Reading Diary – February/March 2019

Book people tend to categorise themselves as either a ‘character-based reader’ or a ‘plot-based reader’. Character studies with little plot aren’t enough to keep me interested in a book but at the same time, I’m happy with slow-paced books if I like the overall mood of the world in which they’re set. I have therefore decided that I am an ‘atmosphere-based reader’.

Equal Rites (Discwolrd 3) by Terry Pratchett

“Hilta laughed like someone who had thought hard about Life and had seen the joke.”

This is the first Discworld book I’ve read. I’ve been put off it up to this point because I’m not generally a fan of zany humour and was concerned this wouldn’t be to my taste (as much as I’m a fan of fantasy). I decided to give Equal Rites a try because it’s the first in the Witches series and I liked the premise of a young girl accidentally inheriting a wizard’s powers.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself from start to finish. The world is fascinating and the characters are excellent with the relationship between young Esk and Granny Weatherwax being a complete joy. It’s funny and often silly, but not absurd to the point of being annoying. The writing is pleasingly clever and there is a strong plot.

Generally, I just loved hanging out in the Discworld. There is something warm and comforting about it that soothed my frazzled nerves – perfect light-hearted escapism. I decided to carry on with the next book. 5/5

 

Equal_Rites

 

Mort (Discworld 4) by Terry Pratchett

I bought Mort as it’s the next book in the Discworld and I’d heard good things about it. Unfortunately, I would have been better off continuing with the Witches series. I liked Mort as a character and there was good comic value in Death but the rest of the cast left me cold. This meant I wasn’t engaged with the quest to rescue one of them. There were still some nice ideas, funny moments and clever writing as you’d expect from Terry Pratchett but I never really got on board with it and just wanted to finish the book so I could get back to the witches. 2.5/5

 

The Colour of Magic (Discworld 1) by Terry Pratchett

Portia is a big fan of the Discworld series and told me that I should never have bothered with Mort and to go back to the first book, so I did. It made sense because this book gives you a fair amount of background to the world. Unfortunately, The Colour of Magic was everything I was concerned this series would be – convoluted and all over the place. I didn’t care for the craven wizard, Rinsewind or the irritatingly naïve tourist, Twoflower. Some lines were amusing but it was more like a collection of a stories than a cohesive narrative, with the pair being involved in one surreal episode after another. I did learn more about the world but I barely got through it. Although I still want to read Wyrd Sisters, this has sadly put me off for now. 1.5/5

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

“The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?”

You can’t get much further away from the Discworld than a post-apocalyptic thriller – not a genre I normally read. I’d heard a lot about Station Eleven but what got me to try it is the fact it was often described as atmospheric and elegiac.

The book starts off with Day Zero of the flu pandemic that will wipe out 99% of the globe’s inhabitants in a matter of days.  The story is set around the Great Lakes where we follow the stories of a number of interconnected characters in different time periods before, during and after the collapse of civilisation. Twenty years hence, we follow a travelling band of musicians and actors performing Shakespeare to the disparate settlements.

This isn’t just a tale of survival. it’s about what really sustains us when everything is stripped away, how our lives touch those of others, how we can sleepwalk through our lives and what matters when all is said and done.

It’s a thought-provoking, gripping read. 5/5

 

station 11

 

Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through The Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh

“To meditate with mindful breathing is to bring body and mind back to the present moment so that you do not miss your appointment with life.”

I’ve wanted to read the teachings of Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, for ages. My recent determination to give mindfulness a proper go gave me the impetus I needed to pick this up. It covers fear in a whole range of circumstances from death and personal relationships to terrorism. There are then exercises for incorporating mindfulness into your daily life. I’m a dreamer, so mindfulness will always be a struggle for me but I know it’s practice, rather than something you master. 3.5/5

 

fear

 

What are you reading this spring?

 

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24 Comments

Filed under Book Review

24 responses to “Reading Diary – February/March 2019

  1. Brigitte

    Just finished reading Mindfulness for Beginners as I was a facilitator of a book talk at work utilizing that book. Pretty good book but got a bit too esoteric for some of the participants. I will look for Fear as it looks like an interesting book.

    Like

    • Hi Brigitte,

      Thich Nhat Hanh has many, many books about mindfulness, all with a similar message. For the workplace, something Iike ‘Mindfulness: An 8 Week Programme’ by Prof. Mark Williams might be more practical and less esoteric.
      I just find it such a hard thing to do consistently but I’m trying.

      Like

  2. crikey

    I love the Discworld novels–or rather, I love *some* of them: the witches and the night watch/city stories. I learned to skip the wizards who mostly just annoy me. If I may make a suggestion: try the first four of the five Tiffany Aching novels starting with “The wee free men”. The witches are still there but this stands apart from the main line a little. They are less frenetic and zany, but witty and warm. It’s like he took the best from books like Equal Rites, and levelled up.

