July 2018 Books

July-2018

 

The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser

I watched The Other Boleyn Girl, and realised that beyond what I learnt about Henry VIII and his wives at school, I don’t actually know that much about them. So I used one of my stockpiled Audible credits to download this audiobook. It was a really easy listen, not too dense, and as the title would suggest, it focused on the women in Henry’s life, rather than the man himself. Anne Boleyn is covered in some detail, for obvious reasons – as his second wife and the first to be executed, hers is an interesting story, but it was also nice to read about the women that seem to be less remembered by history.

Freshers by Tom Ellis and Lucy Iveson

I grabbed this in the library, and due to being early for meeting a friend for lunch, and then having a long bus journey home, I managed to finish it in a day, something I don’t tend to do that much any more (more on that later). It’s a fairly straightforward YA story about a group of young people starting university, with our main character, Phoebe, starting her first term already harbouring a crush on a boy from school who has ended up at the same uni. It’s a fairly by-the-books female-male romance, with a group of misfit friends thrown in for good measure, and there’s absolutely zero diversity here – no main characters who are anything other than white, straight, able-bodied etc. But there are just a few threads of feminism woven in, and it’s really readable, with an enjoyable enough ending that didn’t make me roll my eyes. This makes it seem as though I’m damning it with faint praise, but I did enjoy it – evidenced by the fact that I read it so quickly!

Once Upon a Dream by Liz Brasswell

The Disney Twisted Tales were everywhere for a while, so when I was taking advantage of a 3 for £10 offer at the end of last year, I picked the Sleeping Beauty one up to give a read. I finally got around to it recently, and I can’t say that I was overwhelmed! It reimagines the Disney tale as though Aurora didn’t awake at the end of the story, and Maleficent wasn’t vanquished by Prince Phillip. At first I was really enjoying it; the alternate universe that the characters were in really worked, and I was eager to see where it went. But then it got really bogged down and dense, and I just stopped caring; I put it down for weeks before finally picking it up to finish it off, just so I could tick it off. I’m sure that there are interesting stories to be told in this vein, but it doesn’t feel as though they have tried particularly hard, being more concerned with the concept rather than the execution of it.

Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

Another book that I read in a day! I had seen this in a list of ‘best summer reads’, so reserved it at the library, and read it the same day that I picked it up. It’s billed as a great read for anyone who enjoyed One Day, in that it follows a similar structure: we meet this group of friends as they finish their first year at university, and then catch up with them over the next 20 or so summers. It’s not as rigid in its structure as One Day; sometimes we catch up with the gang twice in one year, and sometimes a couple of years pass before we find out what they’re up to. At the heart of the story is Eva, a physics graduate who finds in her friends a family that she lacked growing up. Benedict is a fellow physics student, while Sylvia is an artist, and Lucien, her brother, is not a student but a firm part of the gang. There are romantic entanglements to contend with, and there’s a definite will-they-won’t-they that plays out over the course of the two decades, but there’s much more to it than that, and that’s why I found it so compelling.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney 

This was the final book of my three-book weekend; again, I finished this in one sitting, because I just couldn’t put it down. It’s funny, because there’s not really one character in there who I would describe as likable; they are none of them particularly nice people. The story is told from the point of view of Frances, a young undergraduate who performs poetry with her best friend and ex-girlfriend Bobbi. Their lives collide with those of an older couple, Melissa and Nick, with Bobbi being fascinated by Melissa, and Frances and Nick embarking on an affair. I’m finding it hard to describe what I liked so much about it, especially given that the characters are so unlikeable. They aren’t people that I particularly wanted to spend time with, and yet I raced through the book, eager to get to the end! Maybe it’s simply that it’s especially well-written – I felt as though I was completely immersed in Frances point of view, feeling every bit of physical and emotional pain that she went through.

Books so far in 2018 – 32

 

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