Have I mentioned before that the 3 for £5 books at TheWorks is possibly the most dangerous place for me? I wouldn’t have got them but…I have been meaning to get into the Red Queen for a year but haven’t invested in it so I was glad to see it as part of the 3for5 (and of course its sequel so I had to get a third). I think for the budding bookaholic there are some great books out there but it’s a matter of finding them. Of course I won’t be touching them until I complete the book list, but I am itching to read them. (The Diabolic in the background is my current booklist book, and so far I am enjoying it… watch this space!) 

One month. 

It has been a month since I started the book list and so far I have learned that:
a) I am not the fast reader I was before;

b) Perhaps the range of books I chose was too complex and I should have added more contemporary stuff just because my mind works that way or a mix of long/short not just looooong/long;

c) I overestimated my timing, and perhaps should have done twenty books because the amount of things I have going on are far more time consuming than I expected. (I have BARELY touched my Netflix account, if it wasn’t for my sister they’d send me an email asking if I was ok)(okay, love island had me consumed for a minute but I knew I had an hourly commitment before I started this, I swear);

d) I should stop reading so much damn fanfiction (to elaborate, I read fanfiction before sleeping on my phone, most notably Harry Potter fanfiction. Please don’t judge. I know it’s consuming my life and such a bad habit).

I’m currently writing my thoughts and feelings on the latest book I completed (Rebecca) and I’m eschewing fanfiction for my next book (which is a big step, I know) but I think for the august month of August, I’ll try blogging more. Maybe I’ll blog about my top Harry Potter fanfiction (I jest)(and please don’t recommend things because I would end up  in a chasm just reading HPFF because I am literal human trash whose favourite hobby is procrastinating), or something reading related. 

But yay, a month! 

{oh and if you have followed me/liked any of my posts, thank you! I will most def follow you back 🙂 }

Brief interlude: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – We Should All Be Feminists

“Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice.”

“Some people ask, ‘Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?’ Because that would be dishonest.”

Brief outline: This essay is an adaptation of Adichie’s TEDtalk, entitled “We should all be feminists”. To watch this TEDtalk, click here.

Thoughts and feelings: Firstly, just a note to say that I am still trying to complete the book list, but I have this awful habit of reading two things at once. If something piques my interest when I’m reading, I just pick it up. I normally read two books at once, something I’ve tried to refrain from doing so far to try and keep on track. Oh, well. 

I was browsing Amazon, for the gazillionth time and this little book appeared on my recommended list. The title alone enticed me, obvious current affairs issues aside, and I wanted to know what this book had to offer to my knowledge. When it arrived I was a tad “I wish there was more” but it’s a text I can go back to now. It’s a book I can give to my friends as a present or put on a coffee table in lieu of a magazine. It’s something that if someone questioning my beliefs on feminism, I can quote or return to.

If you’re looking for a book about the multitude waves of feminism, it’s not for you. If you’re looking for a book about a personal experience with feminism, or a very brief look into the way culture can affect interaction with feminism, then try it. Of course, you can always watch the TEDtalk, but as I prefer reading to watching, I have it as a text now. It’s a tiny thing, only about 52 pages long in size 12 font, and took me about ten minutes to read, but it was a valuable ten minutes.

Philippa Gregory – The White Queen

“With this contradictory parentage of mine: solid English earth and French water goddess, one could expect anything from me. An enchantress or an ordinary girl. There are some who will say I am both.”

Backstory: The White Queen follows the life of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of England, wife of Edward IV, from the moment she catches his attention to ~about~ the Battle of BosworthIt is a fictionalised retelling of her story From 1464 to 1485, during the height of the War of the Roses, and the end of the House of Plantagenet. 

