Wednesday, 30 April 2014

what I've read this month (April)

My monthly round-up of my reading for April. Clink on the links to find my reviews:-

paperback, book review, spines, book covers, stack, pile, photo, photograph

1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
2. Conn Iggulden, Bones of the Hill (Conqueror series: book 3)
3. Conn Iggulden, Empire of Silver (Conqueror series: book 4))
5. Underground, Haruki Murakami (non-fiction)
6. Margaret Atwood, Positron (Episodes 1-3)
7. Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go 
8. Patrick Ness, Ask and the Answer 
9. Patrick Ness, Monsters of Men 
10. Zadie Smith NW
11. Octavia Butler, Wild Seed 
12. Donna Tartt, The Secret History (re-read, possibly one of my favourite books of all time)
13. Kevin Brockmeir, The Illumination 

14. Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger 

I've managed to read loads this month, including two novels that have been on my radar for a while Americanah and NW. Though neither were a disappointment, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel about Black diaspora, identity and love was my favourite of the two. I should do a full review of NW really, but in brief, I found it to be pedestrian and unnecessarily crude in comparison to Zadie Smith's usual standard.

I'm also pleased that I read a non-fiction book, Haruki Murakami's Underground as it is part of my new years reading resolutions. Though as it is about a terrorist attack on public transport, it probably wasn't the best idea to read it on a long train journey- completely freaked myself out.

Patrick Ness, review, Chaos Walking, The Ask and the Answer, Monster of Men, YA fiction, paperback, UK edition

My least favourite of the bunch was The Chaos Walking trilogy, which may seem a bit weird because I obviously spent a fair bit of time reading all three. I know people rave about this series, but I found it just too problematic, for a full discussion of why, see here.

My highlight this month was Octavia Butler's Wild Seed, as it is startlingly original (again, I should probs do a full-length review of this). The only downside is, her books are really difficult to get hold of in the UK so I might have to wait a while for the sequels.

I've read 42 books so far this year, not bad going at all! For a full list and links to my reviews click on the year in books tab or follow this link

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger

Moon Tiger has the kind of heroine that appeals to me, red-haired, sharp-tongued and quick-witted. The kind of woman who travels to exotic places, verbally spars with male colleagues and takes lovers.
Penguin modern classics, female author, Booker Prize winner, 1987, Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger, Egypt, war, world war II, war correspondent, lovers, glamorous, review, book, literature,

The Plot: Dying in her hospital bed, Claudia reminisces about her life and the men she has loved; Gordon, her brother and rival, Jasper, fickle and charming and Tom, the love of her life. Non-linear, the narrative skips between Claudia's childhood, her time as a war correspondent in Egypt and her dotage.

Booker Prize winner, 1987, Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger, Egypt, war, world war II, war correspondent, lovers, glamorous, review, book, literature,

Rating: «««« (4/5)

For my full review click under the jump, but in brief if you enjoy novels such as Julian Barnes Sense of an Ending or Alison Moore's The Lighthouse, books about retrospection and nostalgia, this should also appeal to you. Moon Tiger is full of charm, glamour and truth.  

Monday, 28 April 2014

Fictional Bucket List

For those of you who don't know, a bucket list is a list of wishes/goals you want to achieve during your life, for example swim with sharks or gamble in Las Vegas etc. A fictional bucket list is the same idea, but with a fantasy twist. 

So here's my literary bucket list:- 

1. Spend a term as Hogwarts, go shopping at Diagon Alley and play a practical joke on the Weasley twins (Harry Potter, J.K Rowling) 
2. Offer Achilles and Patroclus some relationship advice (Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller) 
3. Explore the spires of Oxford with Lyra and find out what shape my dæmon takes (Northern LightsPhilip Pullman)  

4. Shape-shift with Loki and swim with Jörmungandr to the base of Yggdrasil, the world tree (Ragnarok, A.S Byatt 
5. Have a jousting lesson with Brienne, learn about poisons at the House of Black and White and stand at the top of the wall with Jon Snow (Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R Martin)
6. Party hard at Gatsby's (The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald) 
7. Make Rhett Butler give a damn (Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell) 
 had so much fun coming up with this list. II'd love to know what you'd include in your fictional bucket list- add your suggestions in the comment below. 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

the undertakers' ball

"The unseen colossus of Charing Cross Station has discharged its most copious load of passengers for the day, and that flood of humanity is advancing through the streets. Hundreds of clerks dressed in sombre black are spilling into view, a tumult of monochrome uniformity swimming towards offices that will swallow them up"
- Michel Faber, The Crimson Petal and the White

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Canterbury Cathedral, inside

