Tag Archives: reading

Book Review: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry

I have been looking forward to reading this book for a while. I’ve heard GREAT things about it. I was delighted to find out it’s the next book for a book club I’ve recently joined. As I started the book, I realised that I’ve read one of her books before… for another book club… and *whispers* I didn’t really like it. And that’s stating it very mildly.  Oh no I thought, no… don’t be the same. Don’t be the same. Don’t be the same. And happily, it isn’t.

essex serpent.JPG

I enjoyed The Essex Serpent. It’s about friendship, love, surgery, odd characters, social housing, religion, superstition, small towns, cities, being female, domestic abuse, sea creatures, illness, and fossils, and everything in between. Mostly it’s a book that I struggled to place in time and this is part of its point. The main character is Cora Seabourne, a well off, recently widowed woman. She moves from London and get caught up in a sleepy Blackwater Estuary village and its panic over recent sightings of a monster in the sea, the so called Essex serpent. Cora’s link to the town is the local vicar, William Ransome. There’s a wide range of other characters, including Cora’s socially conscious companion Martha, Her husband’s surgeon, Luke Garrett. There’s Luke’s rich friend. There’s Cora, Will and Luke’s friends. There’s some strange children. There’s a poor Londoner and the man who is trying to kill him. I could go on… but the story successfully links them all and draws you in.

I started off finding it a bit strange that the main female characters are supposedly younger than me, but act like much older women. If Cora met her husband 17, I think somewhere she mentions having been with him for 15 years, and she has an 11 year old son, so she’s 32!?!? She acts like she’s 60. I couldn’t reconcile the characters behaviour with the age they supposedly are. She acts like a Victorian grandma. She acts… Victorian. Oh… is she Victorian?  I honestly got to 53% of the way through before I realised the book is set over 100 year ago! This is a triumph as far as I’m concerned. The characters could so easily just be eccentric modern people. Strange ones with no phones, who like the outdoors. There are department stores, cabs, trains, modern hospitals and surgery. The people like science, and geology, and engineering. It is all consistent with Victorian England, but not the one that comes to mind when I think about Victorian times. In the picture I have in my mind it is ‘a long way in the past’ and ‘very different to today’, but actually it isn’t that much different, with the obvious absence of most modern technology. Chuck away your iPhone and you could practically be back there!

I had a bit of an issue with some character names. The surgeon is described as short and has the nickname the Imp. So now he’s Tyrion Lannister in my mind, and Cora is from Downton Abby. I don’t think these are too far from the character descriptions, but it was a bit distracting.

The plot is rich, and the characters are convincing and well rounded – they all seem like actual people in my mind. I am not going to try and describe the plot beyond what I’ve already written. It has quite a large scope in themes, though the story is geographically small. I think you might get even more out of The Essex Serpent if you are familiar with it’s very real setting. I felt this when I read The Loney, as this is set near to where I live. I am familiar with London, but the Blackwater estuary, and Colchester, I am not familiar with.

Overall, the story is good and the characters great, though they really could do with having at bit more fun every now and then. The surprising fact that it is set in Victorian times while seeming modern, and the link this gives you with those usually far off seeming times, is brilliant.

 

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? 😀

Books Bought and Read – May 2017

Bought

I was looking to buy some inspirational, uplifting, distracting books this month so ended up with:

Killing Floor – Lee Child (paperback) Easy to read, good, popular, thriller.

A Supposedly Fun Thing You’ll Never Do Again – David Foster Wallace (paperback). Funny, apparently.

The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay (paperback). Supposedly hopeful and uplifting.

IMG_5938.JPG

99p kindle deals strike again:

My Booky Wook – Russell Brand (kindle book). He’s a pop culture person I find interesting for unknown reasons!

The Radium Girls – Kate Moore (kindle book) I’ve not heard of this book before but it sounds really interesting. About women who worked with radium and were told it wasn’t dangerous…

The Manifesto of How to be Interesting – Holly Bourne (kindle book). I read Am I Normal Yet? last year and LOVED it, so I had to get this too.

The Iliad – Homer (paperback). I need a project to read something classic and difficult, to educate myself more and maybe get better at quizzes. Project Iliad has started. I’ve got the Richard Lattimore translation because an evening’s research on the internet told me I should. Also, this one has a cool cover.

