1 // All the Books

I can't remember the last time I didn't have a book on the go; to put it simply, reading has become an intrinsic part of my being. I've grown up among dust-coated and inked individuals – and the flick of a page has become second nature. And yet, I don't feel as if my humble blog lingers enough on the specific books I've read across the years. And so, in order to share more of the books I've read, I've allocated each of my books a number – and, with each of these posts, I'll ponder and muse over a randomly selected array of my books, noting my thoughts on aspects of them.

“She'd become an English major for the purest and dullest of reasons: because she loved to read.” 

The Marriage Plot is about Madeleine Hanna, a dutiful English Major who is writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot, purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels. As Madeleine studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, her own life intervenes in the form of two very different romances.

I picked this book up last year, after finishing The Virgin Suicides (by the same author). It's an odd book and, although regularly pretentious and waffly, it offers occasional bouts of brilliance. The opening, for instance, is one of the best I've ever read. The novel as a whole is incredibly dense, and arguably too long, but mostly enjoyable. After all, I can't help but agree with the cover quote: "[The Marriage Plot] reminds us with uncommon understanding what it is to be young and idealistic, in pursuit of true love, and in love with books and ideas."

"I lost track of the time…" "For two hours?" "There were books involved."

THE Well of Ascension is the second book in the Mistborn series; a trilogy set in a world where the "bad side" have already won, and evil prevails. THE WELL OF ASCENSION follows Vin, a Mistborn, who uses Allomancy – the power of the metals – to rebuild their world.

Oh, MISTBORN, how I love you. Ever since a young age, I've had a penchant for dedicating hours and hours towards fantasy – wondrous, loveable fantasy. This series fills me with an odd sense of nostalgia – although I read it only last year, and it's classified as an 'adult' fantasy series, the book has a comforting air about it. It reminds me of the hours I spent as a child, wholly and truly enamoured by the fantastical. I remember finishing the first book in this series, THE Final Empire, whilst I was in Cornwall, and seeking every bookshop in vain, as I searched for the sequel; THE WELL OF ASCENSION, quite simply, is fantasy doing what fantasy does best.

“It is so difficult – at least, I find it difficult – to understand people who speak the truth.” 

A Room With a View is the story of a young middle-class girl, Lucy Honeychurch. While on holiday in Italy, Lucy meets and is wooed by two gentlemen: George Emerson and Cecil Vyse. And thus begins a tale of human struggles such as the choice between social acceptance or true happiness.

Upon finishing A ROOM WITH A VIEW for the first time, I wrote: “This had a profound effect on me. I couldn't tell you how or why, but it just did.” And I still don't know why I love it so; I just know that, ever since I came across my copy, in a quaint Cornish bookshop, it's one for my favourites shelf. Perhaps my adoration for Lucy Honeychurch has spurred on my love for Forster's novel, or maybe I just loved the  pure and sincere exploration of human emotion. Whatever the case, A ROOM WITH A VIEW doesn't deserve to be dismissed as "bland" or "dated"; A ROOM WITH A VIEW deserves to be read and reread, loved and always loved – it's really that simple.

SHELF 6, BOOK 202: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
“Ursula craved solitude but she hated loneliness” 

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born – only to die before she can draw her first breath. Throughout her life, Ursula dies repeatedly, in a number of ways, only to be reborn. Clearly history has plans for hers – for, in Ursula, rests nothing less than the fate of civilisation.

My love for Kate Atkinson has been a long and constant one – mostly due to her much-adored Jackson Brodie series. When I heard of this book's release, I was immediately intrigued. Fortunately,  lIFE aFTER lIFE, although not quite as brilliant as the previously mentioned series, does not disappoint. This book offers an audacious twist on history, and one can't help but love its wild originality. 

“Every hour wounds. The last one kills.”

Days before his release from prison, Shadow's wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home, only to encounter the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.

I received this book for my birthday a year or two back, and read it almost immediately; inevitably, I fell in love with its blissful originality and dangerously unsettling premise. American Gods is what the best kind of fantasy is: the kind that tricks you into believing you've escaped reality when you're really just revisiting a world you know all too well. If you love profound, yet thick, fantasy novels by storytellers who know their craft: read this. If you dislike long books, steer clear.

