Tag Archives: Books

20 Books of Summer – 2 months in update #20booksofsummer

I’m now up to fourteen books read – eight read in July. Helped by being on holiday for the last few weeks while my kids were still at school! As you can see, the idea that I can plan my reading in advance is a total nonsense. I have only read six from the original list of twenty books I made, and three of those were book club reads that I *had* to read.

Six have been netgalley reads after I went a bit crazy requesting books and then realised they were going to have to dominate my reading to get through them! I’m nearly through them and have now done the exact same thing with requesting Man Booker Prize longlist titles…

Two have been audio books. This has been great on my commute to work (40 mins each way). Not so much since I’ve been on my summer holidays.

And one was over 500 pages!

I have one month left on this challenge and I think I should be ok to get though 6 more books and reach my target!

  1. The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry (review)
  2. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng (review)
  3. Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor (review)
  4. the Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  5. Hope in the Dark – Rebecca Solnit
  6. Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit (review)
  7. Nobody Told Me – Holly McNish
  8. Dear Fatty – Dawn French
  9. Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
  10. The Power – Naomi Alderman (review)
  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 (review)
  19. Wonder – RJ Palacio
  20. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  21. Queen of Spades – Michael Shou-Yung Shum
  22. Living the Dream – Lauren Berry (review)
  23. Inferior – Angela Saini (review)
  24. Holidays On Ice – David Sedaris (review)
  25. The Unseen – Roy Jacobsen (review)
  26. Nasty Women – 404Ink (review)
  27. All Grown Up – Jami Attenberg (review)
  28. Anger Is An Energy – John Lydon (review)

Books Bought and Read – July 2017

Bought

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. I love this book. The stories of loads of amazing women written like fairy stories with amazing illustrations. I just want books like this lying around my house for my children to pick up and look through!

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small girl looking at the fabulous illustrations

Bit of a kindle 99p sale spree:

  • The Circle – Dave Eggers
  • Alice – Christina Henry
  • Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones
  • I am Malala – Malala Yousafzai
  • Still Alice – Lisa Genova
  • Anger is an energy – John Lydon

Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi. I’ve been after this for ages and it popped up on a lightning deal for under £5.

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The Seed Collectors – Scarlett Thomas. The next book for a book club I’m in. I don’t know anything about it.

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Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty. 99p kindle deal. I LOVED the TV series of this

I’ve decided I should always have an audiobook on the go, so have been getting the audible daily deal. I won’t get many listened to until I’m back at work at the end of August though. I’ve now got:

  • Engleby – Sebastian Faulks 
  • Swimming Lessons – Claire Fuller
  • Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders

Hot Milk – Deborah Levy (99p kindle deal). I’ve seen too many giant book shop displays of this to pass it by.

After the Man Booker Prize longlist announcement I had to buy a couple of them to read so I picked up:

Solar Bones – Mike McCormack. It’s one sentence. I’m intrigued!

Swing Time – Zadie Smith. I have on goodreads that I’ve read White Teeth, but reading the plot summary I’m not sure I ever actually did read it! So this might be my first Zadie Smith.

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More kindle 99p deals:

  • The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell
  • Dark Places – Gillian Flynn

Read

Click to link through to the review:

Anger Is An Energy – John Lydon

A Girl of Ink and Stars – Kiran Millwood Hargrave

All Grown Up – Jami Attenberg

Nasty Women – 404Ink

The Unseen – Roy Jacobsen

Holidays On Ice – David Sedaris

Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor

Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

Bedtime Stories with my Children

Diary of a Minecraft Zombie – Book 1. Utter trash that my son adores.

Danny the Champion of the World – Roald Dahl. I didn’t think I’d ever read this one before but the story seems familiar, so I must have read it once as a child.

Matilda – Roald Dahl. Again!

The Witches – Roald Dahl. Genuinely terrifying!

Picasso and the girl with the ponytail – Laurence Anholt. I know… it’s great though!

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Cinderella. *yawn*

Aliens Love Underpants – Claire Freedman and Ben Cort. -The noisy book version. At least it’s over quickly…

Book Review: Anger is an Energy – John Lydon

I like John Lydon. He is straight to the point and I agree with a lot of his core attitudes and beliefs. That’s not to say I agree with everything he says, and boy, does he have a lot to say. At almost 520 pages this is no quick read. Still, I loved every minute of it. You are fully getting his no holds barred opinions here. Or if he is holding back, you certainly can’t tell!

