April Reading

Dear Reader,

I posted my March reading catch-up rather late, didn’t I? Let’s hope I get this one done in a slightly more timely fashion.

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I started the month off with Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. This has been sitting on my bookshelf for ages so I was excited to finally get around to reading it. I had my reservations from the first chapter. A lot of the writing in this book is extremely allegorical and I can only really deal with that in limited amounts. When Ellison was narrating the plot or when our main character was making an impassioned speech, I could get into the book and enjoy it. However, when that wasn’t happening I found my attention wandering and myself getting bored. It’s a shame that this was such a mixed bag for me. I can see why it’s so highly regarded though. And it has made me interested in reading some of his essays.

After Invisible Man I needed a comforting read. I was just in a place where I needed a book that was going to give me a warm hug. So I re-read The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. I loved it the first time, I loved it even more this time. It has everything I adore: found family, working hard, strong friendships, space gays. A perfectly wonderful book.

When browsing in Waterstones a few weeks ago I stumbled across I Am Not Your Negro: A Companion Edition to the Documentary Film Directed by Raoul Peck. I’ve not managed to see the documentary yet, but I knew I needed to buy and read this book. It combines extracts from Baldwin’s books, essays, letters, notes, and interviews to create a masterpiece on the history of race in America. I highly recommend it.

In February I picked up Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars, but put it down quickly because I wasn’t in the mood for it. In April, I tried again. This time with the Penguin Classics edition translated by Robert Graves, revised by James B. Rives. This translation is easier to read than Catharine Edwards’ and much better for my current mindset. Roman literature isn’t my strong point, but I’m taking it slow. I’ve read the biographies of Julius Caesar and Augustus so  far and been enjoying myself a lot.

All in all I’d say it was a pretty positive month of reading! No books were so dull they needed to be abandoned, no books were wholly unenjoyable, and I had a nice little mixture of genres.

What books have you been enjoying so far this Spring?

Love Lydia x

March Reading

Dear Reader,

Spring has finally arrived! Sunny evenings are here. Daffodils are still dotted around in some places (just about). And I’ve had a month of mixed reading experiences. It started off on a high note though, so that was nice.

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When you read library books you don’t always haven’t access to all the books you want for your photo.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I began reading Affinity by Sarah Waters in February. I had the joy of finishing it in March. Sarah Waters can be a bit hit and miss for me, but this one definitely hit the spot. This was the first book I’d read in quite a while that sucked me into the story, the writing, the characters, and the world. She held me in suspense and the eerie setting of Millbank Prison was captured perfectly. The ending of the book left me devastated in a really good way, which is always a plus as far as I’m concerned. Eternal thanks to Sarah Waters for existing and writing.

Then we moved on to Revival by Stephen King. I’ve only read a couple of King’s books, but I enjoyed the ones I’ve read before and I fancied something slightly trashy and easy-going. It started off well; the story gripped me and it was easy to read. Then it all started to go wrong in the last third of the book. Characters’ choices became utterly unbelievable, the sexism became way too much to deal with, and the plot started dragging. Also, there was a whole paragraph where our narrator talked about how hot a dead woman was. So by the end of the book I was just glad that the experience was over.

I tried reading The Ancient Garden by Hwang Sok-Yong, but after 85 pages I just couldn’t get into it. I picked it up when I went to withdraw it from our library because it was falling apart. The title caught my eye and the premise sounded interesting, so I thought I’d take it home to read it. But I couldn’t get into the writing, and it wasn’t focusing on the aspect I was interested in (how our main character struggled with re-integrating into modern society after two decades in prison). I don’t make myself finish books I’m not enjoying, so this one’s going on the “abandoned” pile.

I picked up The Mysterious Mr Quinn by Agatha Christie without knowing it was a short story collection, so that was a surprise! It was fairly entertaining, but that’s about all I can say on it really. I enjoyed some stories more than others, and none of the “reveals” took my hugely by surprise, but it was a pleasant enough read.

After wanting to read it since its release, I finally got around to Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me: and Other Essays. This was such a great essay collection and I know I’m going to re-read it again and again. There’s a lot of statistics packed into her essays, which just made the points that she made hit home all the more. I didn’t enjoy the Virginia Woolf essay so much, but that didn’t detract from my overall appreciation. It was wonderful.

Are you enjoying spring-like weather where you are? Or are you in that southern hemisphere and experiencing the delights of autumn instead? I hope that you’ve all read some beautiful books recently.

Love Lydia x

February Reading

At the end of February I re-discovered what it’s like to love reading a book. It was a pretty great experience. But let’s start at the beginning.

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Although I didn’t finish Black and British in January, I just wasn’t feeling it in February so I didn’t pick it up. It’s pretty heavy-going and needs a mind that is paying attention, which was not me this month. It’s waiting patiently for me to feel like picking it back up again.

Last year, Jonathan Safran Foer finally released another novel, Here I Am, and I was delighted to finally get around to reading it. I still love Foer’s writing and he still has that ability to write a phrase that impacts me on an emotional level. This book kind of lost itself in the second half though. When he started focusing on the conflict in Israel it felt like it was meandering a little bit and it began to drag. It felt like an editor needed to go in and sharpen it up. I found his writing much stronger when he was writing about the family and their relationships with each other.

I dipped into Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars this month but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just not in the mood for it. It’s currently lying abandoned next to my bed. Maybe later, Suetonius.

