Books

Talking about books (when I have time to read for fun)

My TBR: 2020 Edition

It has been a long time since I’ve done this, almost five years in fact. I last shared all the physical books on my TBR in January 2016, the time before that was April 2014 – so really this is long overdue. Please don’t go and compare my TBR now to my TBR in 2016 or 2014 as I’m sure there’s going to be books here that were on my previous TBR’s and that’s just embarrassing.

This time I’m going to share the physical and digital books, whether that’s on audio or my kindle, I have in my possession. I have to say earlier this year I did go through my bookshelves and unhauled over twenty books so this TBR could’ve been worse! Though I’ve also had my birthday since then and was gifted more books, so it probably evens out.

Before I start I just wanted to flag I’ve currently got a giveaway of boxes of bookish stuff happening on my Twitter, it closes on 22 November so check it out if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

This list is split into four sections; audiobooks, books I have with me in my flat, kindle books, and books that are at my mum’s place. I do not have room for all my books, so my mum is kind enough for me to keep the majority with her. Every now and then I take the books I’ve read but want to keep to hers and then pick up more books I’ve yet to read to bring back with me.

Any books with an asterisk * symbol are books for my Read the World Project.

Audio:
I do get audiobooks from my library, either via RBdigital or BorrowBox, but these three are via Audible as I do sometimes get a subscription/extra tokens if there’s a good deal on and then stock up there.
The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell* – I’m currently reading this
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (more…)

Friday 56: The Good Girls by Sara Shepard

The Friday 56 is a weekly feature hosted by Freda’s Voice. The aim is to share a few sentences of a book (whether it’s one you’re currently reading or not) so other people might be enticed to pick it up.

Here’s the rules:
– Turn to page 56 or 56% in your ebook
– Find any sentence – or a few, just don’t spoil it
– Post it
– Add the URL of your post to the Linky on Freda’s most recent post

Julie just nodded, but Parker glared at the woman, puffing up her chest. “Actually, I was planning on setting fire to the house, thanks. And maybe doing heroin in your bathroom. That cool?”

That was from page 56 of the paperback edition of The Good Girls by Sara Shepard which I am currently reading.

READ THE WORLD – Kyrgyzstan: Jamilia by Chingiz Aïtmatov

Translated by James Riordan.

Jamilia’s husband is off fighting at the front. She spends her days hauling sacks of grain from the threshing floor to the train station in their small village in the Caucasus, accompanied by Seit, her young brother-in-law, and Daniyar, a sullen newcomer to the village who has been wounded on the battlefield. Seit observes the beautiful, spirited Jamilia spurn men’s advances, and wince at the dispassionate letters she receives from her husband, while she also draws closer to Daniyar.

Jamilia is a very short book at around 90 pages and it’s just one long chapter. Jamilia is told from Seit’s perspective and he narrates the story in the first person. It’s a simple story in terms of plot, a young woman in a small farming community potentially finds a better and stronger love while her husband is away, and in terms of writing. The writing is so simple that it often reads like Seit is sat with you, telling you the story. That come partly the tenses as sometimes the narrative voice knows more than the present-Seit would.

Considering this book was published in the 1950s, Jamilia herself could almost be described as a manic pixie dreamgirl. Seit is infatuated with her, as are a lot of the other men in the village, and as it’s from Seit’s point of view, you never really get to see much of Jamilia’s personality or her hopes, dreams and desires. You just see her through Seit’s eyes, and his judgement is clouded by his own feelings for her.

Jamilia is one of those books that even though it’s so short it took days to get through. I think that’s because of a few things. One, the story didn’t really grab me, I thought there’d be an illicit romance and more drama when there really wasn’t and it was just a series of events in these farming peoples lives. Two, I thought it’d be from Jamilia’s point of view so you could see her conflict about being drawn to a man who wasn’t her husband and have more of an insight into her seeing she is the titular character. And three, the writing style was so simple it ended up being boring so even when there was something different happening in the plot, I wasn’t really engaged with it.

