May 2018 Books

May-2018-Books

Love Simon by Becky Albertalli

When it comes to YA, I am just so far behind. I mean, I’m 35, I don’t think it’s the most important thing in the world for me to read all the latest books as soon as they come out, but Instagram can give you a pretty big inferiority complex when it comes to reading! Love Simon, or Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda has been on my radar for ages, but then the film started to pop up everywhere, and I wanted to read it before I saw it. I failed at this, but even reading it after I saw the film was a joy.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the story is quite a simple one; Simon is a teenager with a big secret – he’s gay. Simon exchanges emails with Blue, another gay teenager at his school, and they talk about everything without knowing exactly who the other one is. The book is a quite straightforward high school YA book, but it’s full of charm and wit, and characters who you just want to be around forever. I want Simon and his group of friends to be my friends; they are cool, and fun, and decent people for the most part. I loved the book, and then I loved the film, and now I have to read Leah on the Offbeat so I can get a further fix of these people.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Robert Hack and Jack Morelli

The second in the series that I started in April, this moves the story on and focuses on Madam Satan, who is the big bad for this series. She’s going to be played by Madam Satan in the new Netflix series, and I am so excited, because Michelle Gomez is godlike to me due to her portrayal of Sue White in Green Wing. I am yet to read the next in the series, because I moved on to other things, but given that they take me no time at all to read, I should probably get on with it and find out what happens!

First Term at Trebizon by Anne Digby

I received this book as a gift in my Send Someone Awesome a Book swap that I took part in earlier in the year. Some of the wonderfully bookish people that I follow on Instagram (Alex at Odd Socks Alex and Gwen at Shutters and Letters, specifically) came up with the idea of SSAAB Day when they realised that many people don’t have random days of the year on which they are plied with gifts (outside of their birthdays), and because books are so great, wouldn’t it be wonderful to send a random person a book to celebrate their being awesome. This kind of thing was made for the likes of me, and I packaged up my books and sent them off, and received three perfect books to read.

The lady who sent my books (@delightfuldevon) clearly did her research, as I got two boarding school books, and I haven’t read either of them before! I love Malory Towers, so was excited to start the Trebizon series with this one. It’s more or less the same sort of story as Malory Towers, though it’s a little more up to date, being set in the 70s (!). The cast of characters are equally as engaging, with girls to root for and girls to hate, and I’ve passed it on to my niece who appears to be turning into a voracious reader as well. I just need to collect the rest of the series now!

Movie Geek: The Den of Geek Guide to the Movieverse by Simon Brew

I’ve had this on my Kindle for a long time, and I’ve been dipping in and out of it ever since I downloaded it. If you’re a fan of the Den of Geek website, you’ll know that it’s a well-written, well-researched resource for films, television, games, comics, and entertainment in general. Simon Brew, the editor of the website, has ensured that this book has a similar ethos; it’s full of interesting tidbits about the movie world, some of which I’d heard before, and some of which was news to me. It’s the right mix of entertainment, analysis and sheer movie geekiness.

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka 

The now sadly defunct Radio 2 Book Club first alerted me to Girl in Snow, when its author, Danya Kukafka, was on Simon Mayo’s show to talk about her debut novel. It’s the story of a murder in a small Colorado town; popular teenager Lucinda is killed, and the story is told from three perspectives. There’s Cameron, a neighbour of Lucinda’s who had an obsession with her; Jade, her childhood friend whose own life couldn’t be further removed from Lucinda’s, and Russ, one of the police officers on the case. It’s a very slow moving book; the action only seems to take place over the course of a week or so, but it’s more about the secret and inner obsessions of the main characters than about the murder itself. We aren’t invited to learn too much about Lucinda, aside from how her life, and death, have impacted our three narrators. While the action isn’t scintillating, the prose is beautiful, and it wasn’t a story that I wanted to gallop through to find out who the perpetrator was; I was more than content to read it slowly and enjoy it.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Although I’m not a YA superfan, I do like to dabble, particularly in American YA, and particularly in the summer (I think it’s nostalgia for my teenage years, though I’m not really sure where the summer bit comes in). Somehow these books by Jenny Han (there are four in the series), had completely passed me by; they were on my radar, without me ever having picked them up before, or even knowing what they were about. When I spotted the first two in a charity shop, I grabbed them, and devoured them.