    Loved Station Eleven.

    The main thing I’ve read recently is the science fiction trilogy The Three Body Problem trilogy by Liu Cixin. It’s… not like a lot of other SF, partly I think because it is rooted in Chinese cultural history rather than US. Lots of stopping to think about it as I go on.

    Like

    • Hey crikey,

      Thanks for the Discworld tip. I was going to ignore the Tiffany Aching books because they’re YA.

      So good to hear you loved Station Eleven too!

      Just read up on The Three Body Problem and it sounds epic.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I just finished Ellena`s Diary of a Nose again. Such a charming book. Nearing the end of Hari´s Lost Connections. It has only taken forever because I always have at least 6 books on the go. Yesterday I ordered Ruby Wax´s Frazzed (your recommendation, just finally ordered it.) and Tana French – The Wych Elm. For no other reason than I liked the review in The Guardian.
    Will put Station Eleven on my Tara list of books to read, yes I really do have one. ❤

    Like

  4. lady jane grey

    I was waiting for one of my favourite writers to come up wih a new book – Siri Hustvedt „Memories of the Future“. Just got it and will immerse myself in it during the weekend. I‘m all into female writers and feminist literature this year : „Number one Chinese Restaurant“ and „Bottled Goods“ were both longlisted for the 2019 women‘s prize for fiction. Then „The Gendered Brain“ by Gina Rippon. And finally Zadie Smith‘s Essays were strongly recommended to me – all the above are waiting on my nightstand to be read, now I’d only need the time for reading… (and it looks very much like spring outside, tempting for long walks in the woods, instead of reading at home…).
    Sending lots of love,
    M

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    • crikey

      A new novel from Siri Hustvedt?! Oh, happy day!

      Like

    • Hi M,

      It’s such a good feeling when a novel by your favourite author is released.

      That Zadie Smith book is also on my To Read list.

      Take the long walks in the woods! Maybe just read a chapter before bed.

      Like

    • Ana Maria Andreiu

      Lady Jane Grey, I have to thank you for mentioning Siri Hustdvet’s name because months ago I was struggling to remember there name of the author who wrote this incredibly atmospheric novel I read some many years ago. I can’t recall the book’s title, but now I’m certain it was Siri who wrote it. Seeing her name was as if a light went on in my brain, illuminating everything. I just knew it was the name I was trying so hard to remember. It’s strange how things work out sometimes 🙂

      Like

  5. Ordering Station Eleven now along with Fear. I’m currently reading a wonderful historical fiction–mostly history with a compelling narrative woven in–called Homeland by John Jakes. It’s a 5/5 for me. Love it! It’s 750 plus pages, so lots of time to immerse, and the “atmospheric writing” is excellent.

    Like

    • I hope you love Station Eleven as much as I did!

      I just checked out Homeland and see that it’s the same author as North and South so no wonder it’s an epic saga.

      Like

  6. Hamamelis

    Great list, thank you, lots of books to check out. I’m reading a few books at the moment, Mary Oliver’s Blue horses, a collection of her poems which are great, How to be a good Creature by Sy Montgomery, a gift of my BFF, highly recommended if you like brave strong women and animals, and the Familiars by Stacey Halls, another brave woman here.
    A book on mindfulness that I found accessible and very useful is Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

    Like

    • Hi Hamamelis,

      One of the main reasons I do these posts is the great recommendations I get from you guys.

      Love the sound of Full Catastrophe Living and The Familiars. Will check them out now.

      Like

  7. D’you know, I don’t think I do characterise myself as any kind of book reader. Other than that I am not drawn to biographies. That’s a fair old Pratchett-fest you had. 😉 And I so admire you for your excellent reading rate – I am still stuck on a book I have had on the go since Christmas, albeit just two chapters from the end…

    Siri Hustvedt – never know how to spell her, but love her work! Have an unread book of hers on the shelf still – shocking really.

    Like

  8. Hi Tara, I am reading Muriel Sparks Memento Mori. I started on the plane to Tasmania, and am almost finished. It’s the same name as a perfume, I have heard of this author before and now will have to read all her books, just like I read all of Bukowski’s novels.
    I have never read a science fiction! I can’t believe I just admitted this, but there it is.

    Like

    • Anna Maria, I think most people stick to certain genres of books so I wouldn’t worry!
      I need to read something by Muriel Spark. It’s great that you’ve found another author you want to explore further.
      Momento Mori was by Mandy Aftel but it’s a challenging fragrance.

      Like

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