If you stand up for whatever it is you really believe in, if you really stand up, and be accounted for, people will rate you highly.

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Anger is an Energy on the kindle with some other punk books!

His account of the Sex Pistols days is fascinating and quite sad. He felt alone and disregarded and/or ignored by the rest of the band most of the time. It comes across that the other three (Glen Matlock, Steve Jones and Paul Cook) never really accepted him fully into the band, as they already formed the band before John came along. I have no doubt that John, as he freely admits, isn’t the easiest person to get along with! and he just rubbed them up the wrong way (a theme throughout the book). I would definitely like to read some other accounts of that time period to get some other perspectives on what happened. As you can see from the picture above, I have Steve Jones’ book ready to go.

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L-R Glen Matlock, John Lydon, Steve Jones, and Paul Cook.

 

It is fascinating though. That band were truly at the heart of an amazing moment in history. It probably helps that I’m a fan of punk rock. I love his scorn of the majority of punk bands. I share a lot of the same views. So many identikit bands trying to out macho each other. Repulsive. The bands he praises are all stand out bands like the Buzzcocks. He hates that punk quickly became very narrow in its definition: there’s a certain uniform, a haircut, a way of treating people, a sound – and woe betide anyone who doesn’t conform. John refuses to be narrowly defined – especially musically, but actually in every aspect of his life, and so he gets constant abuse in his life beyond the Sex Pistols. A constant minority who seek him out and are angry because he ‘sold out’. In other words, he dared to move on and try new things that musically interest him.

Being open-minded to all kinds of music was Lesson One in punk, but that didn’t seem to be understood by many of the alleged punk bands that followed on after, who seemed to be waving this idea of a punk manifesto. I’m sorry, but I never did this for the narrow-minded. I was horrified by the cliche that punk was turning into.

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The Sex Pistols after Sid Vicious had replace Glen Matlock. L-R Steve Jones, Sid Vicious, John Lydon, Paul Cook. 

Earlier in the book we get some of his home life growing up. He’s from a very working class London background. His descriptions of himself at school were great and really clear – I know EXACTLY what sort of student he would have been in my classroom – one of those cheeky, annoying but lovable ones! Frustrated with their lack of effort because you can’t follow their particular interest all the time. Full of questions that are related, but are a distraction to what you actually need to teach that day. Oh, sorry, just having high school teaching flash backs there!

His move from a school to basically a technical college for naughty kids chucked out of school is interesting and there he meets Sid. I love this quote about his time at the technical college. The idea that he still wore his school uniform is absurd, and says so much about his personality!

It was basically just school by any stretch, so I wore my William of York uniform still, because I didn’t want to wear anything that I liked. But it was a bit of a fashion parade. Sidney certainly used it as a catwalk.

After Glen Matlock leaves the Sex Pistols, Sid is brought in and the break up of the band seems almost inevitable at this point. It’s such a dysfunctional relationship they all have.

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Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten (aka John Ritchie and John Lydon)

After the Sex Pistols you get a lot of details about line up and management changes for Public Image Limited (PiL). I’m not familiar with the musicians from this band, and didn’t know any of the many people discussed. It’s still interesting, but in more of a vague way of seeing how all over the place the band and John’s life was. This continues up until the later 90s where you get a Sex Pistols reunion tour. Then in the 2000s there is I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here – which I remember watching because Lydon was on it. Followed by a few nature programs he makes. And of course the infamous butter commercials!

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John Lydon by Paul Heartfield from http://www.clashmusic.com/features/in-conversation-john-lydon

At this stage you discover that Lydon, and his wife Nora, begin to parent Nora’s grandchildren. It’s a sweet part of the book where he explains how they had to change their lives to give everything they could to these wild teenagers that they were suddenly responsible for. All the parts of the book where he describes his love for Nora are quite beautiful. They fell in love when they met during the Sex Pistols time, in 1975, and they are still together today.

Overall, this is a great book. It possibly helps if you have some interest in Lydon to begin with, but I imagine you must if you are considering reading 520 pages about him! It’s glorious that there is a note from the publisher at the beginning basically begging you to not sent in grammatical errors from the text – Lydon has his own way of using English and the ‘mistakes’ are just how he is talking!

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‘Don’t let tiffles cause fraction’

Lydon is upfront, unapologetic, harsh, and uncompromising. But he’s also a family man, loyal, a supporter of education, and interested in everything the world has to offer. There’s a place for him at the table of my imaginary perfect dinner party anyway.

