“A library is never complete. That’s the joy of it. We are always seeking one more book to add to our collection.” – Catherynne M. Valente.
The first book I picked up is A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – a fantasy novel about parallel versions of London, revolving around a Traveller who can jump between them. “And so Kell—inspired by the lost city known to all as Black London—had given each remaining capital a colour. Grey for the magic-less city. Red, for the healthy empire. White, for the starving world.” I'm a huge fantasy fan, and there's nothing I love more than to lose myself in reverie. So, naturally, this book seemed like a must.
Picnic At Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay is a 1967 novel about a group of female students who disappear after a picnic. Going from the first few pages, I can tell this is going to be a short, but eerie and suspenseful, read.
The third book I picked up is one that I still don't entirely know the plot of. Essentially, the quote on the cover of this novel – “Curious Incident meets The Man Who Fell to Earth” (Joanne Harris) – is why I picked up The Humans by Matt Haig. From what I've gathered, this book is best approached when you don't know too much about it, and just leave yourself susceptible to the shock of unnamed territory and undefined mysteries.
I also picked up The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North – a book which has received ridiculously high praise. The novel revolves around Harry August, a man who, upon death, returns to his childhood with recollections of all his past lives – nothing ever changes, until his eleventh life. I was initially quite skeptical of this book (after all, it isn't exactly an original concept) but, after reading reviews that refer to it as "the best book you'll read this year", I'm definitely intrigued.
Haruki Murakami has inspired my recent obsession with Japanese literature. And, whilst I don't expect to find any authors as bizarre as Murakami, I am looking forward to further exploring elements of Japanese culture. Strange Weather In Tokyo by Hiromi kAWAKAMI sounds like a beautifully-written novel, as well as tender examination of loneliness; I can't wait to read it.The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins has been hailed a masterpiece. And it sounds exactly like the kind of book I would enjoy. After hearing nonstop raving about its artful and suspenseful storytelling, and twisted characters, I have no idea why I've only just picked it up.
“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.
BOOK 19: A ROOM WITH A VIEW BY E.M. FORSTER
“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.
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.
BOOK 232: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
“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.