Tag Archives: book challenge

20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge #20booksofsummer

I’m not very good with planning my reading ahead of when I actually pick up a book and get started with it, so it’s with some trepidation that I’m putting together a list for the 20 books of summer challenge (I found out about it over at 746books).

I already know I’ll read at least 4 books for book club – I know what 3 of them will be at the moment, so need to leave a spare place… but I haven’t… I also have a few books I’m already part way into that I will definitely finish over the next few months. I will add a couple of classics, and a few trashier ones. I have to add some books from my year long challenge that isn’t quite working out as I expected – need all the help I can get with this, so making sure a few are from that challenge on this list will help! I’m also adding a few books I *really* want to read soon.

I’m lucky that I will have a 6 week holiday to help me out with this challenge! *high fives fellow teachers*

  1. The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
  2. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
  3. Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor
  4. the Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  5. Hope in the Dark – Rebecca Solnit
  6. Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit
  7. Nobody Told Me – Holly McNish
  8. Dear Fatty – Dawn French
  9. Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
  10. The Power – Naomi Alderman
  11. The Lottery (and other stories) – Shirley Jackson
  12. Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  13. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
  14. The Jungle – Upton Sinclair
  15. A Quiet Storm – Rachel Howzell Hall
  16. How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran
  17. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  18. The Girl of Ink and Stars – Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  19. Wonder – RJ Palacio
  20. The Color Purple – Alice Walker

I’m going to reserve the right to make some swaps if I need to!

Anyone else want to join in? 😀

Book Review: Bel Canto – Ann Patchett

Oh wow, this book is beautiful. Beautiful. I’m so sad I’ve finished – I wanted to keep reading it for a while longer. I was never bored reading Bel Canto, and I couldn’t wait to find out how it all turned out. You are kept waiting and don’t get any resolution until the last few pages. It’s mainly about love, and falling in love, but it’s more than that and it’s captivating. It’s also about opera. I’m not an opera fan – you absolutely don’t need to be to enjoy this book.

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I won’t give any spoilers here – I wouldn’t want to ruin this book for anyone who hasn’t read it. If you haven’t read it I urge you to put it on your to-read pile and give it a go 🙂 I picked this up in a charity shop a few weeks ago because it is on my book challenge list for this year. I had no idea what it was about, but a twitter friend commented that it was a great book. I was sold, bumped it up my reading list, and it didn’t disappoint.

An unnamed south american country is trying to gain the business of a large Japanese electronics firm by holding a birthday party for its chief executive, Katsumi Hosokawi. He has no intention of investing in the country, but was persuaded to attend because they have managed to secure the internationally famous soprano, Roxane Coss, to sing at the event. Mr Hosokawi is a huge opera fan. Miss Coss is a phenomenal singer and people fall in love with her and/or her voice when she sings. The birthday party is well attended by many internationally important people who want the business of Mr Hosokawi’s company.

After the last note has been sung by Roxane Coss, terrorists storm the room to kidnap the country’s president. Unfortunately he didn’t attend the party because it clashed with his favourite soap opera. The terrorists have no back up plan and decide to keep the party guests hostage. This sets up the main events in the novel, and we are left with a cast of hostages and terrorists all cooped up in the large residence of the vice president.

The main characters are all interesting and the relationships between characters is the driving force of the novel. We don’t get to find out what’s happening outside of the house where the hostages are being held. I don’t want to give away any of the plot, but several characters fall in love, people make discoveries about themselves, and question what they have done with their lives so far.

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his and hers swimming lesson reads

I loved this book and I think I need to re-read the last chapter again just to go over it more slowly. I read it so fast because I just needed to find out how it all worked out. Sobbing, obviously, because it’s that sort of book. It reminded me of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin in that respect (one of my favourites, and the first book that had me in tears at the end). A good look for the swimming lessons waiting area, I think you’d agree 🙂

Book review: Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Oh wow, I loved this book. Unbelievable that it was published in 1953, it felt like it could have been written last year. It’s also written in beautiful poetic prose.

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reading at my desk at work.

Guy Montag is a fireman. Firemen set fires in this dystopian future where books are banned. If books are discovered, the firemen are sent in to find them and burn them.

The population are kept busy with frivolous soaps and constant meaningless, shallow entertainment. To think deeply is not ok. When recounting their society’s history, it is said:

‘the word “intellectual”, of course,  became the swear word it deserved to be’

There was a race to make everyone feel like no one was their intellectual superior, and books were banned before they knew it.

Guy begins to realise he is unhappy with his life. He is utterly disconnected from his wife. A war is going on for reasons he can’t recall. He remembers dimly knowing that firemen used to put out fires, not start them…

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It’s scary how current this all feels. Attacks on facts and science and intellectualism seem to be rife in politics, especially in America. I know I’ve been shocked by political events this last year (Brexit, Trump, ffs! ) and perhaps I’m realising how much of an echo chamber I exist in.

This book read like a warning that we could all do with. I urge you to read it if you haven’t already.

Book Review: Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

First of all, I think it’s important to note straight away that I was #teammonster throughout the book, and I really enjoyed reading it 🙂

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If you’re somehow unaware of the plot, it goes like this: Man finds out how to make a body, made from dead bits of other bodies, come to life. Man immediately regrets this. His life is ruined.

