Monthly Roundup – July 2017

July. Lovely July. Full of sun and books, two of my favourite things. As I did a lot of reading this month, I won’t waste any more time and just get into what all these books were!

I began the month by reading books two through six of The Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore. As I have discussed the series in more detail in a previous blog post, I won’t mention much here, just that I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience. The plot was great, the characters were great (mainly) and I really enjoyed the immersion of reading all of the books back to back. As this was so fun, I am inspired to try this approach again i.e. taking a series that I started reading as the novels were released but lost track of and reading them, if not back to back, then at least close enough together to keep the storyline fresh in my mind. A series that I might try this with is the Wereworld series by Curtis Jobling. I read three of this series (I think there are six in total) as they were released and can’t remember much, only some vague recollection of humans turning into animals or being part animal or something! Mainly though, I remember really enjoying the books so hopefully I will get around to reading the whole series sometime soon.

After finishing the Lorien Legacies I decided to read Down Under by Bill Bryson that my Dad bought me, which is basically a travel book about Australia. I will admit that having been in the alien, sci-fi, YA world of the Lorien Legacies for six straight novels, I did struggle at the beginning to get into this book. Once I did get into it, though, I found it really funny and entertaining, much like the first Bill Bryson book I read a couple of months ago (The Road to Little Dribbling). This one was a little different though as The Road to Little Dribbling is about the UK so I found it much easier to visualise what Bryson was talking about, whereas Down Under took  some Googling and imagination! Despite this it was a good, fun read which has even made me want to visist Australia myself one day.

When I finished Down Under I went to the library for the first time in ages! I was actually looking for The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood because I have been meaning to read it for months but as they didn’t have it I chose a YA called We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen instead. This book was narrated by two teenagers who end up living together because the mum of one and dad of the other are in a relationship. It was another book that I struggled to get into at the beginning, I think perhaps because the main characters were quite a lot younger than me, in their early to mid teens, while I have hit twenty now. But, as the novel went on I found it a really sweet read that dealt with a lot of important and timely topics like bullying, homophobia and grief.

Having finished We are All Made of Molecules, I wanted quite a quick read because I had ordered The Handmaid’s Tale to the library and wanted to be able to start it as soon as it arrived. In this vein, then, I picked up Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote which follows Holly Golightly (played by Audrey Hepburn in the film), a whimsical socialite, around New York in the 1940’s. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t really enjoy this read; I didn’t really like any of the characters, I wasn’t that bothered about the plot and the whole time I was reading it I just sort of felt like I was missing something. Maybe it was because this was the first novel I had read in quite a while that was just a bit meh, but this was not one of my favourite reads this month!

As Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a short book it actually only took me a couple of hours to read and so The Handmaid’s Tale was not ready for me yet. While I waited, then, I decided to get a headstart for University in September and read one of my module books, namely the Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliffe, which is for my Visions of Past and Future in Children’s Literature module. Historically, a group of Romans called the Ninth Legion disappeared, along with their standard, the titular Eagle, in Northern Britain. What happened to them is a mystery and this is Sutcliffe’s take on it. I had actually already read this book once before, a few years ago, just after watching the flm starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell. When I read it that time I found it a little bit boring, I think because the film has a lot more action, or at least action sequences, which I had been expecting to encounter in the book too. This time, though, taking the book on it’s own, I really enjoyed it. One thing I especially enjoyed both times was the bromance between the two main characters, Marcus, a Roman and Esca, a Briton which is really sweet. Once I had finished The Eagle of the Ninth, I was pleased to hear that the Handmaid’s Tale was ready for me.

When I had ordered The Handmaid’s Tale at the library one of the librarians overheard and had told me that everyone had to read The Handmaid’s Tale at least once in their life. Having fulfilled my quota, I have to agree. Just to give a really basic summary, it is narrated by Offred, the titular handmaiden, negotiating the republic of Gilead (which was once the United States). The handmaidens are a group of women who each belong to a family (Offred literally means of Fred) for the sole purpose of having the male’s children. Not only is the novel completely timely despite having been written in 1985 (I’m not sure there will come a time when it isn’t timely), but the narrative voice is stunning, giving incredibly vivid descriptions of her world in Gilead, even while occasionally casting it’s own reliability into doubt. It is truly an amazing and important novel and I would urge anyone to give it a go.

My final read this month was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams which follows a man called Arthur Dent who survives the destruction of planet earth. I mainly read this novel because it was recommended to me and to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t entirely my cup of tea. I have mentioned in a previous blog post that I am not the biggest sci-fi fan and, as the title suggests, this novel is quite sci-fi. It also struck me as a novel that I would perhaps like to read aloud or read with others because it’s actually a really clever, witty and funny book and because of this, at time, it felt strange to be reading it quietly to myself. Even so, I’m glad I read this novel as it is one I have heard a lot about and always thought about reading. To have done so feels like a nice accomplishment.

