April/May Reading Diary

What is the novel that made the biggest impact on you? I was reminded of mine by one of the books I read this month.

I read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro well over a decade ago but it has stayed with me and I have thought about it on and off ever since. It revolves around three characters that grow up in an unusual boarding school together and explores what it means to be human. It’s best not to know more about than that going in. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it but know that you may never fully recover from it. Well, I didn’t.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”

I’ve been trying to read more sci-fi since the pandemic derailed that resolution last year. I just wasn’t in the mood for it. Now I’ve been enjoying it a lot. Portia inspired me to pick up this particular classic of the genre. It’s amazing to me that it was written in 1953 although I always smile when these old sci-fi books are set well into the future but still use names of the time they were written, for example, here the main character’s wife is called Mildred.

Anyway, this has such a brilliant central concept. In this America of the future, fireman are used to start fires rather than put them out and their job is specifically to burn books. No one is allowed to own them and you may get your entire house burnt down if you do. People are kept compliant by mind numbing leisure activities such as the huge TV-like screens taking up whole walls of their homes. When away from them, they can plug ‘seashells’ into their ears for constant distraction. Not a million miles from us today. Our protagonist, Guy, is a fireman who starts to question his life after meeting a young woman who has not succumbed to the brainwashing.

Not as good as 1984 but much better than Brave New World. 4/5

Revelation by Russell Brand

“There is no end or separation, merely new notes played in the ongoing symphony of existence in which we all play our part.”

This is an Audible Original audiobook that Russell wrote during lockdown. The pandemic does crop up throughout the book but it is concerned with spirituality. Russell has been heading this way for a while now but here he goes Full God. This was a bit of a surprise as it’s quite a risk for a public figure to talk so explicitly on this topic, purely because it so polarising. I was up for it but was more interested in his personal revelation than the esoteric. For someone to change their life as dramatically as he has is quite something and I’d like to hear about that in detail but maybe he felt he covered that in his book Recovery. In Revelation we get a lot of meandering around Jungian psychology, Indian mysticism, the 12-steps programme and – yawn – politics. It just felt a bit muddled for the most part although he’s always engaging. Its best bits were towards the end where he shares his experiences at shelters for addicts and homeless families. 3/5

A Close and Common Circuit (Wayfarers 2) by Becky Chambers

“Owl had been good to her. She stayed on the screen by the bed all day, and she taught Jane about something called music, which was a weird bunch of sounds that had no point but made things feel a little better.”

This is the second book in the sci-fi Wayfarers series. I did miss the main characters from the The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet but I knew they wouldn’t feature in it before I began which stopped me from being disappointed. The first book wasn’t plot filled but this is an even slower burn, focusing on just two main characters as they both try and navigate new environments and come to terms with who they are. About a third of the way in I felt it wasn’t really going anywhere but I connected with the characters and their struggle with being displaced. It also helped that I find the ethical issues around advanced Artificial Intelligence interesting (anyone else captivated by the series Westworld?). I was completely invested by the last quarter of the book when the plot speeds up and it was emotional towards the end. It’s an added bonus that Val the Cookie Queen is hooked by the series too. I will be reading the last two books in the series before long. 4.25/5

Six of Crows (Book 1) by Leigh Bardugo

Well this was a mistake: I really should have known as I’d previously DNFed it. However I’d enjoyed the fantasy fun that was the Netflix show Shadow and Bone and thought this connected novel would be a light read after a bit of a stressful time when I didn’t read for almost 2 weeks. It’s a YA fantasy with good characters and an Amsterdam-style setting, but it based around a heist plot which I could care less about. The characters are all around 17 years old (as seems to be the law with YA) however they act at least 10 years older. Everyone fancies someone else but no one talks about it which got tiresome. To be fair I am 30+ years older than the target audience. Needless to say, I won’t be continuing with the second part of the duology. 2.5/5

Child of the Prophecy (Sevenwaters Book 3) by Juliet Marillier

“Good and bad; shade and sunlight, there’s but a hair’s breath between them. It’s all one in the end.”

Try not to judge this book by its cover

I took another stab at a comfort read and this one hit home. Returning to a fantastical medieval Ireland with familiar places and characters was soothing. This third book (and end of the first plot arc) follows the granddaughter of the heroine of the first book. Fainne is interesting because she is also the granddaughter of the evil sorceress of the Daughter of the Forest. Therefore she is torn between dark and light as she is coerced into bringing down not just the inhabitants of Sevenwaters but the Fair Folk themselves. At times it got frustrating when she was about the tell someone the truth and ask for their help but then didn’t, several times over. She’s also not the most likeable protagonist and this instalment features much less of the Fae and forest than the previous books. However, I loved the writing, enjoyed seeing familiar characters again, and it became gripping as events drew to a conclusion. 4.25/5

Please share the book or books that have stayed with you in the comments as well as any other recent finds you’d like to recommend.