IMG_5822.JPG

Single and Single – John Le Carre (kindle book) 99p deal. Part of the slow ‘read all the John Le Carre books’ project.

I was doing really well this month. Then I went to a local charity shop where they had loads of books for 2 for 99p!!!!!!!!! So this happened:

Sharpe’s Fortress – Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe’s Enemy – Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe’s Eagle – Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe’s Trafalgar – Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe’s Havoc – Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe’s Regiment- Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe’s Rifles – Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe’s Triumph – Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe’s Honour – Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe’s Prey – Bernard Cornwell

I have read all the Sharpe books before. I read them when I was in my early 20s and I loved them. I either gave all the books to charity, or they are still in some buried box somewhere in my house. I don’t even know, but I want to give them a re-read. They are like comfort food in book form.

IMG_5877.JPG

But it didn’t stop there. Just remember, 2 for 99p!!

The Return of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve never read any Sherlock Holmes.

The Revenant – Michael Punke. Husband is reading The Road and enjoying it, so thought he might enjoy this too. Well, he will if it’s as grim as the film.

Dracula – Bram Stoker. Well, why not. I’ve read Frankenstein this year, and I’d like to read Dracula too.

Faust Eric – Terry Pratchett. I’ve only read The Colour of Magic and I thought it was alright, but didn’t feel compelled to read any more in the Discworld series. I’ve always thought maybe I’m missing something, so thought I.d give this a go.

The War of the Worlds – H.G Wells. A classic I couldn’t pass on.

Finally, Vampire Blood Trilogy – Darren Shan. Because the books were 2 for 99p and I had an odd number and the lady said I could pick one more. This was the first to catch my eye.

IMG_5878.JPG

99p kindle deals strike again:

The Girl of Ink and Stars – Kiran Millwood Hargrave. I has suck a beautiful cover and good reviews.

I have been buying a RIDICULOUS number of books so far this year. I’m going to have to have a clear out soon and pass some on to friends so I can fit them on the shelves again!

Read

It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis. Tedious start, but ultimately really glad I’ve read it.

IMG_5577

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – C.S. Lewis Crazy and short.

IMG_5768

The Good Immigrant – ed. Nikesh Shukla. Possibly the best book I’ve read so far this year. LOVED IT.

goodimmigrant

Lion – Saroo Brierley. Amazing story of a man who got lost at 5 years old and ended up in a big city 1000s of miles away from home.

lion

The Secret to Not Drowning – Colette Snowden. The inner thoughts of a woman being totally controlled by her partner.

secretnotdrown

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain. Another one I’d urge everyone to read. Read it to understand yourself or any introverts in your life.

17204619

The Awakening – Kate Chopin. 1890s New Orleans and a rich house wife decides her life is tedious and must be changed!

9176370372_large

Books read at bedtime to my children

Matilda – Roald Dahl

Crystallising Chaos – My Little Pony story. My daughter loves this book. I’ve had to read it a lot. *send help*

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – JK Rowling. Still plodding through it around about 2 times a week with my littlest. Harry has got to Hogwarts at last.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – JK Rowling. Finished! We read this every night with my oldest child. It’s taken a long time to get through. I suggested a break from Harry Potter, but he doesn’t want one, hence:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – JK Rowling. Dementors in Little Whinging. And WHO sent Aunt Petunia that Howler!?! 🙂

Books bought and read – March 2017

Bought

I am actually quite embarrassed at this bought list. Too many. So excessive 😦

A Foreign Country (Thomas Kell Spy Thriller, Book 1) – Charles Cumming (kindle edition). Bought after seeing a tweet by Adam Rutherford praising the third book in the series as being the best book he’d read last year. I couldn’t just go and knowingly start with the third book in a series, obviously.

The Handmaids Tale – Margaret Atwood (paperback). I have a dodgy kindle copy with bad formatting. So I’ve paid a fiver for a second hand copy. I need to read it before the film comes out! (achievement unlocked)

Night – Elie Wiesel (paperback). I bought a paperback copy as soon as I’d finished reading  the kindle version I had. I need this book on my shelves.

Wintersong – S Jae-Jones. One of my Illumicrate books.