Thoughts and feelings: At first, I thought this book was about Elizabeth of York, the woman who unified the warring Houses of Lancaster and York when she married Henry VII, but when I read the blurb again I realised it was about Elizabeth Woodville, her mother. From history at school, I have always been fascinated by the Tudors. It is a quintessential British thing to be taught about the Tudor Dynasty, and how prolific Henry VIII was with his six wives but we never really learnt anything about the War of the Roses, other that it ended with Henry VII. This book sort of goes into it, but not a lot of it as this era is towards the end of the Houses of Lancaster and York, and more about Elizabeth Woodville. As much as I would love to write an essay on the history of the Plantagenets [Lancaster and York] and the Tudors, this isn’t the blog post for it.

Oh, also as a side note, this book kind of goes into one of my favourite mysteries of English history: the Princes in the Tower. Elizabeth Woodville was the mother of said princes, and this book also “touches” upon that and the theories of what may have happened to the princes.

This was my second “historical” novel, except this was more following a real-life person rather than a character set in a historical age, and I definitely prefer this sort of story. Like I said, I am interested in medieval England, and to be fair, it these historical events of war and strategy on the battlefield and in court that form the basis of many stories today. It is hard to read this, and not relate it to A Game of Thrones: brothers vying for a throne, young princes ascending with the aid of a Regent, other heirs on other branches of the family staking a claim on the throne. Sound familiar?

I really enjoyed this book. It has taken me a week to read, purely because I have had a busy week, not because I hated it. Every time I get a minute, I’ve looked forward to reading it, but there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the world. I liked how it flowed as a narrative, and whilst it could be jumpy and it frustrated me, there is a plausible explanation for this. Gregory states at the end of her book that records during this era are scarce, and therefore, when difficult when trying to maintain historical accuracy – which I cannot fault her for. She also includes a bibliography showing where she has drawn her knowledge and inspiration from, which shows how much research Gregory goes into when she writes her books. I particularly liked the bits about Melusina and witchcraft as it added a fantasy edge to the story, and kept it contemporary.

****Sidenote: I am aware that this story is also highly fictionalised as well. Events that occur in the 1400s will definitely not be remembered by the people of today, so artistic licence may have been required here and there.

I would love to read these again, I actually have another one of Gregory’s books, Lady of the Rivers about Jacquetta of Luxembourg so I think after this list, I will pick that one up as well as others following the Plantagenets and Tudors. The White Queen, amongst others were also adapted into TV programmes by BBC so I might watch that too in my spare time.

For more information on Elizabeth Woodville, and the history around her, here are some quick-links for you that I quite liked reading:

Of course, there are Wikipedia pages and documentaries on Youtube, for further reference. I don’t purport to be a history buff, or an expert in the Plantagenets, this is just a passing fancy [if there was a Crash Course to be had, it would be the Plantagenets/War of the Roses], and to give more context to the book.

Sarah Perry – The Essex Serpent

“There is nothing to be afraid of… except ignorance. What seems frightening is just waiting for you to shine a light on it.”

Quick synopsis: Cora Seaborne, following the death of her husband, relocates with her son, Francis, and part-nanny/part-confidante, Martha, to Essex where she meets Will Ransome and his family. The small village of Aldwinter that she moves to is rife with the legend of the Essex Serpent. Cora, an avid naturalist, is determined to find the snake, sparring with Will that the creature exists, amongst other things.

Thoughts and feelings: The pace of the book is slow – annoyingly slow. It takes place within a year [and October, my favourite month, is omitted and that irritates me], and great detail is gone into each character. Enough detail, that I can assess that I don’t like Cora, nor do I like Will. In fact, I was more interested in Luke Garrett, the kooky, macabre doctor who likes nothing better than to take people apart to see how the parts work, and put them back together again. Sadly, he is in love with Cora, who is in love with Will, and that forms roughly 70-75% of his storyline, which is sad because I wanted to know more about Luke outside of his love for Cora.

There are a lot of characters, and almost every character gets a point of view. Unlike the A Song of Ice and Fire series where you know where the character’s point of view begins/ends, there can be one paragraph that has one character’s thoughts and feelings and the next will be another character’s POV so it does take a lot of backtracking to try and understand it.