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?  
N.B. I've seen other bloggers do similar things to this, but I can't remember for the life of me what these posts were called, so I'm going with my own title: "All the Books". I hope you enjoy them!

On Reading For Pleasure

I used to think there was more to reading than just pleasure. And, of course there is; you crawl into the concealed crevices of the human mind; you voyage through time; you tiptoe from continent to continent; you experience the unknown; you come to realisations (some good, some bad); you think. And that's only the beginning of things – really.

And yet, I used to think these things were more important than the enjoyment of a book. I used to think, in order for a book to be one of my favourites, it had to make my mind dive through a myriad of emotions and unconsidered thoughts – not that it could simply make me smile. Inevitably, I'd overcomplicated and compromised the pleasure of reading.

And yet, the other day, the star-shaped cogs of sense started ticking again, and I remembered the importance of simply enjoying a book. Of course I love it when a book enables me to do all of the above, but all of that is futile if the simple turn of a page can't bring me pure enjoyment. Besides, it is when I read for pleasure I ultimately discover the most.

“With my eyes closed, I would touch a familiar book and draw its fragrance deep inside me. This was enough to make me happy.” – Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

“I ate them like salad, books were my sandwich for lunch, my tiffin and dinner and midnight munch. I tore out the pages, ate them with salt, doused them with relish, gnawed on the bindings, turned the chapters with my tongue! Books by the dozen, the score and the billion. I carried so many home I was hunchbacked for years. Philosophy, art history, politics, social science, the poem, the essay, the grandiose play, you name 'em, I ate 'em.”  – Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451

I now believe reading for pleasure is the most valuable reason to read. It's the purest and least complicated reason; it leaves a smile flickering across your lips, and it leaves your fingers itching for the next adventure. And, more than anything, it makes you fall in love with reading, yet again.

Where do you stand on reading for pleasure?
Books photographed above: The Bell Jar, Never Let Me Go, The Book Thief

REVIEW: All My Friends Are Superheroes

I fell a little in love with this novella – page by page, pathetic superhero by pathetic superhero. All My Friends Are Superheroes is a whimsical and unexpectedly charming ode to love and life, but also a heartfelt exploration of the human condition. It's simply extraordinary. 

Author: Andrew Kaufman | Publisher: Telegram | Pages: 106 | Source: Library |

All Tom's friends really are superheroes.

There's the Ear, the Spooner, the Impossible Man. Tom even married a superhero, the Perfectionist. But at their wedding, the Perfectionist was hypnotized (by ex-boyfriend Hypno, of course) to believe that Tom is invisible. Nothing he does can make her see him. Six months later, she's sure that Tom has abandoned her.

So she's moving to Vancouver. She'll use her superpower to make Vancouver perfect and leave all the heartbreak in Toronto. With no idea Tom's beside her, she boards an airplane in Toronto. Tom has until the wheels touch the ground in Vancouver to convince her he's visible, or he loses her forever.

MY THOUGHTS: "There are 249 superheroes in the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. None of them have secret identities. Very few wear costumes." Yet, despite the abundance of superheroes residing in Kaufman's alternate Toronto, our tale naturally revolves around an ordinary and non-super being. His name's Tom and he's extraordinary in his ordinariness.

Essentially, the novel revolves around Tom's flight to Vancouver with his superhero wife (to whom he's currently invisible), and it follows his desperate attempts to persuade her he's visible. As the novella unfolds, flashbacks explain how it came to this situation, and the relationship between Tom and his wife evolves into a wonderfully affecting tale.

The touching vignettes of Tom's life, focussing largely on his tragic relationship with a superhero, are wonderfully weird, and full of idiosyncrasies. For example, one scene revolves around the process of 'curing a broken heart' being an actual anatomical procedure, whilst another involves the 'anxiety monster'. Every aspect of the novella, although briefly touched upon, is just fantastic.