The heroine of our story is Lara Jean Song Covey, a Korean-American teenager who lives with her dad and two sisters. It’s a romance, through and through, with the central tenet being that Lara Jean had written a number of never-intended-to-be-posted love letters to all the boys that she loved before, only to find that one day, out of the blue, someone puts them in the post, and all the boys on whom she had previously had crushes are suddenly informed about her until-then secret love.

There’s not a whole lot of stuff going on here that is unexpected or different from the general YA literature that is out there, especially when it comes to the romance side of things, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What I liked the most was Lara Jean’s relationships with her sisters; her older sister Margot, who leaves for university at the start of the story, and Kitty, her younger sister. Kitty is only 10, and as the Covey’s mother died when they were young, Margot and Lara Jean are like the mothers Kitty never knew. With one of Lara Jean’s crushes being her sister Margot’s former boyfriend Josh, another level is added to that relationship, and all of this comes together to make an engaging and interesting family dynamic.

Books so far in 2018 – 21

April 2018 Books

April-2018-books

I’m really enjoying reading again. It’s not like I ever fell out of love with it, I think my relationship with books changed a lot when I moved out of home and re-entered the world of working full time. Of course it did – I suddenly found that I didn’t have the same amount of time to read. But I just feel as though I am using my reading time more wisely now, and I am really enjoying what I am choosing to read.

The Lido by Libby Page

This is one of those books that I had seen being talked about a lot on Twitter, where I follow a lot of bookish people – bloggers, publishers, marketers etc. I usually get swept up a little in the hype of the big new releases, but I try hard not to worry too much if I don’t get picked to review them, as I’ve been caught up in that swirl of insecurity many times before! I requested this on Netgalley, so was thrilled when I got approved, and it really is as lovely as everyone has been saying it is.

It tells the story of Kate and Rosemary, two Brixton residents who are each fighting their own battles. Kate is a young journalist, living alone in London, struggling with her career, and wondering how she got to be so lonely. Rosemary, 86, has lived in Brixton all her life, and watched the local area change almost beyond recognition, with her beloved Lido remaining the only constant. When the swimming pool is threatened with closure, Kate and Rosemary form an unlikely alliance, and friendship, and work on protecting their community. While they are campaigning, the friendship that they discover helps to save them both too. The Lido is a heartwarming and lovely read and is another addition to an increasing number of books that are exploring the idea of loneliness. Libby Page has created an engaging cast of characters who were very easy to warm to.

Ms Marvel Vol 1: No Normal by  G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphonso, and Sara Pichelli

I’ve never been able to get on with comic books. I love the idea of them, and I’m a fully paid-up member of the MCU fan club, but when it comes to reading them, my reluctance is two-fold. Firstly, I have no idea where to start. How do you begin with series that have been going for over fifty years? Secondly, for some reason, I find the format really hard to get on, though I don’t know why. There’s something about the business of the art on the page that seems to make my brain switch off.

I recently discovered that with my Amazon Prime membership, I had access to a number of comic books on my iPad. So I decided to download this one, the first in a series called Ms Marvel, about a young Muslim woman who suddenly gets superpowers. Not only is it a brand new story that doesn’t really need any background knowledge, it’s also easy to read. On the iPad, you can select one frame to read, and then click to move forward to the next one, so you are only ever seeing what you are reading. This suits my brain just fine, and it’s opened up a whole new world! Ms Marvel is a fun story about Kamala Kahn, a high school girl who struggles to balance who is as a Muslim and as an American. There’s plenty of comic book style adventures, and it’s an exciting start to the series.