One of my favourite things to arise from this book is the fear of superstition. The Serpent of the book creates a superstition in this village, where its residents resort to rituals and religion to try and protect themselves from the Serpent’s grasp – with Will even noting at the end that his sermons are sparsely attended following the reveal – and there is a sense that a collective thought has settled upon the village and is slowly infecting the residents. Also, there is the concept of a man of the church, having this forbidden “romance” with another woman – using “romance” as gently as possible, because it was a slow sort of “falling in love” – and the imagery of a snake. It almost alludes to sin, and thinking back that is very, very clever. There’s a lot to draw from this book that I don’t want to pick apart and this is what I feel are the main points I want to give.

This book is slow. I have to say that. I struggled to turn pages – unless, they were about Luke because he is just so underrated – and that was because the pace of the book and characters were overdone. I can’t put my finger on it, but there was something missing that made me want to race through the pages and feel overly sad that it was over. Nevertheless, I would probably read this again because I think it’s one of those books that when you read it again, you would find something new to talk about so I’m excited for a second read.

Anthony Burgess – A Clockwork Orange

“What gets into you all? We study the problem and we’ve been studying it for damn well near a century, yes, but we get no further with our studies.”

Quick synopsis: Alex is a trendy malchick who also indulges in ultraviolence. After a night of crime with his droogs, he is arrested and imprisoned. There, he is the first subject in an experimental treatment in order to gain an earlier release. Will his previous wrongdoings come back to haunt him?

Thoughts and feelings: The first thing that got me when I last opened the book was the language and to be honest, it was a struggle this time around. It wasn’t until I read online that it was the slang of the world that Burgess was creating before I started the book anew and began reading. At first, it was a minefield but I gritted my teeth and ploughed through. After the first and second chapter, I read chapter analyses to make sure I was following the story correctly (as in, interpreting the language and what was happening) and carried on.

A Clockwork Orange is set out almost like a three-act play. Act one maps out Alex’s downfall, act two is his recovery and act three is his redemption. It is written as if it is a stream of consciousness throughout the book, often punctuated with “O my brothers” and the like, and if we’re going to use theatre terminology it’s a soliloquy of sorts.

For me, this book was tough to read. Part one is littered with Nadsat [by the way, “horrorshow” is one of my new favourite words, which is just a malenky horroshow], it is unstructured and can be hard to follow – probably because the narrator himself is also unstructured and hard to follow. Also, part one is vile. I mean, I expected it and it wasn’t graphic in the way Playing with Fire was graphic, but the implication was there. If you do intend to read this following this post, then be aware of trigger warnings, because part one is not pleasant.

Part two was where it was interesting because it focused on Alex’s “recovery” which was the usage of the controversial “conversion” therapy to sway Alex from his ultraviolence ways, which works and interesting to read. It was interesting to me, because I started seeing Alex not as a criminal, but as a victim of his own fate, ie. had he not been a criminal, he would not be in conversion therapy. Part three focuses on his “redemption”, a word I use lightly. Basically, everyone that Alex committed an offence against in part one, gets their karmic retribution back on him. Did I particularly like this? Probably not as much as part two. I mean, it was better than part one, definitely, but it was a slow descent from part two. Parts two and three had remarkably less Nadsat, which also made for a pleasant read.

I read somewhere that the last chapter was omitted from several publications of the book, and I was surprised. I think the last chapter wraps up the book rather well. We see Alex growing up, and most people might not like a “neat” ending like that but I do. I mean, not that I particularly think Alex is a nice person, but the story goes full circle in a way and it would be wrong for it not to end in the Korova Milkbar. I honestly don’t think I would have liked A Clockwork Orange as much as I do without the last chapter.

Overall, it was a good read. Honestly, I took it chapter by chapter for part one – needing to psych myself up but I whizzed through parts two and three in a single train journey. I wouldn’t think I need to read it again now, but I will, probably next year or the year after.

Gena Showalter – Playing with Fire

“Isn’t it amazing how one seemingly innocent decision can change your entire life? For me, that decision came in the form of a grande mocha latte.”

