Reading Without Pressure

Since deciding to abandon a time frame for finishing my BBC Big Read challenge, I have, typically, rekindled my interest in getting through those last few books. At the library a couple of weeks ago, I checked out three from the remaining nine, and have finished one already, leaving just eight to go. (I’ve now crossed The Mayor of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy) off the list. I enjoyed it, more than any other Hardy I’ve read, even though it was filled with typically melancholic Hardy moments.)

It’s amazing what removing a little pressure can do, right?

Ms Oh Waily feels the same way; she and I both lost our 1001 Books mojo in the second half of 2014, but a third pair of hands coming on board has given us both a renewed sense of reading purpose for 2015. That’s not to say we’d turn down any other reviews/reviewers…..hint, hint, HINT.

Reading Right Now

So….I’ve been sidetracked from the last dozen-or-so books I’ve got to read from the BBC Big Read Top 200….by The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt.

Having loved The Secret History, I knew it was risky starting such a big novel at this point in the challenge, but now….I can’t put it down.

Unsurprisingly, it is good. Sooooo gooooooood.

Could this be my undoing?!?!

Reading and Reviewing

I’ve been embracing technology recently, reading e-books while I sit beside Pickle’s cot for a few moments when he goes to bed. I think I will always prefer to hold a physical book in my hands, to turn each whispering page, to place a book on my bookshelf, but I’m happy to admit that reading on a phone or tablet definitely has its place. We’re off on holiday soon, and to minimise our luggage, I’m certainly going to download a few more!

The latest e-book I read was Artemis Fowl (Eion Colfer); and it was okay. I didn’t like it as much as the past few Young Adult books I’ve read, but the story was unique and clever, and I did enjoy it as an easy, cot-side read.

This brings my BBC Big Read Top 200 total up to 175, and I can see the end of the list in sight. I’ll be so pleased to be finished – it has taken me, afterall, almost seven years to get this far – and will relish the chance to read more of the stack beside my bed that aren’t on any lists. However, there are still 800-odd books for review on 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, so I won’t be short of reading suggestions for quite some time to come.

Reading and Reviewing

I just finished reading All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque, and wow, what a profound book. I didn’t expect it to have such an effect on me, but it has, and I’m still processing my thoughts. It was a sobering read, often humourous, but mostly thought-provoking and quite challenging.

Other recent reads:

Noughts and Crosses, by Malorie Blackman. This young adult dystopian fiction is number 61 on The Big Read, and even though this isn’t my usual genre, I was pleasantly surprised. The style was okay – it was definitely written with a much younger audience in mind – and it was an easy read; the concept was interesting and the ending was not at all what I expected (in a good way).

The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle. This was my first reading of Sherlock Holmes, and it was very enjoyable, if a little predictable. The story was clever, and I liked how the culmination of the story (ie: the solving of the mystery) was left until there were very few pages left. I found myself reading faster and faster with the knowledge that the famous detective had to tie everything together in so little time, and this sudden excitement made for an enjoyable end.

My review of House of Leaves has been published here, along with my thoughts on The Forsyte Saga.

Reading and Reviewing

We visited our local library a couple of weeks ago and I found a few books from the BBC Big Read; I tend to forget about the library, but the boys love going there, and the best thing is – the books are free.

Many of the books on the list are ones I have no prior knowledge of (some I’ve heard of, but don’t know much about the story), and The Thirty-Nine Steps, by John Buchan, was no exception. It tells the story of a young man who flees his London flat after finding a new acquaintance – a man embroiled in some sort of political plot – dead in his home. He escapes into Scotland, and meets a variety of people along the way from whom he seeks help. He eventually returns to London to seek out an important political figure who will offer him safety and secure his innocence, and with whom he hopes to foil an enemy ploy. I thoroughly enjoyed it, for its clever plot, and the enticing, exciting way in which it is written. The characters are varied, dramatic and interesting, the journey of our main man is intriguing, and the chase is tremendously thrilling. It was an easy, quick read, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

My sister was astonished to hear I hadn’t yet read Goodnight Mister Tom (by Michelle Magorian), as it was a book she read at school. I’m not sure how it slipped through the cracks with me; I’d certainly heard of it, but never picked up a copy until now. It is a beautiful, emotional, poignant story, set in England during World War Two. Tom Oakley looks after a young evacuee, William Beech, who has been sent away from London by his abusive, deeply religious mother; in Little Weirwold, through a great deal of nurturing, he discovers his true personality and strength, which enables him to deal with ultimate tragedies in his young life. Such a stunning story, and one I wish I’d had the pleasure of reading earlier.

