Sunday, 31 May 2015

What I've read this month (May)

Two trips away, to Wiltshire and then camping in Hastings, plus an illness has meant that blogging hasn't been a priority this month. To be honest I'm giving myself a little break, over two years of regular posting has left me feeling burnt out, and as I began to see it more as a chore than a hobby, the quality of the content was suffering. 

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, Therese Anne Fowler, hardback, photo, book cover, UK, book, review
I'm going to Istanbul on Thursday, so my hiatus is going to carry on for at least another week. Hopefully when I return I'll have the time and motivation to start posting regularly again. 

Anyway, here's what I've read this month-    
  1. Robin Hobb, Golden Fool
  2. Therese Anne Fowler, Z; A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
  3. Chibunda Onuzo The Spider King's Daughter
  4. Lauline  Paull, The Bees 
  5. Rene Denfeld The Enchanted 
  6. Anthony Doer All the Light we Cannot See (I was 2 chapters from the end when this was mistakenly taken back to the library) 
There wasn't a dud among this month's books. The weakest was The Spider King's Daughter, and that was still readable. it's sparse writing style just meant it was slightly confusing sometimes about what was going on, but it was still interesting. I know very little about Lagos, so it was good to find out more more about the city and Nigerian culture. 

Most of these books are deserving of a full blog post to themselves. The Bees - who would have thought that a novel about a hive would be so gripping? Yes it is about actual bees, but it is so much more than that,  it is a dystopian novel about oppressive regimes and power structures. I was cheering on Flora 717 just as hard as I did Katniss or Offred. 
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The Enchanted is almost Kafkaian. A novel set on death row, it is psychological tract on criminal responsibility, mitigation and the American justice system. Odd, but provoking. 

I devoured Z in a day. If you haven't got a holiday book sorted yet, you may want to add this to your pile. A fictionalised account of Zelda Fitzgerald, the 1920's 'It girl' married to one of America's most famous classic writers, F. Scott. The real Zelda was complex, infuriating and glamorous, and this characterisation shines just as bright.

All the Light we Cannot See would probably be my monthly top pick - but alas due to a mix up I haven't finished it yet- so it may well have a poor ending! I'm betting it doesn't though. Books about World War II are available in abundance, but rarely are they this good, or this original. Once I've got it back from the library (I'm 9th in the queue) I promise to do a full review. 

Actually - once I got down to it, writing this blog was fun, I'm still going to take a break but I'll be back before you know it! xxx

Sunday, 10 May 2015

library haul

It was my birthday on the 8th, and as well as doing lots of other lovely things, one thing I was also keen to do was visit the big library in town. Usually I just go to my local, which is round the corner from house, but the selection has been poor recently, and because of the occasion I thought I should do it probably.

Some people might be a bit dismissive about looking forward to a birthday visit to the library, but for me its the little things that make the day enjoyable.

Anyway, here's what I picked up:-

1. The Spider King's Daughter, Chibundu Onuzo. A story of star-crossed lovers in Lagos. Abike Johnson lives a privileged life, but an encounter with a street hawker changes her life when they strike up a tentative romance.

2. Silver, Scott Cairns. When a young woman has to identify her dead father's body, she uncovers a shocking secret that makes her question her own identity. The blurb on the back makes me thing think this novel will cover trans issues- but I could be wrong. I'm not sure how I'll get on with reading this one- in this edition the pages are incredibly white- which can cause me difficulties because of my dyslexia, it would be a shame to miss out on a potentially good story for this reason though.

3. Written on the Body, Jeanette Winterson. I want to give Winterson more of a chance after really enjoying Weight. This is a love story, and a meditation on the body.

4. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, Therese Anne Fowler. A fictional account of the worlds first flapper and her author husband  

5. Grimm Tales, Philip Pullman. Love fairy-tales, love Philip Pullman.

Monday, 4 May 2015

wish list

I've just come back from a mini-break to Wiltshire- so expect some photos of some historical properties and pretty gardens coming up in the next few days.

Whenever I National Trust property I always make sure to pop into their secondhand bookshops, as they do paperback for 50p and hardbacks for £1.50, which is incredibly good value. There wasn't anything that grabbed my fancy this time though, so I'm currently at a bit of a loss of something to read.

I do have a rather extensive wish list however.....

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Friday, 1 May 2015

what I've read this month (April)

Sorry I've been m.i.a again this month, I've just been extremely tired. I have managed to get a fair amount of reading done;- 

  1. Chris Abani, Song for Night
  2. Charlaine Harris, Dead Ever After 
  3. Irvine Welsh- Sex Lives of Siamese Twins
  4. George R.R Martin, A Clash of Kings (re-read)
  5. Laila Ibrahim, Yellow Crocus 
  6. Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive (memoir) 
  7. Susanna Kaysen, Girl Interrupted (memoir)  
I read the bulk of my bumper library haul, but just couldn't get into In Praise Of Hatred and I haven't even started The Kingdom of Bones. I'm a couple of chapters into The Seven Sisters, and so far so good, the reason I haven't progressed further with it is because it's rather chunky. Far too heavy to be carting around on my commute. 

Anyway, out of the books I have finished this month, Yellow Crocus is the shinning star. A powerful historical novel told from the perceptive of a wet nurse and her charge. I completely wore myself out as I stayed up half the night to finish it. Highly recommend. My mum loved it too. 