Red Sister – Mark Lawrence. The other Illumicrate book.

img_4996

Everything is Illuminated – Jonathan Safron Feor. Oxfam books visit. It’s been on my to read list for a few years

How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran. Loved loved loved How to be a Woman. Part of an Oxfam Books haul

Bel Canto – Ann Patchett. Oxfam books and it’s on my reading list challenge 2017.

book loan.JPG

oxfam books preston haul

Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng. The first one I ordered never showed up! So I ordered another… when it appeared it didn’t have the cover I really liked. Boo 😦

Lion: A Long Way Home – Saroo Brierley. My next book club book.

Jailbird, Deadeye Dick, Player Piano, and God bless you, Mr Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut. Kindle 99p deals. I entirely blame the Book Shambles podcast for this because they keep going on about Kurt Vonnegut.

Mothering Sunday – Graham Swift. Kindle 99p deals are killing me this month.

Vinegar girl – Anne Tyler (paper back). Bought for a local book club I have wanted to try for ages…

vinegar girl.JPG

book plus new make up purchases!

It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis (paper back). Bought because it’s the next months book for the new book club I’m going to try. I am going to go. There, I’ve committed.

Also… I had a few friends over one evening and two lovely super friends brought me books to read! This huge pile is the two book loans combined:

book loan 2.JPG

blue hued books from friends

And it was Mother’s Day, and my clever children (with perhaps a little help) got me these:
mothers day.JPG

punk + books

Well done kids!

Read

A Winter Book – Tove Jansson (kindle)

Night – Elie Wiesel (kindle)

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

The Diet Myth – Tim Spector

Galapagos – Kurt Vonnegut

American Gods – Neil Gaiman

For bed time stories, read to my children:

Welcome to Alien School – Caryl Hart. Love Mr Kraark and doing all the alien voices.

Crystallising Chaos – My Little Pony

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling. We’ll be reading this for a while. Super huge. Won’t let the little ‘uns watch the film again after an epic lapse in judgement before xmas! I have edited one section already as I read it. Can’t remember which bit it was… Must have been when the dark mark was conjured and someone died. Will probably heavily edit later on parts of the book, and insist on a big break before attempting the next book (small person listening to this story is almost 7).

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling. The first Potter book for the littlest child. He’s not even been to Diagon Ally yet. Keep having to stop to read other books.

Matilda – Roald Dahl. So much love for this book. I loved it as a child myself, and my son and daughter have both enjoyed it. Wish I had some of the Bruce Bogtrotter cake right now…

Catherine the Fashion Princess Fairy. Help.

Book Review: Night – Elie Wiesel

You don’t start a book about the holocaust expecting anything but horror. Horror that people are capable of the most inhumane, disgusting acts. Horror that this is not fiction. Horror that this could ever happen. I had to keep repeating to myself ‘This was what he saw. This is real. Real people did this.’

41kkt0wkkxl

Elie Wiesel was brought up in Sighet, Romania. Himself, his Mother and Father, and his little sister were moved into a Jewish Ghetto when German troops occupied the town in March 1944. Elie was 15 years old. In March 1944 they were deported to Auschwitz. His Mother and seven year old sister were murdered there. Elie and his Father were later transferred to Buchenwald camp. Before the camp was liberated on April 11th 1945 his Father died.

He wrote this book about 10 years  after the camp liberation. He explains in the introduction that he was writing it because so many couldn’t tell the story because they didn’t survive. He needed to give voice to the experience so it could not be forgotten.

I don’t even need to explain that this is a harrowing read. Harrowing, but important. I am shocked I had not heard of it before seeing it on my reading challenge list for this year. It’s a very short book, so if you haven’t read it yet, you can do it in an hour or so.

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.

IMG_4856.JPG

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…

img_4840

 

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: Dancing With Myself – Billy Idol

Great for the early punk stuff. Wish I’d then just abandoned it.

rs-169831-dancing-with-myself-9781451628500_hr

His account of London and the early punk scene is great. He was there when it all started and I really enjoyed this part of the book. I am much more of a fan Generation X rather than most of his later music anyway (except White wedding and Rebel Yell, obvs!).

The rest of the book is  him completely wrecking himself with drugs. Random explicit pornographic stories.Then getting over heroin and cocaine addiction with a two week holiday. Also, spirits are real. And women are just objects. At one point he is at a brothel with women who just have numbers on them. He even gets someone else to choose because these women are nothing but warm holes to him. Yuck.

This book details his addictions in such a lighthearted way, along with his destructive, violent side. So then I wrecked another hotel room, oops. Paid them some money then did it again. Oh well!

I would read the first third, then forget the rest.