Monday, 8 October 2018

September's Reading

Library book, book club book, short novels, and a non-fiction book. This month has been a good mixture of books, and I'm really surprised that I managed to read as much as there were long walks by the canal in London, soggy walks around central London, rollercoasters and Bakewell tarts in Bakewell. 

Girl Meets Boy - Ali Smith
This was a re-read, and it remembered me how much I love reading Ali Smith's novels. Repackaged for The Canons series by Canongate with a bright and bold cover. Inside, this modern retelling of Ovid's Metamorphoses is punchy, fresh and funny. It's about girls finding boys, girls finding girls, love transforming lives, politics changing lives. You'll get whipped up with the pace and lyrical language. This reminded me that I must get around to reading Ali Smith's Autumn. This is a great book but Hotel World will always be my favourite Ali Smith.

Widow - Fiona Barton
Jane Taylor has a seemingly perfect life - a lovely house, a lovely husband, a nice job. She considered her husband her Prince Charming. Yet he is on the front page of every newspaper, being called a monster, being interviewed by the police for the disappearance of a toddler. Jane must keep a brave face in public. Yet, now her husband has died, and the truth is about to come out. Jumps in the timeline, alternate chapters from different characters keep my attention through the story but I really wanted more depth from the characters.

The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood
I love Margaret Atwood, and I'm enjoying the Canons myth series too. This novel, like Girl Meets Boy, has a striking cover. The devoted wife of Odysseus, Penelope walks the underworld, ready to tell her story. Lust, greed, murder are all crammed into this short novel. I really enjoyed it.

The Party - Elizabeth Day
A couple of months ago I read this amazing article on why we should learn to embrace failure by elizabeth Day, and I knew I wanted to read her novel, The Party. I added this to my list, and while in the library, joining up as my membership had lapsed for over a decade, I spotted the book so I  borrowed it. Cross between The Talented Mr Ripley and The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair, this is a book about society and manipulating characters to better their lives. I really enjoyed this book, and the way Elizabeth draws the reader into the characters' lives. Unnerving plot and complex characters. I'm glad my first book from the library was a good one!

Notes on a Nervous Planet - Matt Haig
This is a part memoir, part guide on how we can live a happy life when the world around and the technology is making us nervous, lonely and disconnected. After years of anxiety and panic attacks, Matt has decided to share his experiences on how to survive when society is trying to encourage us to be anxious with constantly breaking news, the need to be thinner, the need to have the lastest waterproof jacket.

Right, let's get started with October - I'm having a delayed spring clean and donating old clothes, books, bags to charity. 

Sunday, 16 September 2018

And August Passed in a Flash...

August passed so quickly that it's already half way through September.

In my July post, I said that August was going to be a good month and I'm afraid I was wrong.

It was a fantastic month full of adventures. 

There was a trip to Bletchley Park to learn more about Alan Turing and the code breakers in WWII plus having to battle an impossible roundabout just to get there. A trip to the National Art Gallery in London, and also a weekend to Bath to the Jane Austen Centre to see a strange looking mannequin who was meant to look like Jane Austen but actually looked more like she was passing through on her way to Marks and Spencers to hang out in their window display.

At the end of the month, I went to the Faber offices to hear Miriam Toews and Laura Bates talking about gender, patriarchy, religion, and their books. I'm hoping to read Miriam Toews' new book, Women Talking, either in September or October. 

But did you do any reading I hear you cry!

Well, yes!

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
This is such a fantastic book on the importance of sleep. Exploring the science of sleep, why our bodies crave sleep, ways to have better sleep health. I'm a slow non-fiction reader as I read at a different pace so it has taken me several months to finish but I'm so glad I have. Honestly, everybody should read this book. I now have the blue filter enabled in the evenings on my phone, dim the lights, listen to calm music and read (which I was already doing before) before I sleep. My sleep quality has improved. I definitely appreciate sleep more after reading this book!

Weight by Jeanette Winterson
Sharp writing in this pacy retelling of the myth of Atlas and Heracles. Exploring self-knowledge, nature of choice and the way we manipulate others for our own gain. Part of Canongate's The Canons series of retelling of myths with beautiful covers - the set would make a great present for a myths fan. Will be blogging more about this series later this month.

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne
This is more than this generation's Bridget Jones. This is a book about the push and pull of women against society's expectations, about dealing with emotional abuse and narcissists, about friendships, and dread. Very honest, real, witty. I want there to be a sequel.

