. Dolly Wild is also the mask that Johanna wares when she is the Lady Sex Adventure. I loved Johanna, innocent and naive to a point that it is often cringe worthy. I wanted to cuddle Johanna and tell her not to worry, by the time shes in her 20s people will think shes cool. Dolly Wild on the other hand is just irritating and obnoxious. I often found myself wondering why the people round about her were putting up with Dolly.

There are a variety of different character in this book, most of whom are completely believable. The only character I had any really issue with was John Kite. No one talks or behaves like that. It was as if he had just strolled out of a period novel. I cant really understand why Moran wrote John like this. There is no real reason I can see for his bizarre use of language. It breaks with the flow of the book and just doesn’t really do it for me. On the other hand Krissi is much more likable. I love the fact that Moran alludes to Krissi’s sexuality however never actually explicitly talks about it. This was refreshing. I feel like there is no need overtly discuss a homosexual character’s sexuality just for the sake of it. I feel like as a society we should be beyond that. Unless its vital to the plot of the story its not something that we really need to know.

I could write about this book for ages. There is so many themes that Moran explores and I found myself have evaluating my beliefs on almost a chapter by chapter basis. This book is also funny and cringe worthy. My teenage years were the noughties however I found myself relating to Johanna experience in the 90s reguarly. I would highly recommend this book. Its an easy read and will give you a few laughs.

I am little behind with writing these reviews. I think I am currently reading book 11! I will get them all up over the next while.

Happy Reading!

Book Seven

I decided to add Yes Please by Amy Poehler to my to be read list a while ago and I am not really sure why. I am not a huge fan of celebrity autobiographies or Amy Poehler. I like her in Parks and Recreation but apart from that I thought I hadn’t actually seen her in much (I was wrong. Turns out I have seen loads of her stuff but just hadn’t actually known it was her!) Anyway I think I decided to read this book after coming across a Buzzfeed “20 books to read in your 20s” list and you know what, I am glad I read that list because otherwise I would not have picked up this book. This book brought me so much pleasure. I laughed, I got angry, I felt thankful and I, on a few occasions I shouted out “On yursel hen” whilst driving through rush hour traffic. I listened to the audiobook for this book and I can not imagine any better way to have consumed this book. This book is an example of how audiobooks should be done!

I am not to sure what to call this book. Autobiography doesn’t really work. While I learned a great deal about Amy Poehler’s early career you don’t really get to hear a lot of the nitty details of her life. I cant retell you many stories from her childhood or a large number of stories linked to her experience as a mother. An element of distance remains between the reader and Poehler and I liked this. Instead what the reader is given is a selection of lessons Poehler has learned throughout her life. Naturally these lessons are accompanied by a life experience that help to give the lesson context, but the story is not why your invested, her life lesson is what draws you in. This book is split in to a series of essays each with a different theme. I found this a wonderful way to absorb this book. Each essay is short and packed full of information. Its hard to draft away. Although this book isn’t about comedy, this book is funny and heart warming. Every day when I got into my car and turned Audible on I felt like I was sitting on the couch having a cup of tea and a catch up with a friend. This book is so approachable and welcoming and I think a large amount of this is down to the humour that emanates from every page.

Yes Please makes for an absolutely fantastic listen and there are a few reasons for this. Amy Poehler herself reads the audiobook and a lot of work has gone into making sure she is able to engage with the listener. This feels a lot more like a podcast rather than an audio book. The last chapter is read live, which is nice. Elements of the book have defiantly been rewritten for the audio recording. Poehler repeatedly refers to her “home made Audio studio” and interacts with the listener in a way I just cant imagine working in print. There are also a number of guest stars that appear in the book these include Patrick Stewart, Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers, Michael Schur, Kathleen Turner, and most importantly Poehler’s parents. This, somewhat short audio book, definitely packs a lot in. This audio book is more than just a reading, it is a performance. (I hope at some point to write about the performativity of audio books, I just need to find time to sit down and do it!)

I am so glad I added this book to my woman’s month. It brought a wonderful spark of life into my daily commutes and I will defiantly re listen to this book time and time again. In fact I would go as far to say, after The King Killer Chronicles this may be one of my all time favourite audio books. I have also finished Caitlin Moran’s How to Build a Gril more about that in the next few days.

