2016/10/30

BOOK HAUL:
OCTOBER

We've reached the end of October, the leaves have turned orange and started falling and the temperatures have started approaching zero. November is almost here and I can't believe we're almost at the end of the year.

Either way, October was a good month. I went to London for a long weekend which was lovely (and I got some books, which I will show you in another haul in a few weeks) and generally life has gone on as normal.

I've been especially interested in gothic literature lately, which you'll see apparent in the books I got this month.













I hope you've all had a lovely month!
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2016/10/29

BOOK REVIEW:
CATHERINE THE GREAT BY ROBERT K. MASSIE

Title: Catherine the Great: A Portrait of a Woman
Author: Robert K. Massie
Published: 2011
Language: English
Pages: 625
Rating: 4/5


Summary:
This is the tale of the German princess who went to Russia at the age of 14 and slowly but surely became one of the most powerful women in history as the Empress of Russia.


Review:
This book is exactly the kind of nonfiction that I really like - the not dry kind. It's easy to read, easy to follow and absolutely fascinating.

The writing is clear and uncomplicated and I feel like the whole book was well constructed and well divided between the different parts of Catherine's life. I feel like I got a good understanding of not only her, but the world and time in which she lived. You get to meet both the person and the empress, which I really enjoyed.

I feel like I learned a lot and it was very little effort. I enjoyed almost all of it, and even though it's quite a long book, it doesn't feel long. I also knew very little about Catherine the Great or Russian history at all really, and it didn't matter in the slightest.

If you like historical biographies and have an interest in Russian history, this is one to read. I know Massie has written several other books about Russian history, all of which I definitely want to check out.

You can get this book at The Book Depository*
You can read more about it on Goodreads
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2016/10/28

2016/10/27

2016/10/26

BOOK REVIEW:
AUTUMN JOURNAL BY LOUIS MACNEICE

Title: Autumn Journal
Author: Louis MacNeice
Published: 2015
Language: English
Pages: 96
Rating: 3/5


Summary:
This poetry collection was written in the last month of 1938 and is a record of the authors experience during months where the world was about to fall apart.


Review:
This was a pretty good collection of poetry, though perhaps not my personal preference, and I don't actually have that much to say about it.

I think it gives an interesting glimpse into the time it was written in, right before the war. You get a good sense of the world back then and the language the author uses is lovely. It's a historical look into the time but it didn't move me quite as much as I had wished it would. I was much more interested in the coming war and the weight of it, than the authors own personal life.

One of my favorite poems was the fifth one. It's pretty long, so here's the first part:

To-day was a beautiful day, the sky was brilliant
Blue for the first time for weeks and weeks
But posters flapping on the railings tell the fluttered
World that Hitler speaks, that Hitler speaks
And we cannot take it in and go to our daily
Jobs to the dull refrain of caption "War"
Buzzing around us as from hidden insects
And we think "This must be wrong, it has happened before".

The poems I enjoyed in this were excellent, though I didn't enjoy them all. It's one of those collections that are solid and good, but doesn't quite make its way into my heart.

You can get this book at The Book Depository*
You can read more about it on Goodreads
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2016/10/24

BOOK REVIEW:
THE MAKER OF SWANS BY PARAIC O'DONNELL

Title: The Maker of Swans
Author: Paraic O'Donnell
Published: 2016
Language: English
Pages: 327
Rating: 3/5


Summary:
This is a strange tale about Mr Crowe, who has mysterious powers, his mute ward Clara, his loyal servant Eustace and the mysterious men coming to their house after Mr Crowe after he commits a crime of passion.


Review:
This was quite an interesting read and for a first novel, quite accomplished.

The most striking thing about this book is the writing. It's truly beautiful and you can feel the work that's gone into making each sentence. It is also, sadly, a bit confusing at times, clarity being lost in the effort to write something gorgeous.

I did really enjoy this though. I found the story enticing and the characters fascinating. I was constantly wondering what was going to happen next and I could never foresee where it was going. I thought it was atmospheric, strange and has a bit of a gothic feel to it that I really like. It's a slow-burning book for the most part and I generally found it a highly enjoyable experience.

It does have a few holes though and I almost wish it would've been a bit longer - I felt it slightly lacking in backstory to some of the characters, the ending felt rushed and had me puzzled as to what was really happening. I don't feel quite satisfied in having finished this, I feel like there's something missing.

This is the authors first published work though and even though it's not perfect, it's definitely something special and just the writing is really something. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what he publishes next.

You can get this book at The Book Depository*
You can read more about it on Goodreads
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2016/10/22

BOOKISH REFLECTIONS:
TIPS ON READING CLASSICS

If there's one thing people ask me over and over, it is: how do you read classics? How do you get started? So today, I thought I would share some tips for reading them!


TIP #1
DON'T READ THEM IF YOU DON'T WANT TO
This is the most important thing in reading ANYTHING. If you don't want to, if it doesn't interest you, don't. You're not going to enjoy it. Contrary to popular belief, "classic" is not the only mark of quality and not all of them are equally good. If a book is not for you, it's not for you and that's fine.

You don't have to read everything and people who tell you otherwise are missing the point of reading books at all.

TIP #2
FIND THE RIGHT CLASSIC FOR YOU
When I really got into reading classics, I was surprised at how many books were counted under this genre. There are thousands of them! I have especially been surprised at how much variety there are in modern classics and short stories. 

If you're just getting started, try and find something in one of your favorite genres. If you like romance novels already, pick a romance novel. If you like fantasy, find a fantasy book etc etc. If you're not into reading War and Peace, don't.