Looking at Goodreads a lot of people seem to really like this book so maybe I’m in the wrong, or it could be down to the translation. Either way I’m glad to have now crossed off Kyrgyzstan from my Read the World Project.

Non-Fiction November TBR

As well as November being Sci-Fi Month it’s also Non-Fiction November. It’s a readathon/challenge hosted by abookolive, steakuccion, Infinite Text, Curious Reader and The Book Bully and the main point of it is to read more non-fiction than you normally would that month.

There are four one-word prompts to help shape your TBR if you fancy using them. They are Time, Movement, Buzz and Discovery. You can interpret these anyway you want to, and you don’t have to use them.

I have 11 unread non-fiction books; more than I thought I did to be honest. I’ve picked out four books that I’d like to make a priority next month. Somewhat unintentionally it’s a mixture of books for my Read the World Project and books that are feminist.

What Would Boudicca Do?: Everyday Problems Solved by History’s Most Remarkable Women by E. Foley and B. Coates
This was a gift from my best friend. It looks like one of those fun non-fiction books where you can learn about real people but in a tongue in cheek way as it uses these interesting historical women as ways to give you advice on your own life. This could fit the “Discovery” prompt as I don’t really know anything about Boudicca or some of the other women included in it.

An African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie
This will be my book for Togo in my Read the World Project. It’s Kpomassie’s autobiography. He discovered a book on Greenland when he was a teenager and from then knew he had to go there. An African in Greenland follows his journey from Togo to Greenland and his adventures among the Inuit. This could easily fit the “Movement” prompt.

Child Soldier by China Keitetsi
Another book for my Read the World Project and this one’s Uganda. I think this will be a very tough read as it’s an autobiography about Keitetsi’s life on Uganda and as a National Resistance Army child soldier. This could also fit for “Discovery” as I don’t

Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies) curated Scarlett Curtis
This is a collection of essays from a wide range of celebrities including, actors, writers and activists all talking about what feminism means to them and how they started to call themselves feminists. This would fit the prompt “Buzz” as it’s a book that I saw a lot of hype about when it was released a couple of years ago.

I think An African in Greenland and Child Soldier will be my priority during Non-Fiction November but I should be able to read the other two as well as they are essay collections rather than narrative non-fiction so I could read an essay or two a day.

Are you taking part in Non-Fiction November? What’s the last non-fiction book you read? I’ve read five non-fiction books so far this year and my favourite so far is Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble by Graham Hunter.

READ THE WORLD – Greece: Three Summers by Margarita Liberaki

Translated by Karen Van Dyck.

Living in a big old house surrounded by a beautiful garden in the countryside outside Athens are Maria, the oldest sister, as sexually bold as she is eager to settle down and have a family of her own; beautiful but distant Infanta; and dreamy and rebellious Katerina. Over three summers, the girls share and keep secrets, fall in and out of love, try to figure out their parents and other members of the tribe of adults, and worry about and wonder who they are.

The majority of Three Summers is told from Katerina’s perspective and in the first person. Though there are the odd chapters from other characters perspectives, mainly the other two sisters, and those are written in the third person so it’s easy to tell when you’re momentarily stepping away from Katerina’s viewpoint.

Three Summers is set in the 1930s before the Second World War and the sisters do all seem to live an idyllic life. At the start of the novel, so during the first summer, they are twenty, eighteen and sixteen. They spend their time lying in the fields, talking to one another about their thoughts and dreams, and also generally getting the attention of the young me they know. They also think about their separated parents and other family dramas. They live with their mother, aunt and grandfather while their father, who is both a banker and an inventor, lives in Athens.

I found Three Summers quite slow going. At times that suited the story as it evokes the feeling of lazy summer days where the days blur into one, but on the other hand it made it more difficult to connect with the characters and on the whole I didn’t really care about them.