Happy Reading!

Book Six

January is woman’s month!

I don’t think I have ever consciously read a book because it was written by a women and so this month is Woman’s month! It is greatly pleasing the feminist within me. I have decided that every other month I will set a theme in an attempt to expand the kind of books that I read. So anyway onto book number six.

I have been looking forward to reading this book for some time. It was one of those books that sprung up everywhere in 2016. I went into this book not really knowing what it was about. I have also never read anything by Zadie Smith so this book really was a first for me. I had high hopes for this book and in someways it followed through on those hopes. Unfortunately it was sometimes a little boring. The book tells the story of our narrator and her childhood friend Tracy. Both girls dream of being dancers. Unfortunately only one has the talent to pursue this. This book follows the narrator from the age of 7 until her early 30s. The author manages to take the reader across the years with ease and at no point was I confused as to what era of the narrators life we were in. This really is a testament to Zadie Smith’s writing, especially when you consider the fact that throughout the book the story jumps from between modern day and the past continuously throughout the book.

Although the writing was fantastic the story was just alright. Some parts were fantastic. When I first started listening to this book I thought that I was going to be hooked however this feeling quickly disappeared. The story veers away from the central themes and this can just be frustrating. The author also starts certain themes and then just sorts of forgets about them. I found this frustrating however I am not completely convinced that this isn’t some kind of comment on life itself. Things start, they don’t always come to a satiating end. You just need to deal with it. If this is the case then it is purely executed and it just made me feel sort of disjointed. I often found myself drifting off when listening to this book, which is never good, but then again I never seemed to miss anything that was important so the story clearly wasn’t moving along that quickly. The characters in this book are fantastic. Their relationships with one another are totally believable and on occasions very tragic. I drew similarity throughout the story between myself and the various childhood friends that I had growing up. Tracy and the narrators friendship is timeless.

This book explores lots and lots of different themes. Gender, race and class are probably the 3 biggest themes but in no way are they all the themes this book explores. Although I read this book this month mainly because it is written by a women this book showed me a life experience quite removed from my own. I am a white, middle class woman who grew up on the west coast of Scotland. The narrator of this story is a black, working class woman who grew up in the East End of London. This book made it startlingly clear to me that I defiantly have not read enough books written by BME writers, more to follow on this in March.

I listened to the audio book of Swing Time and I have to say Pippa Bennett-Warner’s reading of this book was fantastic. I cant fault it. In general I enjoyed this book, I don’t think I will read this particular book again but I defiantly will read some more Zadie Smith.

Happy Reading!

Book 5

I am not sure what I just read. How have I never read  The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry before? This book is just, its just great. I have had this book on my to be read list for some time now. I cant even remember how it got there but, when i saw it was a children’s book with only 83 pages and that I needed to read 5 books in the month of December to stay on track I thought why not. I also had this strange, and I am not quite sure where it came from, feeling that this book would make me feel all warm and festive. I wouldn’t say that it did that but this book took me on an adventure that spanned a lot more than 83 pages.

The Little Price tells the story of, funnily enough, a little prince and his journey from his little asteroid planet to earth. Although this book is technically a children’s book it is so much more than that. This book is filled with moral life lessons. It forces you to think about the world and all of the beautiful things in it. On every other page I found myself thinking about how stupid grown ups are for always rushing around and not using their imagination. The inner child in you will defiantly appreciate this book. I read this book on kindle and the illustrations that were in the kindle version added so much to the story. If you get the chance to read this book on paper defiantly do it. I am now on the hunt for a beautiful copy of this book. I know for a fact that I will read this book over and over again, it just has so much to give. I don’t really want to say much more about this book. With only 83 pages it could be easily spoiled. Instead I am going to add 5 of my favourite quotes that have made it into my little quotes notebook below. If you haven’t read this book already, go and read. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Happy Reading!

 

“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.”

“Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.”

“I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I have seen them intimately, close at hand. And that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them.”

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“I showed the grown ups my masterpiece, and I asked them if my drawing scared them. They answered why be scared of a hat? My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant.”

