November ’16 Wrap Up

Books Bought

  • The Masked City, Genevieve Cogman
  • Songs, Robert Burns
  • Angela Carters Book of Fairy Tales, Angela Carter
  • Poems for Life, Various Authors

 

Books Read

  • The Hag Seed, Margaret Atwood
  • Yes Please, Amy Poehler

 

It’s been a pretty quiet month, reading and buying-wise – most of this month has been spend desperately scribbling sub-par essays, Christmas shopping and sorting our trip up to Edinburgh (photos and possibly a bookshop tour to come?) so I’m feeling a little behind. Although, as I type this I’m a good way through Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, which I think I’ll finish just too late to include in this wrap-up.

As for the books I’ve bought, I have imposed somewhat of a flexible buying ban on myself for the time being. I’m finding it far too easy to clutter up my bookshelves with exciting new releases, even though I have far too many unread books that at one point were themselves very exciting, then I get stressed because I don’t know what to read, and then I read nothing at all. A perfect circle of uselessness. That being said, I do have explanations for the books I bought, I swear.

The Masked City is the sequel to a book I already own, The Invisible Library, which I am very excited to read and is at the top of my 2017 TBR. I found the second book in a charity shop for only £2, and knowing that I had the first book lined up my friend convinced me that I was saving money in the long run, given that I fully intended to read it. Poems for Life, which I bought from the same charity shop, was entirely my own doing, on the other hand – it’s a beautiful forrest green clothbound collection of poetry, split into life events to which they’re most relevant. Not only is it just a gorgeous anthology to have on my shelf, but it was only £3 (*insert Say No To This lyrics here*).

Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales was also a defendable purchase; Matt and I had our first weekend away together in Edinburgh, and, true to form I spent the majority of it scouting out independent bookshops. The first of which was Transreal Fiction, a shop that specialises in sci-fi and fantasy titles, and when I saw this book poking out of one of the shelves I knew this was a god chance to buy it. I’ve been lusting after it in Waterstones for years, but this way I’ve supported an indie bookseller and gotten a great momento. Right?

Robbie Burns book of Songs was another buy from Edinburgh, an absolute bargain found in a secondhand bookshop. It’s a very old edition – it doesn’t actually have a date or edition on it, just the publishing house, so I may do some investigating – and for all the stereotyping it’s going to be something that always reminds me of our trip up to Scotland. It’s also a handy reference for remembering the words to Auld Lang Syne when I’m drunk at New Years.

Finally, on to the books I’ve actually finished this month: Yes Please was a little disappointing, so I won’t dwell on it for too long, but ultimately it wasn’t that funny or interesting to me, and considering I love Amy Poehler and it had been strongly recommended to me by various people it just fell a little flat. Sorry, Amy.

The Hag Seed, on the other hand, was absolutely incredible. This was Margaret Atwood’s retelling of The Tempest for the Hogarth Shakespeare series, which I was lucky enough to get a signed copy of when I went to her talk about the inspirations for the book. It’s about a disgraced theatre director who now works in a prison, getting convicts to perform Shakespeare and getting them to fully engage with the literature and the themes. Not only does The Tempest itself appear multiple times in its original form as a play within this book, but the narrative itself holds parallels, references, and themes with the source material too. It’s funny and dark and elegantly composed, and completely makes up for my otherwise barren month of reading.

What have you all read this month that you’ve enjoyed? And which books have you been buying? Let me know down in the comments!

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Why I stopped rating books on Goodreads

About halfway through this year I stopped giving books starred reviews when I marked them as read on Goodreads. Although I still find the website a useful tool for keeping track of what I’ve been reading (plus I find the yearly reading challenges great motivation for me to get off Tumblr and get reading), I find the rating system really unhelpful in categorising what I’ve read.

 

I almost always think a book is great once I’ve read it

Before the elation of finally finishing a book has worn off, I’m always inclined to give it 4 or 5 stars as I mark it as ‘read’. Usually, within a few days my opinion of the book as a whole is properly formed, and it may be that I didn’t actually find it that engaging, or I realised some elements or characters were problematic.

 

It’s not always that simple

It also happens quite often that my enjoyment of the book was very high, despite me knowing that it wasn’t well written, was problematic, was cliche, etc. By giving it either a high or a low rating based on these things I’d have to ignore another element of the book, and I really don’t have time to rate a book and to justify it, or to explain that I understand why it may not be a ‘good’ book even though I’ve given it 5 stars, nor, do I think, should I have to.