Ms Marvel Vol 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt, and Adrian Alphonsa

I read the second in the Ms Marvel series straight after the first one, which should give you some idea of how much I enjoyed it (also that it was free to borrow on Kindle Unlimited, so it was very easy to access!). The second book felt a lot more comic book-like, mainly due to the appearance of another Marvel character who I wasn’t expecting to turn up. I am yet to complete this four-part series, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Robert Hack and Jack Morelli

I’m a sucker for trying to get my hands on a book if I know that an adaptation is on its way. I am really, really looking forward to the new Netflix series of Sabrina, so I thought I’d take the opportunity (more Kindle freebies) to read the comic books before the series hits. Again, I am yet to make my way through the entire series, but I’m really glad that I’ve taken the plunge with these, because I’m really enjoying them. The story focuses on Sabrina (the teenage witch) in the 1960s, when she’s a teenager. Most people probably remember watching the series starring Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina, but these are very different in tone; Sabrina is a teenager, and she is a witch, but the whole thing is a lot darker. Sabrina lives with her aunts and Salem, their familiar, and she has fallen in love with Harvey Kinkle. So far, so TV series, but it’s the addition of Madam Satan, a wronged former lover of Sabrina’s father, and the horrible revenge she intends to enact that alter the tone. I’m two books in so far (second book coming in the May roundup), and I really like them. I’m quite the comic book reader these days!

Books so far in 2018 – 15

Book Review ~ Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

isbn9780708898901-detailLove and Ruin tells the story of Martha Gellhorn, one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century, and her love affair with one of the century’s greatest authors, Ernest Hemingway.

The loves of Hemingway’s life are proving a rich mine for fiction; McLain herself wrote The Paris Wife about his first wife, Hadley Richardson (a book I haven’t read), and in 2014, Naomi Wood wrote Mrs Hemingway (which I have read). The reason seems to be that, apart from their tempestuous years as the wives of a difficult genius like Hemingway, all these women were remarkable people.

The Martha Gellhorn that we meet at the beginning of the novel is restless and unsettled, having written a novel that was poorly received, and eviscerated by her father. She’s looking for a cause, for something to be a part of, and when she runs into Hemingway, quite by accident in a Key West bar (where else?), her life takes a turn, and really begins. Not necessarily because she has met a man, but because meeting him is a catalyst. Gellhorn travels to Spain, to cover the Spanish Civil War, and becomes part of a group of Americans, including Hemingway, who are working there to help the Spanish people resist the fascist regime of General Franco.

McLain’s evocation of life in Spain, and later Cuba, then into wartorn Europe, feels extraordinarily real. The portrayal of areas ravaged by war and suffering was visceral and stark. Experiencing it through the narrative of Gellhorn, fictionalised though it is, was a great way for me to learn about a conflict (the Spanish Civil War) that I didn’t know too much about.

It must be hard, when writing about a woman who had a very famous husband, not to position her solely in terms of her relationship. Of course, Gellhorn’s marriage to Hemingway is important; it shaped a huge part of her life, and, you could argue, set her on a path that she might or might not have found for herself. But Martha Gellhorn was an accomplished, intelligent and brave woman, and McLain does an amazing job of showcasing this side of her character. I was left in awe at the sheer amount that Gellhorn achieved, and how gutsy she was. At times it was easy to forget that you were reading about a woman who actually did all of these things, who put herself into danger so she could report the truth; if this was a film you might be forgiven for thinking it was all a little too far-fetched, but these incredibly brave exploits seem to be the truth.

Hemingway is not reduced to a bit-player; his importance in Gellhorn’s life was too important. But McLain treads a very fine between making this a romance novel, and celebrating the achievements of Gellhorn herself. And of course, the best thing is that this is a great read. It’s written beautifully, and I didn’t want to put it down. I only knew about Martha Gellhorn from reading about her in relation to Ernest Hemingway, but Love and Ruin has made me determined to seek out more of her work.