To touch upon the superheroes themselves, they are far from your traditional spandex-wearing, muscular men – but, instead, they are apparently normal human beings who have one unique quality that defines them. Throughout the tale, we meet a mixture of these (hilariously pathetic) beings; in fact, a couple of chapters are solely dedicated to introducing and defining the bunch. Take these examples…

All her through youth, the Battery had two things: an overpowering father and an over-rebellious mind. In combination, these forces gave her the ability to store great amounts of emotional energy and release it in one blinding bolt. But beware: the Battery's allegiances aren't to good or evil, but simply against whatever stands in her way. Friend, foe or innocent bystander – the Battery's emotional energy bursts are unpredictable and she will strike at will.
He knocks on doors and stands there. You'd be surprised how few doors get answered. 

Copycat has the ability to mimic anybody's personal style. Which wouldn't be so bad, perhaps even a compliment, if she wasn't able to perfect her subject's style to the point where they start looking like less successful versions of themselves. 
In short, ALL MY FRIENDS ARE SUPERHEROES is a deliciously relatable, yet fantastically cliché-free, commentary on the trials and tribulations of relationships. This said, at only 106 pages, one can't help but wish for more. After all, Kaufman has delivered a loveable and near-perfect tale – the kind that will remain with the reader, due to its offbeat humour and heartwarming nature.

Favourite Quotation:    
"There is only one amount of money - just not enough."
"There are two ways to get rid of an anxiety monster, my friend-you either have a bath or a nap."

in One Word?
This eccentric and quirky read is whimsical beyond belief. In an attempt to sum it up to my friend, I described it as 'a merge of Scott Pilgrim and Wes Anderson films… in a book' – and I think that's an apt description of how fantastical it is.

February 2015 | In Delightfully Odd Words

I guess if there's anything I unearthed this month, it's that I never cut February enough slack. It always seems a bit of a 'filler' month as such – but sometimes a filler month is all you need. And, not only did I read some pretty great books this month (my two favourites were All My Friends Are Superheroes and Kafka on the Shore), but I also wrote some blog posts I'm surprisingly proud of.

But, instead of me rambling on (because that seems to be an all-too-familiar drag), I thought I'd describe the month in a couple of wonderful – yet annoyingly underused – words. Enjoy!

A person who reads in bed.
Despite usually being someone who reads anywhere, I spent my February reading hours curled up under my duvet. Reading in bed is simply the best way to read – especially with there being such a fine line between the fiction you're reading, and your soon-to-be dream-filled mind. After hours of schoolwork, assuming the librocubicularist role is the source of ultimate comfort.

Walking or wandering in the nighttime.
I'm a fairly nocturnal being, in the sense I have a penchant for whittling the night away as I potter aimlessly around my room. February was no exception to this rule. I spent a grand portion of the month wandering around my room at these hours, completing mundane tasks like organising my bookshelf and so on. I also write and plan most of my blog posts around these late night hours – it's then that I, ironically, feel the most awake.

Smultronställe [Swedish]:
Considering I'm all too familiar with city life, every trip to the countryside always seems that little bit sweeter. I went on a countryside walk with a couple of my friends the other week to a place we often go together (homemade sandwiches, cake, etc. – yes, it really was that twee) and so this word seems so apt for the trip. 

Uitwaaien [Dutch]:
To take a break to clear one's head; "to walk in the wind".
'Uitwaaien' is definitely February in a one-word nutshell. I spent a lot of February relaxing (mostly by watching Mad Men), but I also calmly organised this blog and so on. Despite the schoolwork piling up, February took a fairly languorous turn – as if it was merely a flickering break before the onslaught of work March will inevitably bring.

A strong urge to write.
In case my blog doesn't occasionally make it evident (or rather, the mere fact I have a blog in the first place), I love to write. And the joyous thing about half term falling in February, is that Sylvia (the typewriter) felt human touch once again. February was a month where I just felt like writing.

How was February to you?
Blog posts written: Book Haul | A Somewhat Eclectic One, Mini Reviews | February 2015, The Joy of Handwriting, On Introversion And Creativity, My Reading Taste
Books read this month: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Franchise Affair, All My Friends Are Superheroes, Kafka on the Shore,