Reading Diary – September/October 2019

I never really feel guilty about staying indoors reading but it’s as if I have more of an excuse when the summer is over and the weather takes a turn for the worse. Autumn officially feels like the start of reading season.

I’m also excited about creepy reads for Halloween which will include H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe.

Here’s what I’ve read over the last two months.

 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too.”

Little-Fires-Everywhere-by-Celeste-Ng

I’ve heard about this book time and time again and was in the rare mood for contemporary fiction. It’s about two families who live in the coveted Shaker Heights neighbourhood in Ohio. The privileged Richardsons have rented out an apartment to artist Mia and her teenage daughter, Pearl. Peart makes friends with three of the Richardson children and the families become increasingly intertwined. Relations become tense for a number of reasons and then the whole situation and pace of the novel is ramped up by divisions over the adoption of an abandoned Chinese baby by a wealthy white couple. It’s not a spoiler to say this culminates in the black sheep of the Richardson family burning their house down (not a spoiler). It’s a book about mothers and daughters, coming-of-age and how the choices we make in life as a result of society’s values can lead to resentment later in life. 4/5

 

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Toikein

“For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

I enjoyed reading The Hobbit last year but had a false start with The Fellowship of the Ring. I’ve finally managed to get through all three books. I didn’t leave gaps in between once I heard that The Lord of the Rings is actually one book split into three volumes.

I liked the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring because it’s set in The Shire and I’m fond of the Hobbits and their Hobbit holes. Like them, I love my creature comforts. The problem came when they set off and it was an awful lot of describing their route traipsing across the countryside. I mean pages and pages. I found much of the first half of the book tedious and would have put it at 2 stars. I also admit to skipping through the verses of song unless it seemed they were integral to the plot (usually not). The second half picked up considerably though as they met new characters and visited more interesting places. By the end I was hooked to the point where I looked up a map of Middle Earth.   3.5/5.

The Two Towers (5/5) and The Return of the King (5/5) were both excellent with the adventure really taking off. I was totally taken with the love between Frodo and Sam. I didn’t know before starting, that it is, in part, a treatise against industrialisation but it’s very evident in the final section the novel which didn’t quit sit right. In any case that only dropped it down from a 6/5 to a 5/5.

From the first book I could see its huge influence on modern day fantasy writers like J.K. Rowling and George R.R. Martin. Very happy I’ve finally read it.

lord of the rings.png

 

La Belle Sauvage, The Book of Dust Volume One by Philip Pullman

“He was liked when noticed, but not noticed much, and that did him no harm either.”

la belle sauvage

I was dying to return to the world of my favourite trilogy His Dark Materials when the first volume of the second trilogy in the series was released in 2017. Sadly, La Belle Sauvage was slow to get going and I ended up putting it down only a little way in. Lyra is such a compelling character that having her present only as baby leaves a huge hole. What pushed me to pick it up again and finish it was the imminent release of Volume 2. Once I got into it, I enjoyed La Belle Sauvage but it felt more like a spin-off or a prequel to the rest of the series, which it is considering its set ten years before the start of His Dark Materials. It didn’t have quite the same feel of the original trilogy or the overarching mystery. It’s essentially a chase story as endearing eleven year-old Malcolm seeks to protect Lyra from the pursuers after a biblical-style flood. 3.75/5

 

The Secret Commonwealth, The Book of Dust Volume Two by Philip Pullman

“Has reason ever created a poem, or a symphony, or a painting? If rationality can’t see things like the secret commonwealth, it’s because rationality’s vision is limited … We need to imagine as well as measure …”

Lyra is now twenty years-old and man, is it good to catch up with her again. I wouldn’t say you absolutely must read La Belle Sauvage first (although it does fill in the background of a few characters, adding to the reading experience) but I would definitely recommend reading at least the last two chapters of The Amber Spyglass. We are plunged into a new intrigue but this one revolves around, guess what? Rose oil! Heartbreakingly, Lyra and Pan are estranged – showing the consequences of becoming a stranger to yourself. Other interesting themes of the book concern the demeaning of imagination and the manipulation of facts to serve an agenda (which feels very relevant in this ‘post-truth’ age). What did feel rather heavy-handed and jarring was the inclusion of a Syrian refugee crisis.  Another small criticism is that it was a tad too long and sprawling in scope. All the same, what am I going to do if I have to wait 2 YEARS for the conclusion? 4.75/5

On a side note, what frustrate me is that all these books are often categorised as ‘Children/Young Adult’ because they have a young protagonist. This might put adults off reading them. As I suspected, in an interview Philip Pullman said that he wrote them all with adults in mind. In both these recent books, aside from the ‘F-bomb’ being dropped a number of times, there are scenes of murder and sexual assault. In the first there is a character who is a paedophile and in the second there is a graphic suicide. Definitely not for younger readers.

 

secret 2

 

My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

“There is music blasting from Ayoola’s room, she’s listening to Whitney Housten’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody. It would be more appropriate to play Brymo or Lorde, something solemn or yearning, rather than the musical equivalent of a pack of M&Ms”

This book set in Lagos, Nigeria, has been everywhere lately and so when it came up for a pound, I bought it despite rarely, if ever, reading thrillers. That stunning cover art also helped tip the balance (the reflection in the lenses!). As you can tell from the title, this book is about two sisters. Korede, a nurse, is the older sister and narrator while Ayoola is as beautiful as she is self-obsessed not to mention psychopathic. After an abusive childhood Korede has taken on the role of her sister’s protector to heart. This extends to cleaning up and disposing of the bodies of the three boyfriends Ayoola has killed by the time the book opens. The situation escalates when the latest man to become enthralled by her is the kind-hearted doctor who is the object of Korede’s affection.