Maria was the sister that was the easiest to understand, she knows what she wants and decides who and when she’s going to marry quickly. Infanta is more reserved and at some points I wondered if she was written to be asexual or aromantic because of how distant she was towards the young man who clearly likes her. It could have been natural shyness or nerves but some of her reactions to strong emotions sometimes seemed more extreme for that. Katerina is more bold than her sisters and her curiosity and actions often made her mother despair. She doesn’t seem to fit in this family and while she does say she falls in love with a neighbour, it’s hard to tell if she really has and she’s not using him as a gateway to adventure.

The writing in Three Summers is quite flowery and paints vivid pictures of the old house and the surrounding countryside, but that sort of thing isn’t really for me and it wasn’t keeping my attention by the end of book. Maybe it’s because I did find myself skim reading the last section of the book, which was about the events of the third summer, but I did find it difficult to keep track of some of the friends and neighbours, how they were connected to the sisters and what they thought of them.

Because it’s set just across three summers and is more of a slice of life type story, there are some things that are open ended and potential relationships not yet pursued which is a little frustrating but that’s the nature of this kind of story. Three Summers is a coming of age story and it’s one that fans of period dramas may like a lot. It has the will they/won’t they relationships but with more of a stiff upper lip as young women weren’t allowed to be forthright with their wants in the 1930s.

WWW Wednesday – 21 October 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words. It’s a simple meme where you just have to answer three questions:
– What are you currently reading?
– What did you recently finish reading?
– What do you think you’ll read next?

I think it’s a great way to share my recent reads as I don’t review everything I read and often the reviews I do post are behind what I’m actually reading.

What I am currently reading
Jamilia by Chingiz Aïtmatov
I thought I would’ve finished this by the time I needed to post this WWW Wednesday but work got in the way so I’ll no doubt finish it tonight before bed. It’s a very short book at less than 100 pages and is set around World War One in a small village in the Russia/Kyrgyzstan area and is about a wife of a solider who is working the land while her husband is at war.

 

What I recently finished reading
The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
This book was set during the LA Riots in 1992 and I thought it was really good. It’s thoughtful and impactful and while I didn’t always like the main character, I thought her confusion and impulsiveness was understandable. If you like The Hate U Give I’d recommend The Black Kids for something along a similar vein but is set in recent history and around real events.

 

What I think I’ll read next
The Good Girls by Sara Shepard
I read The Perfectionists last week and really enjoyed it and while I new it was a first book in a series I didn’t quite realise that it was going to end on such a cliffhanger so naturally I had to buy the sequel immediately. Definitely looking forward to seeing if/how the five teen girls prove their innocence for multiple murders.

FRIDAY 56: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

The Friday 56 is a weekly feature hosted by Freda’s Voice. The aim is to share a few sentences of a book (whether it’s one you’re currently reading or not) so other people might be enticed to pick it up.

Here’s the rules:
– Turn to page 56 or 56% in your ebook
– Find any sentence – or a few, just don’t spoil it
– Post it
– Add the URL of your post to the Linky on Freda’s most recent post

“Sometimes my parents got mistaken for their own assistants, or people think they’ve stumbled into the wrong meetings, or their assistants think they know better than my parents do and it becomes a whole thing, even though both of them are amazing at what they do, or they wouldn’t have gotten to where they are to begin with.”

That was from page 56 of the paperback edition of The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed which I am currently reading.

READ THE WORLD – Mauritius: The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah

Translated by Geoffrey Strachan.

Ten-year-old Raj is oblivious to the Second World War being fought far beyond his tiny island home. His mother is his sole company while his father works as a prison guard, so Raj dreams of friendship. One day, from the far-away world, a ship brings to the island Jewish exiles who have been refused entry to Israel. David, a recently orphaned boy of his own age, becomes the friend that he has longed for, and Raj takes it upon himself to help David escape from the prison. As they flee through sub-tropical forests and devastating storms, the boys battle hunger and malaria – and forge a friendship only death could destroy.

The Last Brother is one of those stories where a much older character reminisces about certain events of their past and how it affected them. In this instance, Raj is an old man close to his eighties and he’s thinking about David, their friendship and the games and adventures they had and what he would’ve done differently if he could. This means you are kind of aware of how things are probably going to turn out before you get to that part of the story.