TIP #3
IF YOU'RE CONFUSED, GOOGLE IT
I once decided I needed to read Inferno by Dante, because it's a "very important" classic. So I bought it, and man was I confused. The whole thing is written in verse and was for me very hard to follow, so I saw no choice but to google what was happening. This eventually led me to Sparknotes, and to be able to understand this book at all, I read one chapter and then the summary on there to make sure I got it all (which I usually hadn't).

Now, Inferno is probably one of the more difficult classics I've read, so the amount I had to look things up was rather high. However, I do this with other classics as well, recently with Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and 1984 by George Orwell. 

After I've read a classic, I will often also go online and read essays and shorter studies of the book, because it usually lends a new and interesting perspective. This is one of my favorite things about classics - because they are just that, loads of people have read them and have thoughts about them, many of which, because of the internet, are available to us all.

(This tip also applies to most things in life by the way.)

TIP #4
IF YOU'RE INTIMIDATED, READ A SHORT ONE
If you feel like classics are a bit scary, try reading a shorter one. There are many, many short classics such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson or The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. They're easier to get through because of their length, and when you're done, you feel a sense of accomplishment. I have a tendency to do this with all kinds of books - if I'm not quite feeling taking on something massive, I'll just read something shorter.


TIP #5
TAKE YOUR TIME
I don't read classics (the oldest ones at least) the same way I read other books, because with these books, they often pose a greater challenge for me. Because of that, to make sure I enjoy it, I try not to rush myself. Take your time and enjoy! That's the most important thing.

I hope this was somewhat helpful. Keep in mind that the most important thing is to read something you like, not what everyone else keeps yammering on about (though honestly, Jane Eyre is so good, and have you read any Jane Austen? You simply must!) 
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2016/10/21

2016/10/18

BOOK REVIEW:
NEGROLAND BY MARGO JEFFERSON

Title: Negroland: A Memoir
Author: Margo Jefferson
Published: 2015
Language: English
Pages: 248
Rating: 3/5


Summary:
This is a meditation on race, class and gender, mostly centering around the life of the author in the 50s and 60s, through the Civil Rights Movement and the dawn of feminism.


Review:
I think this is a lovely book and an interesting look into the life of upperclass African Americans of her time.

I think the discussions on race are fascinating and in parts heartbreaking, and I thought it was especially interesting to read about how the author and her likes viewed not only white people, but also other black people. It discusses privilege alongisde race and that isn't something I've seen that often. The whole book also feels honest and in parts raw, and I really loved the part towards the end where she discusses feminism (I would have preferred this to be a bit longer actually).

I did find the writing a bit hard to overcome on occasion, as some parts felt a bit disjointed and slightly difficult to understand. The first thirty pages or so are very much like this. It's also not quite as on point as I would've wished, although maybe that's how it's meant to be.

I think this book offers up a unique perspective and is definitely worth the read, and if you generally like essay collections, I think you'll like this.
You can get this book at The Book Depository*
You can read more about it on Goodreads
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2016/10/16

BOOK REVIEW:
THE YELLOW WALLPAPER AND OTHER STORIES BY CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN

Title: The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories
Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Published: 2009
Language: English
Pages: 332
Rating: 3/5


Summary:
This is a collection of short stories dealing with mental health and feminism.


Review:
This was an interesting collection and quite different from what I thought it was going to be.

I had expected this to deal more with mental health and be more psychological. The Yellow Wallpaper is very much that, it's dark and excellent, but the rest of the stories vary in both theme and quality.

My favorite stories were the gothic ones. I did enjoy the straight up feminist ones as well, but after a while, they got dreadfully repetitive. There is a bit of humour at times that I really enjoyed, some were very thought provoking and it is always interesting to read about the role of women in history.

It was definitely an interesting collection and worth the read, and the title story really was excellent. I do think it's best to space out the stories, read one here and there, instead of reading them back to back (like I did), as they tend to blend into one another. And if you're not up for reading the entire collection, I would highly recommend reading just The Yellow Wallpaper, as I think it's the best one in this book.

You can get this book at The Book Depository*
You can read more about it on Goodreads
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2016/10/15

BOOKSTAGRAM SPOTLIGHT:
RELATIONSHEEP

So, today I have another bookstagram account I have been loving lately and want to share with you! This time, I want you to check out Mathilde over at @relationsheep.




Go follow!

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2016/10/14

2016/10/12

BOOK REVIEW:
GHOST STORIES

Title: Ghost Stories
Edited by: Peter Washington
Published: 2008
Language: English
Pages: 407
Rating: 3/5


Summary:
This is a collection of classic ghost stories.


Review:
This was a lovely and properly haunting short story collection.

I really liked that not all of these stories are necessarily about ghosts. Don't get me wrong, sometimes it's an actual ghost, both one chasing you and one hanging in the background, sometimes a character from a book appears to haunt you, sometimes it's a house that has just something weird to it... it's a good mix of the supernatural.

I wouldn't call this collection terrifying (there was perhaps one or two stories that had me on the edge of my seat), but there is an overarching creepy atmosphere that I really like. As with most collections there were some stories I highly enjoyed, such as The Horla and Honeysuckle Cottage, and others I didn't care as much for.

Overall, I felt like this did what it promised and although not everything blew me away, this was enjoyable, entertaining and delivered what it promised: classic ghost stories.

You can get this book at The Book Depository*
You can read more about it on Goodreads
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