Book Review: The Girl of Ink and Stars – Kiran Millwood Hargrave

A sweet, magical adventure with Isabelle, a thirteen year old island dweller who decides she needs to investigate the disappearance of her class mate. Aimed at 10 – 14 year olds, I wouldn’t recommend it for adults unless you just really want a super easy read! It’s a lovely adventure though and would be perfect for younger readers.

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Isabelle lives with her father, a cartographer, on one part of an island, Joya. The villagers are living under a repressive governor who has banned them from going to the rest of the island or leaving via the sea.  A series of mysterious events lead the govenor to organise a search party to go into the Forbidden Territories. Isabelle (disguised as a boy obviously!) manages to get in the search party as their navigator, and to map their progress, using the cartography skills taught to her by her father.

It was one of the first things Da taught me. Stars are the earliest maps, the most precise. They can tell you where you are better than a compass – after all, they have a bird’s-eye view. If you can learn to read the stars you’ll never be lost.

Isabelle is a lover of stories, and believes the myths about the island’s origins, involving a girl warrior and a fire demon, are literally true. Are they? Maybe we shall see!

There are demon dogs, mysteries, friendships, an extremely mild love story, peril, challenged gender expectations, love, dictatorships, and maps! It’s also got a gorgeous cover.

I feel like I’ve read a lot of books set on islands recently! Looking back though, it really is just this one and The Unseen. Weird!?

The Mid Year Freak Out! Tag

I haven’t been tagged by anyone to answer these questions. I have just seen the tag and liked the idea of summing up my reading for this year with these questions 😀
So far this year I have read 42 books – way above my target, and around double what I have managed for the last few years, each year. I’ve managed this by just fitting in a bit of reading where I can: waiting for the kettle to boil, 20 mins in the morning, a bit at lunchtime etc. and I’ve been watching less TV! Not none… I’ve had to watch American Gods and The Handmaid’s Tale, and University Challenge and Only Connect obvs. 

1. BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2017?

Impossible to pick one, and difficult to narrow it down because I’ve really enjoyed a lot of books I’ve read this year. The top ones have to be the ones I gave 5*s to. You might not believe it, but I’m quite stingy with my 5*s!!! (click through for reviews):

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2. BEST SEQUEL OF 2017 SO FAR?

I’ve not strictly read anything that’s a sequel so far this year. I’ve been meaning to read Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword for a while after reading Ancillary Justice a few years ago. I’m going to have to pick John Le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from The Cold. I’m on a (very slow) mission to read all of Le Carre’s books. So that’s book 3 done… in 4 years. Might need to get a few more out of the way soon!

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3. NEW RELEASE YOU HAVEN’T READ YET, BUT WANT TO?

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ I’ve had my eye on this all year but haven’t got a copy yet.

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Out of the books I own, that I haven’t read yet, that are also quite new, these are the ones I most want to try but haven’t got round to yet:

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4. MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASE OF THE SECOND HALF OF 2017?

One book I’m looking forward to is The Book Of Joan – Lidia Yuknavitch although I don’t think it’s out in the UK until 2018? It’s been described as:

a genre-defying masterpiece that may very well rewire your brain

See? sounds awesome!

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Also, The Mother of All Questions – Rebecca Solnit, a follow up collection of essays, on feminism, to Me Explain Things To Me. 

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5. BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT?

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor. Click through to the review if you must! I much prefer liking books!

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6. BIGGEST SURPRISE?

Frankenstein – Mary Shelly. I really enjoyed it, and I didn’t mention it in my review, but reading a bit about Mary Shelly herself was fascinating.  I really want to read Romantic Outlaws – Charlotte Gordon now too – especially after a friend also recommended it to me a while before I  read Frankenstein. It’s about Mary Shelly and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft.

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7. FAVORITE NEW AUTHOR (DEBUT OR NEW TO YOU) ?

I’m going to choose Celeste Ng and Lauren Berry. Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You is just beautifully written and I can’t wait for her next book Little Fires Everywhere. Lauren Berry’s Living The Dream was hilarious and one of the funniest, most relatable books I’ve read in ages.

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8. NEWEST FICTIONAL CRUSH?

Hmmmm might have to be Shadow Moon from American Gods, probably more influenced by the TV show than the book!