As promised, here is my second post on Canterbury Cathedral (the first can be read here).
royal burial, Canterbury Cathedral, medieval, church, visit, Thomas Becket, inside, architecture, history, historical, old, large, impressive, Henry II, pilgrimage, arch, pillars, photo, photograph, day trip,  UK, England

The building is even more impressive on the inside. 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Patrick Ness, Chaos Walking Trilogy

After finally convincing my mum to read The Hunger Games (which she loved by the way) I fancied reading some YA fiction of my own. I spotted the first of Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking Trilogy for a mere pound on Amazon kindle, which I quickly devoured, before scooting off the the local library to pick up the other two.   

photo, photograph, UK edition, The Ask and the Answer, Monsters and Men, Chaos Walking, Patrick Ness, YA fiction, paperback, book cover, review spoilers

The Plot: A month away before becoming 13 and officially a man, Todd is the youngest resident of Prentisstown - a town in which all the women are dead, and the men are plagued by Noise, a telepathic disease which means no thoughts are private. When Todd stumbles upon a silence in the Noise, his discovery has far-reaching consequence which threaten the survival of the entire planet.

photo, photograph, UK edition, The Ask and the Answer, Monsters and Men, Chaos Walking, Patrick Ness, YA fiction, paperback, book cover, review spoilers

Rather than reviewing the books separately, I'm going to lump them all together, so I'm going to put spoilers under the cut. However, in brief, if your perhaps looking for a book for adolescents/teenagers Chaos Walking is not a bad idea. In my opinion, it lacks the brilliance of  His Dark Materials or The Hunger Games, and isn't as a successful as them for YA/adult crossover, it's not without merit though. The initial premiss, pioneers to a new world and the complication of Noise, is clever and imaginative. My main gripe is with the main protagonist Todd, but like I said spoilers under the cut:-

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Canterbury Cathedral

I first went to Canterbury Cathedral when I was 11 with a school trip, so it's been a while. I think I appreciated it more this time, plus I could still remember some Thomas Becket facts to impress (bore) my parents with.

As usual, I'm splitting my visit over two posts, first up is my photos from the outside.

liquid confessing

"all this talking, this rather liquid confessing, was something I didn't think I could ever bring myself to do. It seemed foolhardy to me, like an uncooked egg deciding to come out of its shell: there would be the risk of spreading too far, turning into a formless puddle" 
-Margaret Atwood, The Edible Woman

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Conn Iggulden, The Conqueror Series

As mentioned in my March monthly round-up, I've been reading Conn Iggulden's Conqueror series. As I've now finished a further two books, I thought it was high time I filled you in with what I thought about them. By the way- if you want to read my review of Iggulden's other historical fiction series, follow this link.

Rating: ««¶¶¶ (2/5)

The first book in the Conqueror series details the birth of Genghis Khan and his rise to power, the following novels detail his conquests through China, Russia and Europe and the power struggles of his descendants. The fifth book (which I have yet to read) is centred on his grandson Kublai Khan.

Although I enjoyed the series, I thought the first two were the strongest, and I did tire of all the battle scenes. I think part of the reason I got bored was that I read all of the books in quick succession, if I had left a gap between them I perhaps wouldn't have found it so repetitive. I know some people who are new to the series will like that they don't have to wait for the next instalment, but for me it was too much. I greedily read the first two books, but by the time I got to end of third I was flagging, though I felt like I'd invested to much time in the series not to see it through to the conclusion. Though of course, when I finished Empire of Silver (number 4) I realised the story hadn't ended at all. 

For more of my thoughts, see below the jump:-

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Haruki Murakami, Underground

Carrying on my recent Murakami kick, I've recently finished reading Underground. Different from the majority of his other work, Underground is a non-fiction book of investigative journalism into the 1995 Tokyo subway attack.  

kindle, Haruki Murakami, Underground, Aum Shrinikyo, Tokyo, 1995, subway attack, sarin gas, book review, investigative journalism, non-fiction, personal response

Although I have heard of the attack before, I'm a little to young to remember any of the details, so the subject of this book was new to me. For those of you who don't know, the 1995 attack occurred when members of the Aum Shrinikyo cult released sarin gas on five subway trains. Thirteen people dies, fifty were severely injured and thousands more suffered ill-effects.

Rating: «««¶¶ (3/5)
For my full review, see after the jump:-

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

why I love Haruki Murakami

Whilst having a peruse around Amazon, (even though I'm on a self-imposed book buying ban) I found out that one of my favourite authors Haruki Murakami will be publishing a new book this summer, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Which got me thinking about why I like Murakami so much. 

