What I’m Reading This Week

This last week, despite being really busy work and life wise, was a good one for me for both reading and blogging. I managed to make it through all the books I had on the go and catch up on some reviews I’ve been wanting to write.  I’m just over three months into my blog now and feel I’ve settled into a routine that works for me and am starting to develop my writing style. One thing I haven’t quite figured out though is how to plan which books I’ll read when – I have a running list but never seem to pick the one at the top…another always seems to be more appealing.

Whilst this isn’t anywhere near the end of the world, as I have just renewed one particular book from the library for the third time, I thought that writing a regular post on what I want to read next might help give me focus.  As I’m actually starting the week with no books on the go because I finished J by Howard Jacobson  last night, this seemed like a good day to start. And, as it’s Monday, I’m linking in with Sheila at Book Journey, who has a weekly post I’ve enjoyed following – It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

So, after a much longer pre-amble than I intended, here are the books on my beside table (or kindle) this week:

The Book: The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth

The Wake

The Blurb: Everyone knows the date of the Battle of Hastings. Far fewer people know what happened next…Set in the three years after the Norman invasion,The Wake tells the story of a fractured band of guerilla fighters who take up arms against the invaders. Carefully hung on the known historical facts about the almost forgotten war of resistance that spread across England in the decade after 1066, it is a story of the brutal shattering of lives, a tale of lost gods and haunted visions, narrated by a man of the Lincolnshire fens bearing witness to the end of his world. Written in what the author describes as ‘a shadow tongue’ – a version of Old English updated so as to be understandable for the modern reader – The Wake renders the inner life of an Anglo-Saxon man with an accuracy and immediacy rare in historical fiction. To enter Buccmaster’s world is to feel powerfully the sheer strangeness of the past.

The Reason: Because I’ve heard so much about it. I downloaded a sample because I was worried about the language but, having read a few reviews saying it needed to be read aloud and finding this works, I’ve decided I don’t need to be worried and am actually looking forward to reading something which feels completely different.Read More »

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

Title: The Dud Avocado
Author: Elaine Dundy
Published: 1958
Source: Library
Rating: 4 out of 5

The Dud Avocado.indd

It’s 1958 and Sally Jay Gorce, hair “dyed a marvelous shade of pale red so popular with Parisian tarts”, is an aspiring actress in her early 20’s and living in Paris courtesy of her rich Uncle Roger who, after one too many runaway attempts as a teenager, told her he would pay her way for two years once she had finished college so she could have the adventures she dreamt of having.

“I just want to eat about a hundred million oysters and two tons of caviar and go swimming naked in champagne…”

Dying her hair is just one of the many ways she has embraced the Parisian way of life; she hangs out with artists, stays up late drinking absinthe and has become the lover of an Italian diplomat (not his mistress, he already has one of those). From pretty much page one of the book, her life is disorganised and chaotic; when we meet her, she is in an evening gown in the middle of the day as she slept late and missed picking up her clothes at the dry cleaners.

“That’s the story of my life. Someone’s behavior strikes me as a bit odd and the next thing I know all hell breaks loose.”

Read More »

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One’s Own was my Classic Club Spin book back in August, something I was quite pleased about as it’s one of those books I’ve always wanted to read. Although I admit to knowing very little about it before I picked it up, I just knew it was one of those works that has had an impact on a lot of people and is frequently referenced in feminist literature. I thought it was something I would probably enjoy reading and get a lot out of. I did on both counts.

A Room of Ones Own Cover

The book itself is not that long at 123 pages, an extended essay based on two lectures Virginia Woolf gave to female students at Cambridge in 1929 on the subject of Women and Fiction. It is easy to read, though some references to writers and the politics of the time weren’t that familiar to me so I may have lost some of the finer points of her argument, and not dry at all (a slight worry as I knew this was initially written to be heard, not read).