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He’s no Rupert Campbell-Black or Richard Sharpe though, obvs.

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9. NEWEST FAVOURITE CHARACTER?

I’m going with Francie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith. She’s a strong and determined character and she grows into a kind and thoughtful woman over the course of the novel. Also, she loves books.

10. BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY?

Without doubt this award has to go to Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. I sobbed through the last 20 pages and wasn’t much better at various other stages of the book. There was something about the main character having my name, probably being around my age, and being unable to get on with a career as a scientist… also trying to make sure your female children aren’t held back by societal sexism, while trying to not damage them and also not ignoring your other kids! Such a good book.

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Runner up for this has to be Beloved – Toni Morrison. Such a beautiful, moving book.

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11. BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAPPY?

I’m not sure about any of them making me particularly happy, but plenty made me laugh.

I’ve read two of David Sedaris’ novels this year: Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Holidays On Ice. He can be completely hilarious. One part of Me Talk Pretty One Day had me uncontrollably laughing.

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Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut made me smile a lot. And Bel Canto by Ann Patchett was the novel that made me feel the  happiest, I guess.

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12. FAVOURITE BOOK TO MOVIE ADAPTATION YOU’VE SEEN THIS YEAR?

 

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13. FAVOURITE REVIEW YOU’VE WRITTEN THIS YEAR?

I’m going with Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit. I loved the book, I loved the artwork in it by Ana Teresa Fernandez – some of which I included in the review, and I loved using this gif:

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14. MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK YOU BOUGHT OR RECEIVED SO FAR THIS YEAR

I’ll just put these beauties here with a gorgeous peony.

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15. WHAT BOOKS DO YOU NEED TO READ BY THE END OF THE YEAR?

So many… here’s a shortlist:

and I have started, but need to finish:

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If you want to do this tag? Consider yourself tagged by me and just get on with it!

Let me know your answers to these questions in the comments or leave me a link to your post.

Thanks for reading!

The ‘How I Choose My Books’ Tag

Thanks to Stephanie’s Novel Fiction for tagging me in The ‘How I Choose My Books’ Tag. I’ve never done one of these before but like the questions here and well, I’m done for the summer at work now so I have time! Let’s go!

  1. Find a book on your shelves or ereader with a blue cover. What made you want to pick up this book? 

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The Golden Compass (aka Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman. Book 1 of the His Dark Materials trilogy. The box set I have of this trilogy is goorrrgeeeooouueess. It’s been a long time since I read these (over 10 years) and I’m thinking a re-read should happen soon.

2. Think of a book you didn’t expect to enjoy, but did. Why did you read it in the first place? 

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This is quite difficult because I’m quite a good judge of if I’m going to like a book or not. That’s maybe quite weird?! I’ve really struggled to find one I thought I wouldn’t like, but really did. The best example I can think of is Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn. I read this because lots of people in my book club raved about it. I had somehow remained spoiler free even though I read it after the film came out! Because of all the hype I expected it to be a bit rubbish (sorry!) but I loved it. AND I loved the film.

3. Stand in front of your bookshelf with your eyes closed and pick up a book at random. How did you discover this book? 

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I read a lot of popular science books as a teenager. This would have been new when I bought it so I probably picked it up in a bookshop deal. It’s about how great science is. It’s about how understanding science can increase your sense of imagination and wonder, rather than destroying them.

4. Pick a book that someone personally recommended to you. What did you think of it?

The Game of Thrones series. This was recommended to me and I hadn’t even heard of it! (It was way pre-TV show becoming a huge thing). I started reading and then read the whole series in six weeks. I just couldn’t stop reading them. Then I discovered the rest of the series hasn’t been written yet.

 

I now basically try to read anything this friend recommends!

5. Pick a book that you discovered through YouTube / book blogs. Did it live up to the hype? 

This one’s a little bit tricky because I don’t use youtube for book reviews. I get most of my recommendations from twitter or articles on books. So I’m going for The Good Immigrant ed. by Nikesh Shukla.

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I became aware of this book when it started popping up on loads of Xmas book recommendation lists last year. I finally got round to reading it earlier this year and I loved it.  It also introduced me to some poets and writers I didn’t know about. One of the best books I’ve read this year.

6. Find a book on your shelves or ereader with a one-word title. What drew you to this book?

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Emma – Jane Austen. I read quite a few Jane Austen books all in a row once. I see the BBC Big Read sticker on this so I must have read them in 2003 in an attempt to read more of the novels I felt I *should* have read. I loved Emma, more than Pride and Prejudice. I really liked Persuasion too. I can’t actually remember which one I like most out of Emma and Persuasion.

