Book Reviews | June 2017

As some of you may know, I’m currently doing a reading challenge to read 40 books in a year, after falling way short of my 52 books target last year. To be honest this year is going pretty abysmally too – at the halfway point of the year I’ve read 14 books, about 6 behind schedule, so I have some catching up to do if I’m going to make it to 40 by the end of the year.

In the meantime, this is my 6-month mark review of the best books I’ve read in the last three months (yes I know it’s a bit late – I’ve been busy!). And what I have lacked in quantity, I have certainly made up for in quality…

The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro

The Buried Giant was not what I expected at all, even though I’m not sure what I was expecting. Set in a mythical version of medieval England, the novel reads very much like a fairytale, full of knights and dragons and humble underdogs determined to fulfil a quest. But underneath the hero tale is a beautiful allegory about memory – about whether we would be best off without or worst memories, or whether losing them would diminish our sense of self. Like Never Let Me Go it’s slow moving at times but beautifully written, and I’m still not sure what to think of the ending. If you have any opinions on it, let me know.

The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides

The tone of this book puts me in mind of The Catcher in the Rye – even though the subject of the title are the five Lisbon sisters, the book is really about the group of men recalling their teen years who provide the plural narration of the novel. The boys are painfully predictable, romanticising the sisters as mysterious, ethereal beings who they lust after from a distance. Through the novel they seem to be wrestling with the mystery of why the sisters killed themselves, but the conclusion I took is that the reasons are as complicated as the girls themselves, who the boys never took the time to know.

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

I re-read this book literally on the road, flying along Cuban highways in dilapidated retro cars squashed in next to strangers who just happened to be going the same way. I’ve always found On The Road strangely therapeutic; it’s fast-paced, rambling, nonsensical at times, and yet like most Beat literature it is these very qualities that make reading it kind of magical. The characters might be irresponsible, self-indulgent narcissists, but at its core this book captures what it’s like to be young and disillusioned and directionless, and to throw yourself into life regardless.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernières

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin has been one of my favourite books ever since I read it for my A-Levels and fell completely in love with it. I hate the blurb of my copy as it undersells the book as some soppy, clichéd story of star-crossed lovers that you’ve heard a million times before, whereas in reality it is so much more. Corelli and Pelagia’s romance is intertwined with the atrocities of the Second World War, hilariously quick-witted jibes at the political figures of the time, and Carlo, one of the most beautifully tragic characters you will ever come across. Seriously, his character introduction is one of the most moving pieces of prose ever written.

The Coma – Alex Garland

I picked this novel by Alex Garland up cheap on Amazon, a couple of years after reading The Beach and loving it. The Coma by comparison is a short story, but packs a lot in to what becomes a seriously trippy novel. The novel begins with the protagonist getting attacked on the tube and beaten into a coma, and we spend the rest of the story following him around his consciousness as he tries to wake up, only ever half-sure if what we are reading is reality or imagination.

Oh, and a little-known fact? The ‘random words’ he screams in his head aren’t really random. Read the first letters of each word…

What have you been reading recently? Let me know in the comments, and follow me on Goodreads.

Book Reviews | March 2017

After last year’s failed attempt at reading 52 books in a year, I’ve scaled 2017’s challenge back to 40; a more manageable target that so far I am still managing to lag behind on. I have a preference for pretty, lyrical prose that demands I take time to appreciate, which usually means I take longer than average to finish a really good book. The usual distractions of social media, Netflix and blog browsing also take their toll, but reading has such a calming influence on my mind that I am trying to cut down on my screen time and reach for books instead. Here are the books I’ve enjoyed most in the first few months of 2017. Continue reading

For the Love of Print

At times like this, when life is hard and my reality feels a little too hard to face, escapism is key. Browsing flights, looking at job adverts in far-off cities and binge watching US teen dramas are all part of this coping mechanism, but nothing soothes me like curling up under a blanket with a book.

As an avid reader who always likes to have a book to hand and packs several books for every holiday, you’d expect me to have leapt on the Kindle bandwagon. But I’ve never been keen. Yes they’re super convenient and I’d save so much suitcase space, but for me nothing outweighs the comfort I feel when I open a paperback. I love the feel of the paper between my fingers, the musty smell of the pages, the beautiful cover designs. Continue reading

52 Books Reading Challenge: End of Year Review

A year ago I set myself the fairly ambitious challenge of reading 52 books in a year. The decision to do this challenge was driven mainly by the knowledge that I wasn’t reading as much as I used to; I’ve always been a bookworm and during university I burned through more than three books a week through sheer necessity, but in the last few years online distractions have pulled me further away from my bookshelves. I wanted to change that, and pay a little more attention to the variety of books I was choosing to read.

I came nowhere near hitting my 52 books target – the count currently sits at 36 and going by the size of my current read I’m only going to finish one more by the end of the year. But I have read significantly more than last year, and been more active in seeking out new authors and reading a more diverse range of literature. I’ve also loved recording my progress on Goodreads and reviewing the books, and plan to continue next year with a more manageable target. In the meantime, these are the books I’ve loved most over the last three months of the year. Continue reading

52 Books in 52 Weeks Reading Challenge

52 Books Reading Challenge: 9-Month Review

I’m now nine months into my ‘read 52 books in 52 weeks’ challenge, and I’m still a million miles behind reaching my target but I am so happy that it’s pushed me to dedicate more of my spare time to reading. I’m also really pleased with the book choices I made in the past three months; in my 6-month review I felt like I struggled to find even five books to talk about that I’d really enjoyed, but recently I’ve loved almost everything I’ve picked up. Here are my thoughts on some of my favourite books from the past three months. Continue reading

The Opposite of Loneliness, Marina Keegan

“We Have So Much Time”: On The Opposite of Loneliness

Aside from my Reading Challenge updates, I don’t really do book reviews on my blog. I think my English degree past leaves me worried that I’ll either come across as a pretentious twat, or try so hard to avoid coming across as a pretentious twat that I end up oversimplifying my thoughts to a mind-numbing extent. Whatever the reason, I usually just stick to short comments on my Goodreads account and discussions with my fellow bookworm pals, and that’s enough. But recently I read Marina Keegan’s The Opposite of Loneliness, and it got under my skin. It’s still there. So I’m going to try and put into words exactly what pulled me so deeply into this book, and why if you only read one thing this year, this should be it. Continue reading

52 Books Reading Challenge: 6-Month Review

At the beginning of the year I challenged myself to read 52 books in a year, and I’ve now hit the halfway mark on that challenge. To be honest it’s got away from me a bit – 3 months in I was practically bang on target, but since then the numbers have slipped and I’m a shameful 8 books behind. I’m trying not to let it get to me too much; in the past month I’ve been on a solo holiday and moved house, and a lot of my free time before that was spent organising those things rather than relaxing with a book.

Hopefully I’ll be able to make some ground up in the coming months, but even if I don’t  I’ll still be happy that I committed more time to reading, and expanded the range of books I’m reading. Here are a few of my most notable reads from April to June. Continue reading