 

 

Book four

Book four of the 50 in a year challenge is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. This book was recommended to me by a family friend and I am thankful as this is not the kind of book I would normally pick up. In fact I would go as far to say that apart from The Girl on the Train this is the first thriller/mystery book that I can remember finishing.  I normally loose interest after a few chapters. I guess that is one of the good things about this challenge. Once you start a book you kind of have to finish it. The Shadow of the Wind tells the story of Daniel Sempere a young man living in Barcelona. At the beginning of the book Daniel comes across a copy of a book written by the author Julián Carax. This sends him on a path of discovery as he tries to find out who Julián Carax is and why someone is hell bent on destroying all copies of his books.

I have such mixed feelings about this book. When I first sat down and begun reading the book I was spellbound. The book is beautifully written, almost a love letter to literature as well as to Barcelona. The whole idea of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books caught my imagination and I was sure at the end of chapter one, that this book was going to feature in my top 10 books from this challenge. Unfortunately, I quickly got board. Although the book is beautifully written the stylistic writing becomes tiresome after a while. It also lends itself unfavourably toward cliches. The writing style also made the characters hard to believe and sometimes I just found myself reading for the sake of reading and not really taking in the story. At parts its feels as though the author has swallowed a thesaurus and that is never good.  The stylistic writing did lead to some lovely quotes though. The story itself is slow until around 60% of the way through the book. There was a point where I considered starting to read another book in its place however I am glad I stuck with The Shadow of the Wind, the gripping second half made up for the slow first half.

There are many characters in this book and one thing that Carlos Ruiz Zafón does very well is to help the reader keep track of who all the characters are. I was not once was confused about who a person was or what significance they held to Daniel and to his quest. The male characters in the book are all strong however the female characters, not so much. I guess you could argue that Nuria Monfort has a little more depth to her than the other female characters in the book but she is still weak and seems to exist only in the shadows. Daniel himself is likeable and I could relate to him. He is inquisitive, and I liked that. In many ways though Daniel is a walking cliche, he wares his heart on his sleeve and isn’t the most intuitive of people.  I personally think the most interesting character was the old hatter. There is much more to this character than meets the eye and I appreciated this. Fermin Romero de Torres is the source of a lot of the humour in this book and at times the comedic lift is really needed. The character is however ridiculously misogynistic and this made me feel uncomfortable, he was unpredictable and some of the jokes that were designed to make me laugh instead just made me cringe. I also just didn’t get Inspector Javier Fumero, the less said about him the better.

The setting of the story is beautiful. This book has made me want to visit Barcelona, a city that was not previously particularly high on places to visit. The book also contains a handy sort of travel guide in the back and I will defiantly use this when I visit the city however I have heard that you can also go on planned The Shadow of the Wind tours in Barcelona. The book also has a Gothic tone to it that really suited post civil-war Barcelona. It got to the point when I was reading this book I was scared of the dark. No book has affected me this much since Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. I know a fair bit about the Spanish Civil War but virtually nothing about Franco’s Spain, which is pretty shocking and this book has spurred me on to go and learn more.

I am glad I read this book, and although I found it to be flawed I enjoyed it. It is defiantly not the worst book I could have read. I would also recommend this book to someone, although it was not my cup of tea I know a fair few people who loved this book and it seems to have a large following. If you looking for a beautiful thriller/mystery that will transport you to another world then this may be the book for you. If not, I would maybe give it a miss.

Currently reading and loving The Little Price. I am hoping to get it finished before the end of the month.

Happy Reading!

Book Three

I loved The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Eiking. What a wonderfully warm little book to read during Christmas. I picked up a copy of this book around a month ago during a trip to the book store. The front cover caught my eye and I thought it looked like a nice little coffee table book. We are looking to travel to Scandinavia in the new year and I thought this book might teach me a little about Danish culture. I sort of forgot about this book and thought I would just throw it into Decembers to be read list as a quick read during a busy month.

I came in from work one cold night, turned on the Christmas tree lights, lit a candle, made a cup of tea and sat down to read The Little Book of Hygge. Little did I realises that what I was doing was was very hyggeligt. Hygge hard to describe and this book does it perfectly. Hygge is the feeling you get when have been out all day hiking and you return home to homemade stew surrounded by friends and family. This book claims that hygge is more of an emotion than a thing in itself. It turns out that hygge is something that we have been practising in our household for years. Candles are forever burning and cosy throws and tea are in almost limitless supply. In fact as I write this I have candles on, a throw over me and a cat sitting on my lap. So if hygge a specifically danish thing? or is it present in every culture and the Danes have just found the perfect way to describe it? I haven’t yet quite decided but I think in Scotland we use a lot of the same techniques as the Dannish to get through the long cold winters.