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
Ruth, 30, and her life isn't where she was hoping it would be. After breaking up with her fiance, leaving her job, she agrees to move in with her parents to look after her father who has Alzheimer's. This is a book about discovering who you, family relationships, and acceptance. It's brilliant and funny!


As we're already half way through September I can already say it's a great month... a walk along Regent's Canal, and many more things planned....

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Book Review: The Cartography of Others

The Cartography of Others
by Catherine McNamara
Published by Unbound
Available in paperback and ebook

Catherine McNamara's latest short story collection, The Cartography of Others, not only has a lovely cover but the twenty stories contained inside are an exploration of displacement and estrangement.

Across the stories, we see characters who are on the verge of turning point in their lives. A woman waits in a hotel room for her married love to turn up, absorbing his excuses each time he calls, letting his flakiness knock her confidence. A son is trekking across a hill thinking about this mother's last few moments before she died. A soprano, on a boat, searching for her voice.

All these characters are looking for meaning, searching their past, hoping to find a sigh that will lead them towards their future. Catherine gives glimpses into their inner lives letting the reader see a character, who on the outside appears to be confident, has a great life but are crumbling inside, full of fear of the future.

Full of glamorous locations, vivid in detail, stretching from Sydney's suburbs, Accra, Paris across to Mali. Catherine takes the reader on a tour around the world, giving such precise details that the reader feels like they are actually there with the character, pulling the reader into the snapshot of these characters' lives.

The Cartography of Others delves confidently into the complexities of modern life, delve into people's concerns and fears of change. You can buy The Cartography of Others from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via the author.

Monday, 13 August 2018

So That Was July...

Sometimes life gets in the way and distracts you, and I haven't really fancied reading as much or writing in July.

My cat, Tilly, died at the beginning of the month. I adopted her just over 2.5 years ago when I moved into my current home, and it was love at first sight. She rubbed up against my calves when I went to see her for the first time at her foster home. Such a cuddly cat, always meowing away, knew when I needed a cuddle. She was an older cat who needed a home, and although we didn't have as long as I hoped with her I'm still open to adopting an older cat in the future. She would lounge across the sofa, be naughty and snatch food from my plate at dinner time, take up the whole of the bed, and even jumped in the bath a couple of times to enjoy the bubbles!

There was also my mum's birthday, my sister's birthday, and my niece's too - we did laser tag, and I think all of those years spent watching sniper and action movies has paid off. Of course, I took it seriously - I wanted to win!

And the heatwave - too hot to move, too hot to think, everything turning to straw, too hot to read. My concentration shrivelled to the size of a pea.

The end of the July was the opposite of the beginning of the month with a fantastic trip to the Shard. One great thing about the heatwave is that the sky was clear and the view was incredible and we could see for miles. A day full of laughter, lots of walking, lots of cocktails.

It's only half way through August but I can tell it's going to be a great month.

Right, so books read in July. Folks, I think I've already found my book of the year...

I am, I am, I am - Maggie O'Farrell
I'm not sure why I've resisted until now with reading this book. I've seen I am, I am, I am recommended all over Twitter, Instagram and blogs so the world was shouting at me to read it - sometimes I'm oblivious to the signs. Maggie O'Farrell's memorie looks at the author's seventeen brushes with death. Ranging from a near miss in the woods with a man who goes on to kill another girl days later, nearly drowning at sea, a childhood illness she was not expected to survive, miscarriages. This is an insightful look into life's fragility and the need to make sure you seize the day.

When I Hit You - Meena Kandasamy
Possibly my book of the year. Shocking, brave and important about a controlling marriage and one woman's escape from the physical and mental abuse in India. Based in part on the author's own experiences, When I Hit You, delves into the caste system of India, the impacts of traditional gender roles, and one woman's fight from oppression. This is an important book, and is definitely a must read. This book will punch you in the gut as it's raw with emotion. Just bloody fantastic.

The Cartography of Others - Catherine McNamara
Catherine's latest collection of stories explores the lives of characters all on the verge of a turning point in their lives. A woman waits in a hotel room for her married lover to turn up, a son trekking across a hill thinks of his mother's last few moments before she died, a soprano in search of her voice. Characters are displaced, complex full of uncertainty.  There is never a story set in the same location - Catherine takes the reader on a tour around the world from a sail boat in Corsica, a hotel room in Hong Kong, scruffy Paris. Catherine packs so much detail in these stories, pulling the reader into the snapshot of these characters' lives. My review will be appearing later in the month.