Moving into August, I am now reading Shakespeare by Bill Bryson and so far I have mixed feelings towards it. On the one hand, it feels like a lot of words basically saying that we know nothing for certain about Shakespeare. On the other hand, though, as well as discussing Shakespeare, there is a lot about London and England in the time of Shakespeare and I find these sections really interesting and enjoyable, especially when I drop on something I remember studying in my History A-Level.

Top Pick:

Even though I really enjoyed reading The Lorien Legacies, it has to be The Handmaid’s Tale, both an amazing and important novel.

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So there we have it, July done and dusted. Going forward, I hope to finish Shakespeare soon,as it is only short, and then who knows what the Summer days of August will hold? Something good I hope!

 

 

Monthly Roundup – May 2017

May was a pretty busy month for me – I had coursework to hand it and I was back and forwards from University for exams which meant that most of my time was spent either on a train or holed up in my room revising. At the end of the month I also moved out of my current University accommodation which meant packing and transporting a whole load of things including some pretty heavy books!

With all of this going on I didn’t necessarily read less this month, I just read differently. Normally my monthly roundup consists of a few fiction books, some of which¬†I am studying at University and the occasional non-fiction. This month, though, I read three non-fiction books mainly, I think, because I find it much easier to read non-fiction while revising for exams (I’m not sure why, I would have thought I’d prefer fiction to get away from the real world of revising but obviously not!), and one YA fiction book.

The first book I read this month was ‘The Bookshop that Floated Away’ which is about the author, Sarah Henshaw, travelling around Britain on her bookshop barge. This book has been on my ‘to-read’ list for a while as I love books about books and in fact, this book was recommended in ‘The Bookshop Book’ by Jen Campbell (a great¬†book about different bookshops all around the world). I really enjoyed this read, mostly because I really like Sarah Heshaw’s narrative voice. I also massively admire Sarah’s determination and drive and since reading have been telling myself to ‘be more Sarah’, meaning if things don’t work to try harder and that just because¬†I don’t think I’m good at something doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. There is also a really interesting section of the book written from the boat’s perspective which is a cool change and has also given me my current favourite book quote ‘we¬†were made of sterner stuff than feather’ (p. 183).

The next book I read was ‘Almost Adulting’ by the YouTuber Arden Rose. I should point out now that I have never watched any of Arden’s videos and that might have been my first mistake. I was more drawn in by the title of the book than anything else because I often feel like someone struggling to fit into the world of adulthood. The book was more biographical than I expected but, again, this was probably more to do with me than the book. Ultimately, this wasn’t one of my favourite books this year but there were bits that made me laugh and I feel like everyone could find something they liked in there.

Next I went for ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’ by Bill Bryson which my Dad gave me.¬†Here, Bill Bryson travels around Britain and gives his opinion on things he finds funny or strange or anything else between. I actually really enjoyed this book, it was the first Bill Bryson¬†book I have ever read so I enjoyed a new, unique and often funny narrative voice (although I didn’t agree with everything he said, but you never can!). It was also really nice reading this book, about travelling, on sunny train journeys with my headphones plugged in¬†because it was a real escape from the stress of exams.

The last book I read this month was after my exams had finished (yei!) and it was ‘The Names they Gave Us’ by Emery Lord. Earlier this year I read another book by Emery Lord ‘When we Collided’ which I didn’t enjoy so much, but I¬†really loved this one! It is about a Christian girl called Lucy who goes to work at a camp for troubled kids over the summer as a favour to her mum whose cancer has reappeared. Although I guessed quite a few of the twists before they happened (no spoilers!) this was still a really enjoyable¬†read. It had some good messages about accepting people and¬†was really interesting for me personally as I think it’s the first YA novel I have read that really explores faith so that was cool¬†too.

Onto my current read, then,¬†and I’m really excited because I have finally (finally) picked up The Book Thief (by Markus Zusak)¬†again. At the end of May I could feel myself sliding into a reading slump so I decided that it was finally time and I was not mistaken! I am currently¬†enjoying it just as much as the first time I read it. Interestingly, though,¬†I have realised that I’m reading it differently and I think this is really to do with studying English literature at University. I always loved the language of this novel but now, not only do I think¬†the¬†writing¬†is¬†beautiful, I know more why i.e. I know more¬†what Markus Zusak is doing. Amazingly this has made me appreciate the novel even more than I already did!

Top Pick:

I think for my top pick in May I have to go for ‘The Bookshop that Floated Away’ because it really made me laugh and, without getting too clich√©, I feel like it has actually changed the way I live a little bit (be more Sarah!).

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So, there we have it, onto June (half way through the year!), when I will hopefully finish The Book Thief and get a few more reads in, although I have no idea what yet!

P.S. I promise I will write a blog post sometime that doesn’t¬†include The Book Thief (but what can I say, it’s in the name of my blog!!).

P.P.S. Almost Adulting doesn’t appear in the feature¬†image because somewhere between my University accommodation and my family home I seem to have misplaced it!