Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A Month in Books: December

I cannot believe that we've come to the end of December already. This was a pretty busy month for me work-wise, but I'm happy to say that I still managed to find time to read four books (so pretty much a book a week!).

The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue (2008, Picador)
Donoghue's 2010 work Room seemed to have been universally adored, and I really enjoyed it. This novel was published prior and is a historical work focusing on a divorce scandal based on real life events. On the face of it, this should have been massively compelling but I just found that this book really dragged. Whilst the central three characters were fairly well drawn, especially Helen the woman at the heart of the scandal, the supporting characters were really 2D. Also there was a load of info-dumping about the early women's rights and suffrage movements in Britain through endless conversations between characters that weren't that central to the plot, and just served as a reminder of how problematic early feminism was. If you are unaware of how bad it was to be a woman in the 1900s who wanted out of a marriage then I'd recommend this, but apart from that I can't say I'd advise rushing to pick it up.

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (2002, Vintage)
I read The Secret History in 2013, and was excited to read Tartt's next work, basically so I can justify buying The Goldfinch which was one of the year's big releases. This novel is set sometime in the late 1960s, early 1970s, in Mississippi. Harriet's older brother was found dead on Mother's Day several years ago, and one summer Harriet takes it upon herself to try and find out who killed her brother. Tartt's writing vividly brings to life the town of Alexandria and the stifling heat and the sinister atmosphere this brings with it. All the characters are brilliantly drawn as well, from Harriet to her great aunts to the family of criminals Harriet comes to interact with. However, this novel was over 500 pages long and didn't really need to be, in my opinion. This meant that it did drag somewhat, and then massively sped up in the final few pages. Also, if you need a neatly finished plot this really isn't the book for you. I still love Tartt's writing, however, and am excited to pick up The Goldfinch soon.

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (2014, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
This novel received so many positive reviews on BookTube on its publication that I simply had to pick it up. It is narrated by an unnamed inmate in a maximum security prison, on death row. He is telling the story of The Lady who is attempting to have an inmate named York's sentence changed to life imprisonment, as opposed to death. The novel is pretty slim but Denfeld's writing is incredible. I sympathised with the narrator despite myself, probably due to his obsession with reading, and the other characters as well. There is something of a love story weaved into the narrative as well which is really beautiful. The only reason that this isn't a five star read for me is that some of the 'magical realism' elements didn't really work for me and I also guessed at some of the twists and turns present. But I do really, really recommend this.

The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart (2005, Delacorte)
Me and Lockhart have such a rollercoaster relationship and this is where I think I can say 'It's not you, it's me'. Ruby Oliver is a teenager suffering from pretty severe panic attacks. She begins to attend counselling sessions and her therapists asks her to write a list of every boyfriend, almost-boyfriend of wish-he-was-my-boyfriend she's had; after noticing guys coming up a lot in her conversations. Ruby herself then narrates each chapter which is named after one of these guys. Lockhart gets anxiety down so very well and Ruby just feels incredibly real. However, I did find this book uncomfortable to read, just because some of what Ruby experiences with regard to Jackson, her ex-boyfriend, felt a little too close to comfort to some of my own experiences with both boys and anxiety. This is the start of a series, which I may well continue as it would appear Hot Key Books is reprinting Lockhart's early works. However, I think we need a bit of a break.

That's it for this month of reading, and for my reading in 2014 in general. I read 54 books this year which I'm pleasantly surprised by. Keep your eyes out for a 'Best of' post soon.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

It was the end of a decade, but the start of an age

I've spoken about my complete love of Taylor Swift before and when I saw this 1989 tag on Charlotte's blog, I couldn't really resist it.

1. Welcome to New York // If you could live in any city, what would it be and why?
It's a definite tie between London and Birmingham. London is such a buzzy city and I love everything about it from the architecture to the shopping to the fact that it's pretty much the home of the arts and political scene in England. However, Brum will also have a place in my heart as it was the city that I lived in and worked in during university and I miss it a hell of a lot.

2. Blank Space // What is something that everyone thinks is true about you but is actually false?
Probably that I'm super together and organised and unflappable, This is laughably inaccurate.

3. Style // What is one item in your closet that makes you feel unstoppable?
Just one?! Probably one of my (many) playsuits. Or my black lace Monki underwear which always gives me such a boost.

4. Out of the Woods // What is one thing that you are afraid of?
Fire. I literally get nervous lighting candles and hated working with bunsen burners when I was in school.

5. All You Had to Do was Stay // Who is someone you wish was still in your life?
I wish I still lived with my housemates? But really, I'm kind of good with people not being in my life who don't deserve to be.

6. Shake It Off // What is something that you have had to shake off?
General negativity and anxiety from myself about my future. 

7. I Wish You Would // What is something you'd like to happen right now?
I'd like this weird crush I'm developing to maybe go somewhere? Maybe?

8. Bad Blood // Have you ever had someone stab you in the back?
Hasn't everyone?

9. Wildest Dreams // What would you like to be remembered for?
Being a semi-decent person who bought more happiness to others than sadness.

10. How to Get the Girl // What is your favourite chat-up line?
I  reaallly don't like chat-up lines, just say hi.

11. This Love // What is something you got back that you never thought you would?
My desire to write. I definitely lost it in my teens and throughout my time at uni when I just told myself that nothing I had to say mattered when compared to these Great Writers. And now I have a diary and a blog and little novel ideas and it's wonderful.

12. I Know Places // Where is one place that you always feel safe?

13. Clean // What is an important lesson you have learned in life, and how did you learn it?
That I am enough being the person I am ("You are enough, you are so enough"). After years of poor self-esteem and then a break-up that left me feeling like a piece of poop I was really not in a good place. However, over the past year I've had a long look at myself and those around me and come to a place of self-acceptance that I didn't think I would ever achieve.