1Q84, Haruki Murakami, book 1 2 and 3, UK edition, photo, photograph, hardback, Japanese, literature,

Fun fact for you- aside from some giant electronics manual, the most stolen books when I worked at Waterstones was Haruki Murakami's. Regularly I would go to put out the delivery and there would be a gap on the bookshelf where Murakami's books should be.

 Most of Murakami's novels, apart from Norwegian Wood, are really surreal; talking cats, astral projection, shifts in time and rainstorms of fish are not out of place in Murakami's work as he blends together the ordinary with the fantastical. You'll either love it, or hate it (or attempt to steal it from Waterstones).

1Q84, Haruki Murakami, book 1 2 and 3, UK edition, photo, photograph, hardback, Japanese, literature,

Murakami's style is instantly recognisable, he is experimental without being indecipherable. The alternate realities and characters he creates are unique and unsettling. Murakami is the master of the uncanny and incredibly quotable.

1Q84, Haruki Murakami, book 1 2 and 3, UK edition, photo, photograph, hardback, Japanese, literature,

If you're new to Haruki Murakami I suggest you start of gently with Norwegian Wood, as it is the most normal of his novels. It is a story about love, mental health and music. Give it a go first to see if you like if writing style. Then increase the weird and move on to 1Q84, which includes cults, mystic beings and a female assassin.

My favourite Murakami is possibly The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, a truly strange book about a missing cat.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

I reserved Americanah from my local library as soon as it was published, so I was thrilled when I got the phone call to say it had arrived. 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is amazingly talented, Half of a Yellow Sun is one of those most emotionally turbulent novels I've ever read. She's also a politically activist, a sample of her speech on feminism was used by Beyoncé on her track ***Flawless. 

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, review, book, Nigerian, literature, immigration, assimilation, Africa, America, love,

The Plot: Poised to return to Nigeria after living for many years in the United States, Ifemelu reflects on her childhood in Lagos, her time in the States and her first love, Obinze. Themes of identity, nationality, assimilation and racism are explored throughout.

To avoid spoilers my full thoughts are under the cut, but in brief, I found this novel to be insightful, honest and direct. Adichie writes with an agenda, and unflinchingly confronts controversial social and political issues with a deftness that means the novel is never preachy or condescending.  

Friday, 4 April 2014

Ightham House (inside)

More pics from my visit to Ightham Mote. If you're looking for something to do this weekend, I'd highly recommend a trip to Ightham. 

Ightham Mote, visit, England, History, Historical, interior, day trip, National trust, photo, photography,

The only criticism I have is the cafe is right near to the car park, I think they're missing a trick with this because many people won't bother popping in for a drink as they'll think they might as well wait till they get home.  

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Ightham Mote (outside)

As I mentioned in my Red House post, whilst we were in the area we popped over to Ightham Mote (pronounced 'item'), another National Trust property. It has a totally different feel to Red House, not as much a family home, but instead a proper castle.
Medieval, Ightham Mote, Tudor, castle, Kent, visit, day trip, courtier, UK, history, historical, fortified, black and white beams, moat, Spring, meadow, grounds, garden, flowers,

It wasn't owned by anyone notable, just courtiers of Henry VII and later new money Americans, but the building is fantastic- a combination of fortified stone castle and Tudor, wooden beamed manor. 


"The words were on their way, and when they arrived, she would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain"
-Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Red House (interior)

William Morris' influence can be seen throughout the interior of Red House, flowery wallpaper, huge settles done in a medieval style, and murals painted by his artist friends Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Lizzie Siddal.

Red House, William Morris, Philip Webb, architecture, interior, inside, Bexleyheath, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal, arts and crafts movement, art, design, photo, photography, tapestry, stained glass
unfinished tapestry of Aphrodite 
The house has only been owned by the National Trust for 10 years, so it still quiet sparse. They are still in the process of refurnishing the house as it was in Morris' day, and still uncovering original features hidden under layers of paint.

For more pictures of the inside of the Red House have a look under the jump:-

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Red House (exterior)

The sun was shining this weekend, so we took a trip to a couple of National Trust properties. First up, Red House in Bexleyheath.  

Commissioned by William Morris, Red House is a significant example of Art and Crafts architecture. Completed in 1860 the unique design rejected the conventional both Victorian industrialism and Georgian symmetry.  

Red House, William Morris, property, Art and Crafts Movement, Philip Webb, architecture, building, National Trust, property, brick, PRB, pre-Raphaelite brothers, sunshine, gardens, flowers, daffodils, Spring, visit, Bexleyheath, London,

For more photos, see under the jump:-