Something I really liked about The Last Brother was how it made me think about the Second World War from a completely different perspective. As someone who’s British and grew up in the UK, in school I learnt about the Second World War from the UK perspective and about the European countries (and America and Japan) involved with the conflict. The world is a big place and while it’s something I hadn’t thought about before, there would naturally be parts of the world where the conflict didn’t touch or the people, especially children, were unaware of what was happening between other nations.

The difference between adult-Raj and child-Raj’s narrative voice is distinct and I feel the author really captured the innocence a ten-year-old has, even if they have experienced violence they are resilient and still want to have fun with a friend. Both Raj and David have experienced personal tragedy though Raj can’t comprehend how and why David and the other Jewish refugees have ended up in his small corner of the world, and in a prison as well. David doesn’t talk about his life or how he became an orphan much, as the reader with prior knowledge of the persecution of the Jews in Europe you can see his trauma but with Raj being so unaware of world events, he doesn’t see David as a victim, he just sees a friend.

The way Raj and David form such a firm friendship in such a short space of time is sweet and realistic. As is how far Raj will go to try and protect David even if his plans are misguided. The Last Brother is a deceptively simple story because it’s largely told through the eyes of a child, but that makes it all the more affecting.

Sci-Fi Month 2020

ARTWORK by Tithi Luadthong from 123RF.com. QUOTE from Seven Devils by Elizabeth May & Laura Lam.

Even though 2020 seems to be dragging on forever, we are getting closer to the end of the year and November brings Sci-Fi Month, hosted by Lisa and Imyril.

As the name suggests, Sci-Fi Month is all about celebrating all things sci-fi, whether that’s books, films, TV show, games or podcasts. It’s the chance to focus on the sci-fi stuff you’ve been putting on the backburner, whether it’s speculative fiction, epic space operas, time travel adventures or parallel worlds.

There’s a couple of readathons happening during the month if that’s your kind of thing. Jorie Loves a Story is hosting a readathon of Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott while Imyril is hosting a readathon of Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle.

While there’s the readathons and some challenges still to be announced, there’s no requirements or goals to take part in Sci-Fi Month, the main point is to consume some sci-fi, a little or a lot, and have some fun. See imyril’s blog for more information and to sign up to Sci-Fi Month and follow @SciFiMonth on Twitter and use the hashtag #SciFiMonth to take part in all the chats or when sharing your posts.

While I like sci-fi books, I don’t currently have a lot of them on their TBR, in fact I only have two: Brilliance by Marcus Sakey and Gemina Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I’ll try and read them both in November but Gemina will be the priority as that chonky book has been on my shelf for far too long.

I also plan to watch and review a lot of sci-fi films next month. I’ve had a look through what sci-fi films I’ve got in my Netflix and Prime watchlists and pulled together a selection of what it’d like to watch. There’s a whole load of different types of sci-fi, superpowers, aliens, and AI, and from different countries too. Here’s some of the films I’ll hopefully be watching next month – any thoughts or recommendations based on this list would, as always, be much appreciated:

What are some of your favourite sci-fi media? I’m always looking for sci-fi book and film recommendations. My favourite kind of sci-fi (or sometimes it’s science-fact) is when people are really competent at their jobs e.g. The Martian, Apollo 13 and Hidden Figures.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Super Long Book Titles

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week it’s all about super long book titles. These are all books I’ve read, and I think some of these book titles are deceptive as when you count the words there’s not as many as you think, they just have a lot of syllables. I noticed a lot of these books are non-fiction – those semi colons definitely help book titles to become longer!

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Fear and Loathing in La Liga: Barcelona vs Real Madrid by Sid Lowe
The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker
Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian, My Story of Rescue, Hope and Triumph by Yusra Mardini
The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish by Richard Flanagan
Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal: The Lives and Careers of Two Tennis Legends by Sebastián Fest
Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash by Eka Kurniawan
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
How to be a Heroine (Or, what I’ve learned from reading too much) by Samantha Ellis

Have you read any of these long-titled books? And do you find some books don’t have so many words in the title as you first think they do?