25 Comments

Filed under Book Review

25 responses to “April/May Reading Diary

  1. Lady Jane Grey

    Ishiguro and his „Never Let Me Go“ has stayed with me all the time since I read it. Strangely, every time I get reminded of it I get a tragic, anxious feeling in my belly.
    I read a lot and often far too superficially, but there are books like the above, or We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I carry them with me.
    Or Out of Africa by Karen Blixen…. Or the Plague by Albert Camus….

    You remember I mentioned to you that I had problems to concentrate properly on reading books during the various lock-downs – I‘m back to reading. My concentration is still bumpy a bit, but I‘m geting there 😉
    Sending lots of LOVE,
    m

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    • It’s not strange at all. That’s exactly how I feel when I think of that book. It’s heart wrenching.

      So pleased to hear you’re back to reading!

      Much love to you too.

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  2. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante is the book that is still in my mind, along with with the three sequels that followed.

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  3. I read 6 of Crows as well after watching the series and didn’t hate it as much as you did, although I agree with everything you said. I personally hated that it ends in the middle of the story.

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  4. I loved Brave New World! Devoured a bunch of sci-fi when I was in my early teens and also loved Fahrenheit 451 and Out of The Silent Planet, all the John Wyndhams and more. My schoolfriend from age 11 is married to a Ray Bradbury, which endears the book to me even further. I haven’t read Never Let Me Go, but it is very much on my radar, so you have galvanised me to give it a go.

    I find it possible for books to stay with me – as in haunt me as being particularly memorable – even without remembering what they are about!! In that category I’d put Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain Fournier, Narziss and Goldmund by Herman Hesse, also E M Forster’s A Passage to India. It is a gift to forget in fact, as you can have the pleasure of re-reading the books as often as you like. 😉

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    • Love the Ray Bradbury connection!

      I agree the feeling of a book can linger long after you’ve forgotten the plot details. Maybe I will get into re-reading one day.

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    • I can’t believe it — you’re the first person I’ve met who is also devoted to Le Grand Meaulnes! I discovered it through John Fowles and his novel that had a big impact on me, The Magus. Have you read that? I also like so much of Ray Bradbury’s work, especially The Martian Chronicles.

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      • Bloody hell, Old H! The Magus is my *all-time* favourite book and I also have a black and white film on DVD of it, I think starring Michael Caine. AND I have seen the house where it is set from the water, as well as scrambling up the scrubby hill to peer through the wrought iron gates. It is the book I should have mentioned before any of the rest. I have a lovely vintage edition with an atmospheric cover from 1966. Must go back to Spetses sometime…

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        • Apparently Sam Mendes is turning The Magus into a mini-series as he’s a fan too. I suspect it will be a big improvement over the movie, which I haven’t seen but seems too short to do the book justice. I also REALLY love Fowles’ books The French Lieutenant’s Woman (and the film with Meryl Streep) and Daniel Martin.

          Liked by 1 person

          • The film was very jerky and blurry to be fair, and in b/w. I would watch anything Magus-related though, so await the Mendes version with interest. I enjoyed The Collector and also have a photo of me standing on The Cobb in 1985. I keep meaning to read Mantissa too, as that word doesn’t get out nearly enough. 😉

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      • I’m with you and Vanessa on both Bradbury and Fowles! But, as a rule, I don’t like moviews/TV series done based on the books I loved.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. PS Have also heard good things about My Brilliant Friend…so much to read and so little time / attention span!

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  6. I have recently read Fahrenheit 451. Even though it’s a little old, it’s crazily realistic and awesomely scary!

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  7. davina

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this post Tara. As always, engaging, insightful and witty. You are a pure joy to read xx

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  8. Hey Tara!
    I’m so glad you enjoyed 451. I’m going to go back and hear it again now. You’ve inspired me.
    Portia xx

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  9. Read F451 as I teenager and still remember it.

    The book that stayed with me over years probably won’t tell anyone here anything – Razor’s Edge by Ivan Yefremov https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Razor%27s_Edge_(novel) . Later there were many other great books, but this one that I read when I was about 12-13 played an important role in my development.

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