Frankenstein is such a dick! It takes him about 20 seconds after creating the monster to run away. On returning to find the monster gone he’s all ‘Phew, glad he’s gone! That’s that sorted then.’. Several years later when the monster catches up with him and pulls him up for abandoning him. He still doesn’t think he’s got any responsibility to him. The poor monster has managed to learn to be a caring, loving, intellectual creature during this time – even though his every encounter with humans has lead to them screaming and running away, fainting, or trying to hit him. Frankenstein decides to try and kill the monster, but bad luck dude – you made him super big and strong, you idiot.

The monster does turn to murdering all of Frankenstein’s family and trying to ruin his life, but I think he was put under extreme ‘he started it’ provocation. Plus, every human that sees him is so horrified they can’t even hear what he’s saying – nice. The monster wants Frankenstein to make him a lady monster companion and, after some dithering, he decides not to. It’s all a bit downhill for Frankenstein’s friends and family after that.

The whole story is nicely sandwiched between the story of  Captain Walton’s attempted voyage to the North Pole. He encounters Frankenstein toward the end of his adventure and Frankenstein tells him his story.

Final thoughts are that I’m really glad I read this book. The text is quite dense and the word wretch is used at least a thousand times. There are some beautiful images created of the natural world. The descriptions of the monster are sparse, but extremely effective at creating a frightening vision. You get that he is ‘a hideous wretch’, has a black slit for a mouth, and you are told his hand looks mummified. The vision I’ve created of Frankenstein seeing the monster smirking at him from outside the window, after he’s killed Frankenstein’s wife, is terrifying!

Top tip: if creating a hideous monster, make it look less hideous and make it tiny! Like one of the baby zombies in Minecraft.

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Book review: The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka

 

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My first Kafka! Catching up with some classics I’ve never got around to reading.

Gregor wakes up one morning and finds he is a giant beetle. He doesn’t seem all that concerned. He’s quite bothered by the fact that he may have to miss work. He’s supporting his family, you see.

They discover him and FREAK OUT! as you probably would. They sort of try and look after him. but he’s just a massive inconvenience for them all.

Then he dies and solves a problem for the family. Phew!

Is he literally a beetle? Has he just had a mental breakdown? It doesn’t matter all that much. What matters is he’s been transformed from useful, money providing family member into a repulsive dependent. How his family treat him, their attitude to him, is what it’s all about.

Here’s a very short synopsis of a very short novella:

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Book Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the story of Francie Nolan, a poor 11 year old girl, and her family. During the course of the book she becomes 17 and you will probably age about the same amount as Francie does, because this book is so very long.

Reading this book, I felt like I have been to Brooklyn in the 1900s. I feel like I’ve smelt the air, seen the streets and can recreate it in my mind. The truth is, I’ve never even been to modern day Brooklyn. The descriptions in this book are beautiful and vivid.

Francie has a desperately poor upbringing. Her mother is caring, strong willed and quite harsh with her in an effort to prepare her for a hard life, though she tries with all her might to make a better life for her kids. Her father is likeable, but an alcoholic who has always struggled with providing for his family. She has a younger brother and an extended family, with two aunts taking significant roles in Francie’s life.

Francie is a bright girl who struggles to make friends. She loves reading and is determined to get herself educated so she has a chance of escaping the awful poverty she’s grown up with.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn gets a bit sentimental at times, but it’s a lovely story of a young girl growing up and dealing with the shit life throws at you. The parts where she starts to see the shabbiness of her surrounding with more grown up eyes, and starts to see how other people see her shambles of a father are heartbreaking. This picture of family life is worth the investment of time and is an easy read.

I enjoyed this glimpse of Francie’s life. but I really wish it was 200 pages shorter!

 

 

Book review: Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris

I first heard David Sedaris a few years ago, by accident, when one of his Radio 4 readings was on as I was decorating. It was so funny, I loved it and started listening to more as they were broadcast.

I went to see a show he did a couple of years ago, but I haven’t ever got round to reading any of his books. The show was great. My husband came along and I’m not sure he knew what to make of it! I think he thought it might be stand up comedy…

It was too good an opportunity when my turn to choose my book club’s book coincided with the start of 2017, and a Sedaris book is on my reading list challenge. Excellent! So Me Talk Pretty One Day it is.

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I really enjoyed this collection of stories. There are two parts to the book. The first covers his upbringing and time spent in Chicago and New York. The second part his move to France. The one about him learning to speak French can now be credited with containing the only sentence in a book that has made me cry with laughter. I’m not going to tell you what it was though. You need to read it and find your own.

I read this entire book with Sedaris’ voice in my head and I’m not sure if that is key to finding it so funny. I think when my book club meet I’ll find out (Really hope they like it).

Some of the best bits of these stories are the descriptions of people that you just know are things you might think, but wouldn’t dare say. I’m deliberately not going into any details about the stories because I don’t want to ruin them for anyone who might give the book a go. I am definitely going to read some more of his books that I have had lined up in my to read pile for a while. Reading something genuinely hilarious is sometimes just what you need (especially when real, life shitty things happen) and you can escape, and laugh, and get away from it all for a little while.

This is still my favourite David Sedaris related story.