Looking at the top 200 in the Big Read I have now read 44 of them and loads of the books I have sat around waiting to read are in there too. Not made too much progress since 2003! Oh dear!

7. What book did you discover through a film / TV adaptation?

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Girl with a Pearl Earring – Tracy Chevalier. I watched and really enjoyed the film. So I read the book and it is fantastic. The only other example I could find where I’ve watched a film or TV programme then read the book is the entire Sharpe series. 😀

8. Think of your all-time favourite book/s. When did you read these and why did you pick them up in the first place?

For me, this means books I read a long time ago and they have stayed with me for various reasons. I have recently read lots of books that I have utterly loved, but I feel like ‘all-time favourites have added longevity! I’ll pick my top five.

Making New Friends – Jane Carruth

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I loved this book as a child. I still have it! The main squirrel is new in town and scared. He gets sent on a playdate and is terrified, but is basically forced to play with the other squirrels, then he has fun. All is well.

In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat – John Gribbin.

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The book that got me really hooked on physics. This book blew my mind when I read it during my A levels. It’s the story of quantum mechanics. What it is, it’s historical development, and what experiments have been carried out to verify it. The original is from 1985 and I must have read it in 1997. At the time I read a lot of popular science physics books and they cemented for me that I wanted to study physics at university. I could easily have put A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking, in here.

The Demon Haunted World – Carl Sagan.

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I have so much love for this book. When I was younger, early to mid teens, I toyed with pseudo-science. I wondered if aliens had really visited us and considered conspiracy theories. I didn’t really know what homeopathy was. This book was exactly what I needed to clear all this up! It’s a love letter to the scientific method and argues for people to use more skeptical and critical thinking.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres.

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I didn’t really realise until this book that you can be emotionally moved so much by a book. I cried through the last few pages and a whole new level of books was opened up to me. I even used the (cheesey) love extract as a reading at my wedding!

V for Vendetta – Alan Moore.

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Another whole genre opened up to me reading this. This fits into the ‘recommended by a friend’ category and the ‘what book did you think you wouldn’t like and actually loved’ category. I didn’t realise before reading this that a graphic novel could build up the same type of world that you get from a novel.

I’m not going to tag anyone here. If you fancy having a go at this tag, please consider yourself tagged and if you decide to make a post, make sure to pingback your answers to me, so I can see them! 😀

Thanks for reading 😀

 

Book Review: Holidays On Ice – David Sedaris

All the stories in this collection have a Xmas, Halloween, or Easter connection in them somewhere. There are some real gems, especially where Sedaris is writing as himself. The stories where he is writing pure fiction often fall a little flat, though I enjoyed Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol, where school Xmas plays are reviewed as serious theatre. All the stories are veerrrrryyyyy dark, which you’d hopefully expect if you know David Sedaris at all. His fiction stories are ultra dark. We’re talking vantablack

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I listened to this audiobook and it’s the perfect way to experience  David Sedaris because you get so much from the way he tells a story. There were parts of it where I was cackling like a witch on my commute to work. This was mostly during 6-8 Black Men, a tale about the Dutch Xmas story. It’s one of the final few stories and these last few seem to have been added to the audio book at a later date because they aren’t listed as being in the original, and I think I’ve heard them on the radio before too. Jesus Shaves (also in Me Talk Pretty One Day) is similarly about trying to explain the Easter story during a beginners french class.

Originally published in 1997, re-released in 2008, there’s been plenty of time to add them. It feels like they have been added because the original stories are not that great. Dinah, the Christmas Whore is the stand out from the original stories, and unsurprisingly, is written from his point of view. It’s about his sister Lisa taking him out on a late night mission to rescue a prostitute from her abusive boyfriend. With hilarious consequences!!!!

I have neglected to talk about the main story that the book opens with SantaLand Diaries. An account of a 33 year old David’s stint as a Christmas Elf at Macy’s. So good. We all know that these stories of David’s life are not all 100% factual, and hopefully you all don’t care either!

This is my second Sedaris of the year. I read Me Talk Pretty One Day earlier in the year. I’m quite sure I’m going to read all his books, and I have kindle versions of the others already. The only question now is, do I read them, or find the audiobooks?!?