 

It makes reading seem like a chore

Feeling like I had to think about a rating for a book once I’d put it down straight away was something that played on my mind all the way through reading it, and not rating one book but then rating another made me feel stressed and as though I’d been neglecting a responsibility. By deciding not to rate anything on the account I made my reading experience much less stressful, and it meant I wasn’t rushing to form an opinion on anything that I’d read.

 

Do any of you rate books on Goodreads? Do you find it helpful?

Playlist for a Book: Song of Achilles

For my tiny gay Spartans.

 

song-of-achilles-1

 

Born to Die – Lana Del Rae

Warriors – Imagine Dragons

Stronger – Kelly Clarkson

If I Loved You – Delta Rae

Sex on Fire – Kings of Leon

Even Though You’re Gone – Angelis

Angel Down – Lady Gaga

Various Storms and Saints – Florence + The Machine

Red – Tyler Ward

 

Listen to it on Spotify here

 

October ’16 Wrap-Up

Books Bought

  • Bee Journal, Sean Borodale
  • The Gallery of Lost Species, Nina Berkhout
  • The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby
  • Dior by Dior, Christian Dior
  • Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
  • George and Sam, Charlotte Moore
  • Adulthood is a Myth, Sarah Anderson
  • Love Poems, Carol Ann Duffy

 

Books Read

  • The Raven King, Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby
  • The Bookshop, Penelope Fitzgerald
  • The Watcher in the Shadows, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • Adulthood is a Myth, Sarah Anderson
  • Love Poems, Carol Ann Duffy

 

To start out, yes, I have completely stolen this format from Hornby’s Polysyllabic Spree. No I am not sorry. It’s a damn good format.

This month was a bit strange for reading as it was the month I started back at university, so although I finished The Raven King fairly early on in October, every other book on the ‘read’ list was finished from the 30th onward (although I must add that most of these were books I had already started in previous months but not finished – if only I had the ability to read five books in two days!).

I had pre-ordered The Raven King on kindle before it came out way back in April, but for some reason despite my great love for this series I just never seemed to pick it up. But eventually I did finish it, and thankfully it was the beautifully written, climactic end to the series that I was hoping for – although now I’m just disappointed I can’t read any more about the exploits of these wonderful characters. Perhaps now would be the time to invest in physical copies and re-read them?

The Complete Polysyllabic Spree was a book I ran across quite by chance through a reblogged Tumblr quote, and I’m so glad I decided to give this book a go. It’s a collection of Hornby’s columns for the Believer where he chronicles his reading experience month by month, listing ‘books bought’ and ‘books read’ as above – and it was so great to find a kinship with another reviewer with a compulsion for buying more books that one could ever hope to finish in a lifetime, but that look rather impressive stacked in the living room – and consequently I added George and Sam and Random Family to my ever growing TBR after his glowing reviews of each.

The Bookshop is a tiny volume of literary fiction about a woman who opens a bookshop in a conservative small town in the south of England. Rather than being a fluffy number about the power of books that most such novels are, it’s quite a melancholy story about the ‘cultured’ vs. ‘uncultured’ (with the former being spiteful characters and the latter being lovely and kind-hearted, if adverse to buying books) and the pettiness of small town politics. It was definitely not what I was expecting to find when I cracked back the covers, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable and cleverly written book packed into 120 pages.

The Watcher in the Shadows is a book I’ve had on my shelves since Christmas 2014 – yes, yes, I’m a terrible person, blah blah blah – and although it showed dramatic and suspenseful story-telling, I’m not all that sure if it was worth waiting two years to get through. I didn’t realise until the end that it was supposed to be aimed at a younger audience, which does very much explain my overall reaction of ‘it was a pretty cool idea and well written but nothing to write home about’.

Adulthood is a Myth is a great little collection of Anderson’s comics, a lot of which I’d already seen floating around the internet but still make me laugh. I technically bought this book for my boyfriend, but I ended up just reading the whole thing over his shoulder. Every panel is funny, relatable (a particular favourite panel of mine involves a girl hiding under the covers shouting NOOOOOOO) and is such a great book to be able to flick through if you’re in need of a fast pick me up.

I’ve loved Carol Ann Duffy for years now, but I picked up Love Poems as I feel like I’ve only really experienced downbeat pieces of hers. As always she’s witty and clever, and not every poem is a mushy declaration of passion, but instead many are filled with narrative and more complex feelings that come hand in hand with love, such as jealousy, guilt, and sometimes, indifference. My particular favourite was one called Tea, which is probably one of the only poems I’ve read with such a sweet and innocent sentiment that doesn’t make me feel like I’ve just swallowed a spoonful of jam.

 

What books have you been reading this month?