Quick synopsis: Belle Jamison was your typical barista until one day, she drank a mocha latte laced with a super serum formula. Now, she can wield four elements with the proverbial click of her fingers. Rome Masters is sent to retrieve her for his paranormal agency, but a supernatural criminal – read, ‘scrim’ – is also after her. Can Belle master her newfound powers before the scrim captures her, or will she be too distracted by Rome’s painstakingly good looks?

Thoughts and feelings: This was a last minute addition to the book list, after I spotted it in The Works [FYI, most of my books are from the 3 for £5 range at The Works, it is a dangerous, dangerous place]. Naturally, being as anxious as I was after I purchased it, it was the first book to read on the list. Oh, naive Becky was too naive with this one.

I don’t know if it’s because I spent my teenage years reading Twilight, and Playing with Fire being full of the things I didn’t like about the Twilight series. I don’t know if it’s because the character in the book is 24, and being 23, I couldn’t identify with how the character acted. I just did not like this book, aside from the first paragraph. I wanted to stop reading this book at the 100-page mark, but in the nature of this challenge I stuck out the full 370-odd pages.

Here’s what I did like: the concept. I like how something so innocuous as drinking your usual coffee could have such life-changing effects, such as wielding the four elements.

Here’s what I didn’t like: everything else. Instead of the superhero origins story, I trawled through the 300 ensuing pages about how much Belle was attracted to Rome. Attraction, I can identify with, but the minutiae of which I learned about Rome’s body was overkill. In fact, the minutiae of which I learned about Belle’s desire for Rome was overkill. Also, what’s a paranormal romance without some racy scenes? At 23, I’m no stranger to ‘mature’ content. I admittedly have read some erotica in my 23 years, but I can only describe Belle and Rome’s interactions to be cringey. It was just decidedly not for me.

Would I read it again? No, sorry. Just not my sort of book. Sad start to the summer book list, if I’m honest.

The Summer Book List.

The backstory: I’ve been in a reading rut. Before university, I would read 2-3 books a week and now, it’s more like a book a month, or I just recycle the books I’ve already read [Harry Potter being the main series I re-read]. This summer, I haven’t got solid plans yet and don’t intend on spending it in front of Netflix. It’s time for a change.

The challenge: read thirty books that I haven’t read at all or all the way through before the end of the summer (from 1 July 2017 to 31 August 2017) and simply blog about it.

The book list:

  1. Dante – The Divine Comedy.
  2. Erika Johansen – The Fate of the Tearling.
  3. Jane Austen – Emma.
  4. Jane Austen – Sense and Sensibility.
  5. Sarah Perry – The Essex Serpent.
  6. Thomas Hardy – Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
  7. Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Scarlet Letter.
  8. William Shakespeare – King Lear.
  9. Willian Shakespeare – Hamlet.
  10. Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Love in the Time of Cholera.
  11. Robert Galbraith – The Cuckoo’s Calling.
  12. Daisy Goodwin – Victoria.
  13. Fyodor Dostoevsky – Crime and Punishment.
  14. Kate Riordan – The Girl in the Photograph.
  15. Cassandra Clare – City of Fallen Angels.
  16. Cassandra Clare – City of Lost Souls.
  17. Anne Bronte – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
  18. SJ Kincaid – The Diabolic.
  19. Daphne du Maurier – Rebecca.
  20. Vladimir Nabokov – Lolita.
  21. George RR Martin – A Dance with Dragons: Dreams and Dust.
  22. George RR Martin – A Dance with Dragons: After the Feast
  23. Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird.
  24. Anthony Burgess – A Clockwork Orange.
  25. Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness.
  26. Julian Fellowes – Past Imperfect.
  27. Gena Showalter – Playing With Fire
  28. Stieg Larsson – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
  29. Philippa Gregory – The White Queen.
  30. Agatha Christie – The 13 Problems.

It’s going to be a long, fun summer. 

[Also, I know King Lear and Hamlet are plays, but it’s all relative].