Woolf starts by discussing what could be covered under the heading, women who write fiction, for example, or women in fiction, before stating that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”. This is because without these things, she will never have the space and freedom to write; she will spend her time instead trying to earn a living or make ends meet, taking care of her home, her husband and her children, and bending to the wills and expectations of a patriarchal society (Woolf writes, “England is under the rule of a patriarchy. Nobody in their senses could fail to detect the dominance of the professor. He was the power and the money and the influence.”) Read More »

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

Title: My Life in Middlemarch
Author: Rebecca Mead
genre: Biography, Memoir
Rating: 4 out of 5

IMG_0044.JPG

What Is It About?

Aged 17 and desperate to begin life away from her coastal English town, Rebecca Mead was introduced to Middlemarch, often said to be the greatest English novel of all time. The book never left her and, over the course of her life, as she left home and went to college, moved to America and became a journalist, met and married her husband and became a mom, she read it more than once, taking something different from it each time. Here, she revisits the novel, looking at how it reflects Eliot’s life and how aspects of her own life mirror those of the characters.

What Did I Think?

Following on from my reading of Middlemarch, I was really eager to pick up My Life In Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead as I’d heard some great things about it and I was interested to see what she had to say and why the book had affected her so much.

I’m glad I read both books back to back as the original was still very fresh in my mind so I didn’t have to search my memory when Mead references sections of the book and, as my opinions of the characters were still clearly formed, I was able to take a moment here and there to reflect on how her feelings about a character might change mine (or not). Read More »

What to Read Next?

After finally finishing Middlemarch earlier this week, I decided a trip to my local library was in order to stock up on some (possibly) lighter reading fare to take me through the next few weeks. Coming home with me were:

The Book: The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy (chosen for the title more than anything else)

Dud Avocado

The Blurb: The Dud Avocado follows the romantic and comedic adventures of a young American who heads overseas to conquer Paris in the late 1950s. Edith Wharton and Henry James wrote about the American girl abroad, but it was Elaine Dundy’s Sally Jay Gorce who told us what she was really thinking. Charming, sexy, and hilarious, The Dud Avocado gained instant cult status when it was first published and it remains a timeless portrait of a woman hell-bent on living.

The Book: Fallout by Sadie Jones (chosen because I’ve read everything else she’s written and really enjoyed them)

Fallout

The Blurb: Leaving behind an emotionally disastrous childhood in a provincial northern town, budding playwright Luke Kanowski begins a new life in London that includes Paul Driscoll, an aspiring producer who will become his best friend, and Leigh Radley, Paul’s girlfriend. Talented and ambitious, the trio found a small theater company that enjoys unexpected early success. Then, one fateful evening, Luke meets Nina Jacobs, a dynamic and emotionally damaged actress he cannot forget, even after she drifts into a marriage with a manipulative theater producer. As Luke becomes a highly sought after playwright, he stumbles in love, caught in two triangles where love requited and unrequited, friendship, and art will clash with terrible consequences for all involved. Read More »

10 Books (that have stayed with me)

Recently, I was tagged in a Facebook post asking me to list the 10 books that have stayed with me in some way. They didn’t have to be great works of literature or classics, just ones you can’t forget. I loved the idea as, to me, that is the sign of a good book – one you can’t put down and can ever completely let go of. After posting my list, I thought it might be fun to share it here:

1. Rebecca’s World by Terry Nation: I remember being read this book at school (it would have been when it first came out in 1978) and loving the idea of a girl my own age going on a great adventure in another world where she meets amazing creatures and monsters and uses her own ingenuity to overcome them and get back home.

Children having adventures also appear in my next two books:

2. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

3. Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton

I think these books helped me learn that life is an adventure and children can do and be anything they want. I really want to instil this idea in my daughter and all three of these books are already sitting on her bookcase for when she’s a bit older. The Famous Five series may also have had something to do with my love of mystery and crime fiction including:Read More »

The Ties That Bind by Erin Kelly

Title: The Ties that Bind
Author: Erin Kelly
Genre: Crime, Suspense
Rating 5 out of 5

IMG_0016.JPG

What is it about?