Song for Night  is an interesting one, a tiny novella but every word has a big impact. Inspired by Dante's Inferno, it is the story of a child solider who wakes up to find himself alone after a bomb blast. There is so many horrific things about this story, the nameless boy has had his vocal cords severed, so he won't cry out and forewarn the enemy, but it is also beautifully written. This juxtaposition makes for a memorable novel. 

I also read two memoirs about mental health. Girl Interrupted is closer to a novel, and Reasons to Stay Alive more like a manual, so they are not directly comparable. Both however are inspiring and honest accounts of mental health and recovery.  

Monday, 27 April 2015

Betty Blythe tearooms

We've been to Betty Blythe tearooms before and had such a fabulous time, we decided to go again. The tearooms are located inbetween Kensington Olympia and Shepard's Bush train stations, they can be slightly tricky to find, so make sure you bring a map.

Betty Blythe, London, tearooms, afternoon tea, review, Kensington, photos, dressing up box, 1920s vintage, celebration, pictures,
More pictures under the cut:-

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Laila Ibrahim, Yellow Crocus

I borrowed this book from the library, but after I finished reading it I wished I owed it, because I can already see it's the kind of novel I'll want to read again and lend out to other people.  
Laila Ibrahim, Yellow Crocus, historical fiction, slavery, mammy, black wet nurse, literature, review, book review

The Plot: Mattie, a slave living on a Virginian plantation, is taken from her baby son and forced to be a wet-nurse to her newly born mistress. Mattie comes to care for Lisbeth, though she never forgets her son. As Lisbeth grows she is forced to confront her position in society, and her complicity in a system that dehumanises and brutalises her surrogate mother. 

Rating: 4/5
*Spoiler Alert*

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Wimpole Estate & Farm at Easter

Spring has well and truly sprung at Wimpole Estate and Farm, we spent the day there on the Easter Monday, the house was all done up with Easter eggs, lambs and goats were gambolling and the daffodils were turning their faces to the sun.

Wimpole Estate & Farm, visit, Spring, Easter, lambing session, interior, inside the house, photos, pictures, photographs, historical, National Trust, property

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Penguin, Little Black Classics

I'm at little bit late to the party on this one - as they were published back in March, but thought I'd still do a quick post to bring these marvellous little books to other people's attention:-

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Penguin Little Black Classics are  80 slim snippets of novels, collections of short stories, essays or poems all newly packaged and on sale for a mere 80p each. They have been released to celebrate the imprints 80th Birthday.  Authors include Karl Marx (who is currently selling the best), Jane Austin, Edgar Allen Poe and Samuel Pepys. As they are 64 pages long,  authors that some people might find intimating are made manageable.

As they're from Penguin they are beautifully, and simply designed. I can't wait to get my grubby little hands on them.

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My top choices would be:

  1. A Pair of Silk Stockings, Kate Chopin
  2. Circles of Hell, Dante
  3. The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  4. Woman Much Missed, Thomas Hardy
  5. The Fall of Icarus, Ovid 
  6. Anthem for Doomed Youth, Wilfred Owen
  7. Gobin Market, Christina Rossetti
  8. Come Close, Sappho
  9. The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent Tongue
  10. Wailing Ghosts, Pu Songling   

*hint hint* it's my birthday next month

Monday, 13 April 2015

Charlaine Harris, Dead Ever After

I have a friend how is obsessed with True Blood and The Southern Vampire Mysteries the tv programme is based on, she was so enthusiastic about it, I thought I should give it a go as well. A couple of years ago I binge watched the programme and binge read the books.

However, after we'd moved further away from each other, and she wasn't there to remind me when a new book/programme was out I gave up on the whole thing.  Until I spotted the final book in my big library visit and thought I might as well see how the story ends.

Charlaine Harris, Dead Ever After, Sookie Stackhouse, True Blood, The Southern Vampire  Mysteries, book review, 12 book in series, final, review,

The Plot: Telepathic waitress, Sookie Stackhouse has had a fair share of drama; she's discovered she's part fairy, her brother has become a were-panther, her boss is a shape-shifter, she's had relationships with 2 vampires and a were-tiger, survived Hurricane Katrina and made a ton of supernatural and human enemies. This is the last book of a 12 part series, will Sookie get her happy ending?

Rating: 2/5

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Irvine Welsh, The Sex Lives of the Siamese Twins

I'm a fan of Irvine Walsh (see my reviews of Filth and Skagboys) but if I ever got the opportunity to meet him I think I'd be a bit scared, his novels are so dark and violent that I'd be worried that he'd be a bit of a bruiser. His author photo in he inside cover doesn't hep, he looks tough.


Irvine Welsh, The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins, hardback, book cover, picture, review, book review, blog, fitness, obesity, fiction, trainspotting,

 The Plot: Lucy Brennan is a personal trainer in Miami, she has no patience for obesity or laziness and is obsessed with her own calorie count. When she disarms a gunman, she is touted as a have-a-go-hero by the media, and the publicity attracts offers of a tv show. Lena Sorensen witnessed Lucy's heroism and in a bid to emulate Lucy and improve her own life, the overweight and reclusive artist becomes her client.

Rating: 3.5/5