Love and Ruin by Martha Gellhorn
Publication Date: 7th June 2018
Fleet
£14.99
Provided by publisher

Love and Ruin Banner

February & March 2018 Books

What do we have here – a blog post? Surely not, I hear you cry, for that Jane calls herself a blogger but doesn’t actually write anything. But here I am, trying again, and at the very least making this a place where I talk about the books I have read, because I love talking about the books I have read.

I got a bit behind with logging my monthly reads, but instead of cutting loose and starting afresh, which is tempting, I decided to go back and round things up, because I really like having this as a log of what I’ve read. I’ve been doing it in one way or another on this blog since 2011, so it would be a shame to start leaving gaps now. So without further ado, let’s look back at my February and March 2018 reads.

Feb-March-2018

Word Play by Gyles Brandreth
I randomly picked this up in the library when I was returning another book, and I managed to read it over the course of one day. It’s a look at language and how we use it, so it explores the likes of palindromes, puns, spoonerisms, anagrams and so much more. It’s clear (if you didn’t already know) that Gyles Brandreth is a lover of language and words, and though he’s quite eccentric about it, it’s a lot of fun to try the word games that he suggests when you can’t sleep!

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The last few months feel as though they have been quite heavy on books that I want to read before I see the film, and this is one such example. A Wrinkle in Time is beloved in the U.S., and with the film hitting cinemas a couple of months ago, I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. It tells the story of Meg Murry, a young girl whose father has gone missing, and her attempts to reach him wherever he might be. She’s helped on her quest by three mysterious women, and ends up travelling outside of the universe to try and reach him. In all honesty, I was slightly underwhelmed by the book, but I think that maybe I needed to have been immersed in the universe of the story as a younger person to appreciate it in the way that millions of Americans do.

The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson
I’m always on the lookout for good true crime books, and I’d heard about this on one of the many podcasts that I listen to. I had already heard the story of the murder at the centre of the story; a young student, Jane Mixer, accepted a lift from someone when she was travelling home from college in the late 1960s, and was murdered by him, though he was not caught at the time. I was expecting this to be a straight telling of the story of her murder and the killer’s eventual capture, but it was actually a lot different. It’s written by Jane’s niece, who never actually met her aunt, but whose murder has obviously affected her family’s lives ever since. The story mostly follows the trial of the man who was eventually arrested and subsequently charged with the murder, and it’s a powerful and personal account of the grief that her whole family had lived with for over 30 years.

The Viceroy’s Daughters by Anne de Courcy
My favourite type of biography centres around high society women in the early 20th century. Sure, for the most part, they are flouncing around at parties and sleeping with men who are not their husbands, but many of them were undeniably involved in world politics (either directly or indirectly) at a time when the world was veering from one disaster to the next. This one follows the three Curzon sisters, Irene, Cimmie and Baba, who were connected to incredibly powerful men, first through their father, and then through their husbands and lovers. I listened to this on audiobook, and aside from a couple of really bad sound quality issues at various points, I really loved listening to it.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Another book that I was reading before I saw the film. I’d had it on my TBR since last September, fully intending to read it in good time so that I didn’t go into the film with the story and characters too fresh in my head (that’s a sure way to put you off a film, I’ve found!). However, in true me style, I left it right to the last minute, and ended up finishing it mere days before I saw it at the cinema. I loved the book, way way more than I thought I was going to. In terms of world-building, it’s pretty much unparalled with anything else I’ve read, certainly recently. What a feat, to have created this virtual world and make it feel so immersive, and most importantly, ensure that it makes complete sense. That’s the way it felt to me anyway, and the story itself was exciting and engaging and kept me guessing all the way through. This isn’t a film review, but I’ll just say that while the movie adaptation clearly decided to veer off massively from the plot of the book, it’s still a hugely fun and enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

Books read in 2018 – 11