This book shows all different kinds of hygge, all of which I would expect most people to be able to relate too. When I purchased this little book I was concerned that the book might be a marketing tool telling people that if you want to happy like the Dannish you need to buy this and that. I wasn’t really into that, but like I have said I liked the front cover and the pictures were pretty. This book is far from a marketing tool. In fact in order to make your house more hyggeligt you probably already own all of the things needed for a hygge night. This book is about slowing down an enjoying all of the small things in life. The book is easy to read and encompasses various diagrams and beautiful photos that encourages you to stop and look. I do not think it would be possible to rush your way through this stunning little book.

If I had one criticism of this book it would be that to me and I would image a lot of the people around me, hugge is very obvious. I am very fortunate in the sense that I live in a very homely home and often make a conscious effort to surround myself with the people that I love. I don’t really need coaching on how to do it. This book also repeats itself and states the obvious a lot of the time. It dose however encourage you to stop and think and I am all for  that.

All in all this is a lovely little book that will make you feel warm and cosy. It also makes a great gift. I gave a copy of this book to a close friend before I has even finished reading my copy. If you fancy giving this a little read defiantly buy the hard back copy of this book. The kindle version will not give the same experience.

I am plodding on with Shadow of the Wind and will hopefully have a review for you in the next couple of days.

Happy Reading!

Book Two

The Martian by Andy Weir is one of those books that has been reappearing on my Audible recommendations list for some time now. Every time I logged into audable Matt Daemon’s face would appear on the front cover of the book. I don’t like Matt Daemon, or books about space . So, there is no chance I was going to read this book. Well after some gentle persuasion, a friend at work convinced me to give it ago. It had a spare audible credit and I suppose if it turned out not to be my kind of thing I am sure my Fiancé would give it a go. Well how wrong I was. THIS BOOK IS FANTASTIC! I laughed, I cried, I also for a short period of time convinced myself that I understood Chemical Reaction Engineering (don’t worry a proper academic in Chemical Engineering put me in my place).

Set in the not to distant future this book tells the story of Mark Watney. An astronaut who finds himself stranded on Mars. I am not going to say much more than that. I don’t want to give the story away. What I can say is that this book is fast paced. It is exciting and I found myself on a number of occasions sitting outside of my house, not wanting to turn the book off and go in. This book is really approachable for people who have little or no knowledge of Science and Engineering. Although I cant say how accurate the science in this book is it is not condescending to people who are a lot more intelligent than me and get this kind of thing! The reason for this is all down to the lead characters fantastic sense of humour.

The character of Mark Watney is just fantastic. He reacts exactly the way I would expect someone to react to being left on Mars. Well someone with the training that is, if you left me on Mars I would curl up in a ball of self pity and die. Mark’s story is told through mission logs that he continues to write on a daily basis(or a sol basis to be precise, see I did learn something about space in this book). In these mission logs we learn what Mark is up to, both with spacy type things as well as his new found love for 70s television shows. Mark’s character is very much the guy next door and I guess this is why I warmed to the character from the offset.

This audio book is read by R.C Bray and he does a fantastic job. You can tell exactly what kind of mood Mark is in within the first few words of each chapter.  The difference between Mark’s carefree attitude and the rather more stressful atmosphere at mission control is done really well. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the narration. Not once did I get board and this is quite unusual. I often find myself drifting off and needing to hone back in on what is happening in the book.

If I had one criticism of this book it would be why the hell did they make a movie of this film, directed by Ridley Scott starring Matt Daemon and Sean Bean! This stopped me reading this book for so long. I really shouldn’t have judged the book biased on this but I felt that the story would be predictable and boring and how wrong I was. Lesson learned.  I am going to watch the film this weekend and I hope that it proves my concerns wrong but I get the feeling Mark Watney’s sense of humour and fantastic sprit will disappear and I will see America saving the day..once again!