I picked up Emily Carroll’s graphic novel, Through the Woods, from the library on a whim and I am so glad that I did. It’s a collection of creepy, horror stories and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Her artwork was beautiful and really captured the eerie settings. Not all the stories had completely satisfying endings, but it was still a good read.

Towards the end of the month I borrowed Affinity by Sarah Waters. This was the book that made me remember what it’s like to love reading a book. I didn’t finish it in February so I’ll write more about it in next month’s post, but suffice to say I adore Waters’ storytelling.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, but my Harry Potter re-read is still going great. I’ve started The Order of the Phoenix which is one of my favourites from the whole series. I’ve mainly been listening to it in audiobook format but it still deserved to be in the photo.

So, that was my February reading experience. I was tempted to say “not the greatest month”, but honestly, I am done with judging my reading. I enjoyed what I read for the most part, so I’d call that a success. What have you been reading recently?

January Reading

I used to do monthly reading wrap-ups on my YouTube channel, but I never really enjoyed making them that much. So, ultimately I stopped filming them. After all, what’s the point in forcing myself to do something I don’t enjoy if I don’t have to do it?

Stopping doing these videos though, has meant that I’ve begun to miss sharing the things that I’ve been reading. I feel like the people who view my content are missing out on some great recommendations! Just because I don’t film a video about a book, doesn’t mean I don’t think everybody should read it. So I figured I’d start doing some catch-ups on this blog where I chat about what I’ve been reading for the last month. And what better time to start this than two months in to the new year? Don’t judge my lack of time management please.

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I started off January by getting into Black and British by David Olusoga. This is an absolute tome of a book and it’s going to take me forever to get through. It’s interesting and important and expands on a lot of the things that were discussed in the BBC documentary. I’d highly recommend you read this book and/or watch the documentary.

I read a couple of poetry collections in January. I refreshed my love of Sappho and read Stung With Love, which is a collection translated by Aaron Poochigian. The layout of this collection was beautifully done. Each poem has the notes that go along with it written on the adjacent page. This meant that I didn’t have to flick back and forth between poem and notes pages, nor did I have to cope with a whole load of footnotes. The translations were lovely. Sappho will always be my one and only. I picked up Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric from the library. This is a collection that everybody should probably read because of the content and subject matter. The actual style of poetry itself just didn’t gel with me though. Which is sad. But what can you do?

It was delightful to finally get around to J. P. Sullivan’s translation of Petronius’ The Satyricon and Seneca’s The Apocolocyntosis. The Apocolocyntosis was just okay. But The Satyricon was a freaking delight and I absolutely adored it. It was wild. Incredible stuff.

I’ve also been really enjoying my Harry Potter re-read. I finished The Goblet of Fire in January. Have a nosey at some of my thoughts on my Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1881703618

Hopefully you’ve all had a good reading month. Or a good film month. Or a good TV month. Or just a good month in general, even if you didn’t consume much media at all.

Here’s to hoping that I learn how to write blog posts again, because it’s been a while!

Some Favourite Short Novels

Short books are a wonderful thing. If a writer has the ability to tell an interesting and engaging story in a limited number of pages, then they have a gift. A short novel is brilliant at any time, but they are particularly good for reading in between long or particularly dense books; they’re a perfect antidote and provide a nice change of pace.

Their short length also tends to mean that they are less plot driven and more character based, which is what I like in my fiction. So, I decided that I would share with you some of my favourite books that are fewer than 200 pages. If you read any of these, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

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The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide – 140 pages*

If you’re a cat lover, this is an essential read. It touches on that complex and emotional attachment you can develop with a cat. It explores humanity, relationships, and love in a touching and sometimes heart-breaking way. Beautiful.

 

Continue reading

A Mixed Bag || September

So Autumn is officially here now that September has ended. Big jumpers have already made their way back into my life again – I’m pretty stoked about this. Anyway, on to the books that I read. I read slightly less in September than I have in recent months, but I’m still happy with it. It was a bit of a mixed bag; one book was one of my favourites of the year, one book I couldn’t even finish.

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I read my first ever Shakespeare play this month! Okay, I read a couple at school, but never cover-to-cover and I never finished a complete one. (Don’t do this, kids. I do not recommend this. Do as I say, not as I do.) Anyway, I read Hamlet and it was pretty great. It was very emotional, funny at times – which I wasn’t expecting – and dramatic. Now I need to read more Shakespeare. Continue reading

Sunshine Reads || August

So the month of August sun has come to an end and now the evenings are beginning to close in. But let’s not focus on that right now and instead we’ll chat about my August reads! I read seven books in the month of August and I’m pretty happy with that. It was a mixed bag, ranging from a 2* to a 4* rating, but I’m happy with the books I read. There were a few impulse reads, which meant that I went out of my usual comfort zone on occasion, which is always good to do from time to time. Here’s a quick recap of the books that I got to read last month.

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The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek was a book I picked up from the library on a whim. It explores a twisted, love-hate relationship between a mother and daughter, repressed sexuality, and an unhealthy student-teacher relationship. At times, it was a little dull and uninteresting, at other times I was gripped and pulled into the story. In general, Jelinek was at her best when writing the most uncomfortable and dark parts of this novel. A mixed bag.
(Content warning for self-harm scenes and a graphic rape scene.) Continue reading