When Luke, a struggling crime writer making ends meet by tending bar, meets Jem, a handsome, successful, lawyer, he thinks his prayers have been answered – especially when Jem offers to support Luke whilst he works on his novel. Unfortunately, the offer comes with more strings that Luke likes; Jem wants to control every aspect of Luke’s life. When it all gets too much, Luke heads to Brighton, hiding out from Jem in a property owned by Joss Grand.

For a crime writer, it couldn’t be a luckier break, Grand used to be a gangster in the ’60s and was prime suspect in the murder of his childhood friend and business partner Jackie Nye, although nothing was ever proved. Now an old man better known for his property business and charity work, Luke convinces Grand to tell his story, selling it as one of rehabilitation and good deeds but all the while wanting it to be one of murder and betrayal (not realising what he wants could put his own life on the line).

What did I think?

I picked this book up at the library without too much thought because I had really enjoyed reading Erin Kelly’s The Poison Tree. I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest.Read More »

Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

Title: Apple Tree Yard
Author: Louise Doughty
Genre: Suspence
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Source: Purchased

17452179 (1)

What is it about?

Yvonne Carmichael is fifty-something, happily married and a well respected scientist. When she meets “X” she does something totally out of character and begins an affair, one that has terrible consequences and ends with her and her lover in court and facing prison. Apple Tree Yard opens with the court case and then takes us back to the start of the affair. It isn’t explained why the two are on trial but given they are at the Old Bailey, you know it can’t be good. You assume it’s murder but you can’t be sure.

What did I think?

I had been looking forward to reading Apple Tree Yard for a while and it was a book I couldn’t put down when I started reading because I wanted to know what happened. Or, at least, I wanted to know why Yvonne and “X” were on trial. Whether they were guilty or not didn’t interest me so much because I didn’t care about them.Read More »

Emma’s Secret by Steena Holmes

Title: Emma’s Secret
Author: Steena Holmes
Genre: Popular Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5

Emmas Secret Cover

What is it about?

After being missing for two years, five year old Emma has been returned to her family, who are struggling to adjust, especially her mom Megan. Megan is terrified of letting Emma out of her sight. Her eldest daughter feels guilty, her middle daughter resentful. Her husband, Peter, seems to be losing himself in work and, Megan fears, the arms of his attractive business partner.

As for Emma, she is trying to readjust at the same time as dealing with the loss of the only family she remembers – Dottie, the elderly woman with Dementia who took Emma thinking she was her granddaughter and is now dead, and Jack, who Emma thought was her grandfather. Jack is still alive but barred from seeing Emma. He had no idea what his wife had done, believing she had rescued Emma from their drug addict daughter. When he found out, he returned her to her family. Now he’s alone.

It might not be so bad for Emma if her mom could let go but she can’t. She tries to dress Emma differently, pretends to mail pictures Emma draws to Jack, and refuses to say either Dottie or Jack’s name in her house. The fact that this hurts Emma doesn’t seem enough to stop her, neither does the fact that her other daughters are also hurting and her husband is pulling away. In fact, Peter is keeping a big secret from Megan. And so is Emma. Both worry what will happen when Megan finds out. Read More »

My Holiday Reads (Bout of Books)

This week, I’m on holiday, which is lovely. Not just for the break but for the fact that it means I’ll be able to just read. To make sure I do, and don’t get distracted by the TV too much, I thought I would set myself a challenge, linking in with Bout of Books Read-a-thon. The read-a-thon is a week, starting Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th and is a reading competition with yourself – set the number of books you plan to read and try to achieve it.

I’ve set myself a challenge of four books and will update via twitter as I go. They are:

1. Middlemarch by George Elliot

Middlemarch

2. The Long Legged Fly by James Sallis

The Long-Legged Fly (Lew Griffin, #1)

Read More »