Book Haul | April 2015


“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.

Have you read any of these books? Do you plan to? I'd love to know!

March 2015 | In Wonderfully Peculiar Words


Oh, March, will I ever like you? It seems the only months I'll every truly enjoy are those that end with '-uary' or '-ber'. And, despite the fact I seem to judge months and weekdays on a linguistic basis (e.g. I prefer Thursdays to Sundays for the simple fact 'Thursday' sounds a lot better), I can honestly say I dislike March for both its content and how it sounds. The reason for this March-related hatred being the fact it largely revolved around schoolwork, mock exams and revision. (Which, in my opinion, is a pretty sound reason for disliking a month).

Petrichor:
tHE SCENT OF RAIN ON DRY EARTH.
Earlier this month I read a novel entitled  PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER, which, unsurprisingly, explores smell. Smell is not a sense I've ever fully appreciated, yet Patrick Süskind's lavish (albeit morbid) descriptions of various aromas enlightened me to its beauty. And so, as an ode to all the fleeting and fickle scents of this world, here's my favourite: the scent of rain on dry earth.

Paracosm:
a detailed imaginary world created by a child that includes human, animal, or alien creations.
When I discovered this word,  I couldn't help but offer a wistful smile. I was a child of many paracosms – too many to count, let alone remember. And now, as I spend each day encircled by the harsh reality of revision, I can't help but look upon these years I spent in these paracosms, and gleefully await their return. “Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.” – Neil Gaiman

Nyctophilia:
Love of darkness or night; findin relaxation or comfort in darkness.
Perhaps when you were younger, your parents would look upon you with a faint shadow of amusement (and a light-hearted shake of the head), and refer to you as a "night owl" or "early bird". (I, myself, was both – but that's another story). Nowadays I still channel the "night owl" within; for me, there's no better time to write or read, than when moonlight offers its cold embrace.

Adoxography:
Beautiful writing on a subject of little or no importance.
As a reader, I've always felt compelled by intricate plot lines and detailed character development, in the same way I've always worshipped the profound meanings of words. That said, I realised this month that I have a real love for flowery and wonderfully pointless prose. I just adore it.

Offing:
The deep, distant stretch of ocean visible from land; the foreseeable future.
'Offing' wasn't necessarily a word I planned to include in this post – after all, it doesn't directly relate to March, but rather the months that lie ahead. And yet, it's such a fantastically introspective word, I couldn't help but want it to be included. After all, when I look out towards the deep, distant stretch of ocean, what is it I see? (Admittedly, a load of exams – but, eh, let's ignore that for a now).

How was March to you?
Blog posts written: REVIEW: All My Friends Are Superheroes, On Reading For Pleasure, 1 // All the Books
Books read this month: The Five People You Meet In Heaven, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His years of Pilgrimage, The Name of the Rose, The Rehearsal

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.

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.

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