The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy, held great promise for me – it sounded exciting…but sadly failed to deliver. Others have raved about this book, but it honestly didn’t do anything for me. I tried so hard to get into it, but struggled with each page and breathed a sigh of relief when it was finished. I’ll be writing a review for 1001 Books to Read Before You Die…and it won’t be a positive one.

Reading and Reviewing

I began the year with the goal of finishing the remaining 34 books on the BBC Big Read Top 200. I wasn’t feeling too confident about achieving this, but a visit to the library this week has renewed my belief that I can do it!

If I don’t make it, I blame* Angela for distracting me from the list with the final installment in Laini Taylor’s amazing Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. I have never ever ever anticipated the release of a book so much as with Dreams of Gods and Monsters, and it did not disappoint. I loved it, and though beyond-sad to have finished, think she exceeded expectations and ended the trilogy in the perfect way. It was funny, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, teeth-clenching and tear-inducing all at the same time; I had papilio stomachus (fans will know what I’m talkin’ about…others will just have to read the series) on numerous occasions. I loved feisty Zuzana (our little rabid fairy) and generous-of-spirit Ziri, and Liraz…beautiful, beautiful Liraz emerged as a surprising-yet-not-surprising favourite. There were parts I didn’t see coming, and situations I’d have liked to see (but didn’t change the story at all, or reduce my enjoyment of it), and Laini didn’t disappoint with her style of writing, story-telling or cleverness. Visit Angela and Sarah to find out what they thought (spoiler alert: they LOVED IT TOO).

After finishing DOGAM, I returned to House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski. This took me much longer to read than I expected, purely because it was the strangest book I think I’ve ever read. It was good-strange in story, and confusing-strange in style, and on one occasion I had to resort to using google to reassure myself that it really was a work of fiction. I’ll be writing a review for 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, so keep an eye out for more on this crazy novel soon.

After finishing House of Leaves, which left my brain feeling a little bit ouchie, I started on Kerre Woodham’s Short Fat Chick in Paris, which is a much easier, less thinky read. It’s not on the list, but I needed something banal after working so hard previously. It’s actually better than I expected, and interesting to read as someone who always entertains the idea of getting back into running but never quite makes it past the first run.

After our visit to the library, I’ve just finished The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. I had no idea what this was about, and when I saw the slim little book on the shelf, I was doubtful as to its place on the Big Read list. However, only a few pages in, I understood. The Old Man and the Sea is a fable, set in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Havana. It features an old fisherman, Santiago, his young friend, Manolin, and a beautiful, gigantic marlin; in just 99 pages, I ran through a gauntlet of emotions ranging from excited happiness, to deflated grief. It is amazing how much of a story can be told in so few pages, and with so few characters. You can read Tori’s great review on 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.

*not really. I could have said, “No thanks!” Bahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

What I’m Reading

At the moment, I’m reading The Pickwick Papers (part 1 of 3), by Charles Dickens. The copy I have belongs to my mum, and the stamp inside tells me it was purchased by Musselburgh School in 1926. The pages have a beautiful sheen to them and are wonderfully thick. But that’s by-the-by, because you want to know about the content, right?

It’s probably the funniest of Dickens’ work that I’ve read. This version is an abridged collection of the full book (which I also have), and the snippets of stories are witty and delightful, with characters that are so full of life and spark. The Pickwickians are a group of men who document their “adventures”; the situations they find themselves in are often seemingly-mundane but there’s always a quirk. Loving it.

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My review of The Master and Margarita, which I also loved, can be found here, on 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.