The next audio book I am going to read will be an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s Christmas time after all. I don’t think I will include this as its a adaptation.

Hopefully I will get an actual book I have read to you shortly. The Shadow of the Wind is great and I cant wait to talk about!

Happy Reading!

Book One

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney was one of the books this month that I was most excited to read. I had heard wonderful things about this book and had come across some great reviews for the Audio book read by Shelly Atkinson. McInerney won the Baileys Woman’s Prize for Fiction for her depiction of the messy lives of a group of misfits living in Cork and messy is definitely one word to describe this book.

The book starts with a murder taking place at the hands of the mother of one of Cork’s biggest gangsters. This is the catalyst for a whole host of events that carry the reader across a span of 5 years. At first you do not see how all of the character lives are intertwined and I liked this. It is exciting to learn that characters that you have known for many chapters are involved in events that you would not have necessarily linked them to. The only problem is, I don’t really like many of the characters. The majority of them are weak, stereotypical and very predictable. Often the relationships are cliche and I just found it hard to believe that these characters could be real people. I ddid feel some connection with Ryan though. As a teenager with so much potential unfortunately Ryan’s social situation sends him into a life of crime.  I should say that I began this book soon after finishing Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch and I feel that this may have impacted on how I approached The Glorious Heresies. The books are similar with regards to the fact that they are stories dealing with the coming of age of a young male who is surrounded by a life of drugs and crime. I feel that I may have held extremely high expectations for this book that unfortunately, it failed to meet.

Although the book itself is not to my liking Shelly Atkinsons reading of the book is fantastic. I normally struggle to listen to audiobooks that are not read by someone with a well spoken English accent. This is not the case here. Atkinson has a really thick Irish accent and I feel that this really complements a lot of the dark humour in this book. The separation of characters is clear and it is easy to slip into the story as soon as her voice comes through the speakers. If I had one criticism of the reading of this book it would be that some of the female characters, particularly Maureen, are read with a slightly screeching tone that I found could be slightly grating after a while. I do think though that I would not have finished reading this book if had tried to read this on my kindle. I don’t think I would have gotten through Chapter one!

Next audio book – The Martian by Andy Weir.

Happy Reading!

Everyone starts a blog in their 20s right?

50 books, one year. Why? because I genuinely think my cat is more intelligent than me! I legitimately asked someone at work the other day there if time zones existed before planes. I mean of course they must have what kind of idiotic question was that? but there you go, it came pouring out of my mouth, like idiotic word vomit.

Since graduating from University  a year ago with a masters degree in Play-writing and Dramaturgy I have done absolutely nothing except get up go to work, come home, watch some crappy television and then go to bed. Not exactly the most stimulating routine. In an attempt to stimulate my brain and maybe surpass my feline house mate in general intelligence (though given that the little devil is able to convince both me and my fiance on almost a weekly basis that he is being starved  I feel the bar has been set pretty high) I have decided to increase the amount of books that I read in a year by almost double.

Last year I read some great books after being gifted a kindle and subscribing to audible. After years of reading plays, reading about plays, reading about how to write plays the rediscovery of the written word has been fantastic. Now I say written word. Most of the books I “read” are audio books. There is a reason for this. I am dyslexic and I recon that I could cycle the length of Britain in the amount of time it takes me to read a standard novel. I am no Chris Froome, in fact I have been overtaken by a toddler out walking when I was out cycling so, you know, its going to take me a long time to finish a book. I also have an 88 mile round trip to work daily and audio books have proved to be a life saver for those long and boring commutes. That doesn’t mean that I wont read some books in the traditional sense over the next 52 weeks. That just wouldn’t be right. This year I intend to read 25 written books and listen to 25 audio books. I will listen to longer books and read shorter books in order to reach the goal of 50 books by December 2017. I have not set out a full list of books to read this year. This is mainly because I love to get book recommendations from people. Some of the best books I have read I wouldn’t have picked up if friends hadn’t recommended them. Feel free to send my book recommendations at any time.

December 2016’s books will be;

  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon  (Read – Kindle)
  • The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (Audiobook)
  • The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Eiking ( Read – Hardback)
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (Ready – Kindle)
  • The Martian by Andy Weir (Audiobook)

 

Happy Reading!