I was nervous going in because some have said this book has horror elements but there is very little gore and it’s not frightening. I’ve also seen it referred to as darkly comic but while I found it entertaining I only really found it funny at one point – but that’s a personal thing. It’s a fast-paced page-turner that you can devour in a day. I did. 4/5

My-Sister-the-Serial-Killer

 

Have you read one of these or any other book you’d like to share? Do you find you read more in the autumn/fall?

17 Comments

Filed under Book Review

17 responses to “Reading Diary – September/October 2019

  1. Can’t believe you only read LOTR recently! 🙂 Oh, I can totally relate to the beginning of the first book and all the tree, valley, hill descriptions. 😀 I will never forget because I chose that book for my college language practice and had to take out all unfamiliar words in the first 200 pages of the book. There were quite a lot! 😀 I never knew English had so many different names for every possible thing that exists in nature.
    Once the story picks up though, it’s impossible to stop. And I missed a lot of things from that book in the movie (like Tom Bombadil).
    I’m so glad you mentioned Frodo and Sam because the movies just can picture the friendship and love that exists between them in the books.
    Now I feel like reading LOTR again. 😀

    Sorry, I meant to write about your other books but I always get sidetracked by LOTR. 😉 I like your choices and might look more into Pullman.

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    • Ines, that really made me smile about all the words we have for things in nature. Quite true and LotR has them all 🙂
      Frodo and Sam melt my heart. I really happy I finally read it.

      Seriously, PLEASE pick up His Dark Materials. You will adore it. I promise or your money back!

      Like

  2. Gosh, you have been busy! I am intrigued by the fires book, being fond of Ohio, the first state I visited. You have confirmed me in my intention not to bother with The Lord of the Rings, not least for the excessive traipsing across the countryside. 🙂

    I am hardly reading at all, though I do have a good book on the go in fact.

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    • V, I think maybe my life is as laidback as yours is hectic. Lots of reading time.

      Yes, LotR isn’t for you. I’m intrigued to know what the good book you have on the go is though!

      Like

  3. matty1649

    His Dark materials starts on UK Tv Sunday 3rd Nov. It’s in 8 parts.

    Like

  4. Hayley

    Hi Tara
    I’ve been reading lots and have planned my Winter reading which includes book of dust, I loved the other books and looking forward to the tv series.
    I have bear and nightingale also on my list plus I like to re-read the box of delights each Christmas.
    I’ve just finished Rebecca which was a huge love will be reading more of Daphne du Maurier. Just finished the Testaments too which I thought was a good read but nothing beats the original.
    Best Hayley x

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  5. Hi Hayley

    So much to talk about in your comment!
    I am very curious about The Testaments. I think, as with the Book of Dust, it’s best to go in without very high expectations – which is hard with much loved novels.

    I loved The Beat and Nightingale and I hope you do too. It’s perfect winter reading. I will re-read the first book one year to get that love chilly feeling again. I also want to re-read Rebecca and more by Daphne du Maurier.

    Off to look up The Box of Delights!

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  6. Mrs Holly Cranmer

    Hello Tara,
    What a coincidence ! The current pick for the book club I am in is ‘My Sister The Serial Killer’. It is not the kind of thing I would choose usually but I found it an entertaining read given the subject matter ! I am very relieved not to have a sister like Ayoola. An insight into the complexities of family loyalty. I read it very quickly as well.

    Like

    • Hi Holly,

      Oh it would it make a good book club choice, even for people who are not normally into this kind of book. As you say, it’s very readable and surprisingly entertaining.
      Lord save us from psychotic narcissists like Ayoola!

      Like

  7. Hey Tara,
    Sorry I’m late to the party AGAIN!
    LOTR has been one of my annual reads since i was a kid until I started blogging. I think I’ve only read it once since then.
    My Sister The Serial Killer sounds like heaven. It’s next on my read list.
    Still wading through the last book I got from your reading list. My reading mojo has waned dreadfully over the last few years. Maybe I’ve finished 10 books this year. Most of those were Tove Jansen Moomin books while on our honeymoon train journeys.
    Portia xx

    Like

    • Portia, you have so much going on it’s good of you to make the time to comment at all. It’s not surprising your reading rate has gone down since the blog, but 10 books this year is still one a month.
      I don’t do re-reads but I know a lot of people love it.
      Oh my God can’t wait to hear what you make of My Sister the Serial Killer if and when you get to it.

      Like

      • You are so forgiving, what would I do without you Tara.
        Yeah, it averages out nicely. One a month sounds way better than 8 in 2 months and one before & after. HA! Best get my reading hat on.
        You never re-read?
        I’ll upload it to my Kindle tonight. It’s next in line.
        Portia xx

        Like

        • You will always have special dispensation 🙂
          No, never re-read. I guess I feel there are so many new books I want to get to and what’s the point of reading something when I know how it ends? I realise it’s the journey and not the destination. Perhaps I’m too impatient or just haven’t found the right book for it. The only one I would be interested in re-reading is Rebecca, with a new perspective.
          I’ll do a post about it one day. It’s an interesting topic.

          Like

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