Books

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

The Joy of Christmas Book Tag

‘Tis the season for another festive book tag! Aka it’s getting near the end of blogmas and I’m running out of ideas! The Joy of Christmas Book Tag was created by Sam’s Nonsense on YouTube.

1) Anticipation: The Christmas excitement is real, what book release(s) are you most anticipating?
I recently listed my top 5 most anticipated 2019 releases but I somehow managed to forget about The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm: Tales from Alagaësia Volume 1 by Christopher Paolini which is definitely my most anticipated book of 2019. Eragon was such a formative influence for me and I can’t wait to return to that world with a new book.

2) Christmas Songs & Carols: What book or author can you not help but sing its praises?
A recent read that I absolutely loved was Multitudes by Lucy Caldwell. It’s such an affecting short story collection and I want to check out more of her work soon.

3) Gingerbread Houses: What book or series has wonderful world building?
While I didn’t particularly like the majority of the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness (mainly because I couldn’t stand Todd) I did think the world building in the series was brilliant.

4) A Christmas Carol: Favourite classic or one that you want to read
I don’t really read enough classics to have a favourite, but a recent classic I read that I enjoyed a lot is The Three Musketeers by Alexadre Dumas.

5) Christmas Sweets: What book would you love to receive for Christmas
I think I really need to get my hands on a copy of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. I’ve heard nothing but good things so that’d be a nice Christmas surprise.

6) Candles in the Window: What book gives you that warm fuzzy feeling
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. I rarely read contemporary YA but every now and then I make the exception and When Dimple Met Rishi was a wonderfully quick, light-hearted and sweet read.

7) Christmas Trees & Decorations: What are some of your favourite book covers?
I’m a sucker for buying a book because of a pretty cover. Here’s some of my favourite covers (I could’ve listed way more) though I can’t comment as to what’s inside them as I’ve yet to read these books.

    

8) Christmas Joy: What are some of your favourite things about Christmas And/Or some of your favourite Christmas memories?
My favourite thing about Christmas is having a lot of free time. Especially now I’m in a 9-5 weekday job, having the free time to see friends and family, watch films or catch up on reading is much appreciated.

I tag anyone who fancies doing this tag!

Advertisements

REVIEW: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

One summer’s day in 1984, teenage runaway Holly Sykes encounters a strange woman who offers a small kindness in exchange for ‘asylum’. Decades will pass before Holly understands what sort of asylum the woman was seeking….

The Bone Clocks had been sitting on my shelves for four years. I’d read, and enjoyed, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell but from that I knew his stories could be fantastical and epic and I was never really in the mood for the concentration I’d need to have to read a story like that. In the end, I got the audiobook from my library and that got finally got me to read this story. The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Jessica Ball, Leon Williams, Colin Mace, Steven Crossley, Laurel Lefkow and Anna Bentinck, and I thought they all did a fantastic job at bringing the many characters to life.

The Bone Clocks is so much more than its two-sentence blurb suggests, but at the same time, I have no idea of how to give this story a concise and somewhat spoiler-free summary. The Bone Clocks is a story that spans decades, and while the story might not always be told from her point of view, Holly Sykes is always connected to the characters you’re introduced to in some way. It’s equal parts confusing and fun, especially in the first half of the book, seeing how this character you are now following is connected to Holly and how their relationship with her will unfold. While Holly is the central character that a lot of the big events and decisions revolve around, the other characters each have their own story and personality that’s usually just as engaging as Holly’s.

Holly Sykes is a character that grew on me. She’s young and naïve when you first meet her, and somewhat unlikeable too but seeing how her experiences, good, bad and unexplainable, affect her life, she becomes more sympathetic and mature. She suffers a trauma at a young age and doesn’t know how her life will be affected by granting the strange old lady, Esther Little, asylum. She becomes entangled in something much bigger than herself, and it take a while for everything to become clearer, and even then, there’s some events and characters that almost can’t be explained. The other characters are fully-formed with some being unlikeable while others are almost undefinable. Ed Brubeck was probably my favourite character as he felt the most realistic and relatable to me.

The Bones Clocks is well-written with some beautiful passages and engaging characters. It is weird and fantastical, but at its core there’s Holly Sykes and her very human life. There’s so much going on in The Bone Clocks, it’s hard to give it a definitive genre. There is magic, secret wars, family drama, death, and souls play a major role too. The Bone Clocks is an epic story, but it is an odd and sometimes confusing one too. You spend so much of the novel, not know what’s really happening or how everything is connected, that when things are explained, there is a lot of exposition.

Still, I did enjoy the audiobook and I think consuming the story that way helped me take it in and become more enthralled by it than if I was reading a physical copy. 3/5.

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: Most Anticipated 2019 Releases

Top 5 Wednesday is a great feature hosted by ThoughtsonTomes. To find out more about Top 5 Wednesday and the upcoming topics, check out its Goodreads page. As the title suggests, this week is all about what books we’re excited about next year. I’m generally someone who doesn’t keep up with book releases, but because of my Read the World Project I’m starting to keep track of up and coming translated books. In order of release date (or at least what I believe the UK release date will be) here’s 5 books I’m excited about that are released in 2019.

Last Night in Nuuk by Niviaq Korneliussen
Release date: 15 January 2019

Last Night in Nuuk follows the lives of five young Greenlanders exploring their identities at the cusp of adulthood.
This is the first book I’ve discovered that’s written by an author from Greenland so that automatically put it on my radar.

Marvel Powers of a Girl by Lorraine Cink and Alice X Zhang
Release date: 5 February 2019

Basically, this is a non-fiction book all about the wonderful female Marvel characters, films and comics. I’m a huge Marvel fan and the illustrations in this book look absolutely stunning!

Love in No Man’s Land by Duo Ji Zhuo Ga
Release date: 7 February 2019

Set amid the desolate beauty of Tibet’s heartlands, Love in No Man’s Land is an epic story of family, identity and endurance, of a way of life imperilled, of a people trying to find their place as the world changes around them.
Tibet is another country where I’ve not found many, if any, books for my Read the World Project. It’s a bonus that this sounds like a story I’d like – I’m always fond of a sweeping family saga.

Thirteen Months of Sunrise by Rania Mamoun
Release date: 2 May 2019

In Thirteen Months of Sunrise the first major translated collection by a Sudanese woman writer Rania Mamoun expertly blends the real and imagined to create an intimate portrait of life in Sudan today. From brief encounters to unusual friendships, this startling and evocative debut illuminates human experience and explores the alienation, isolation and estrangement of urban life.
Another one for the Read the World Project, and as women writers are less likely to be translated into other languages, including English, than male writers, I definitely want to check out this book.

The Frightened Ones by Dima Wannous
Release date: 11 July 2019

Suleima feels anxious as she looks at the pile of papers sent to her by Naseem, the handsome man with the bulging muscles. As she devours them, lingering on every word, she finds that she is reading an unfinished novel, or biography, about a woman dominated by fear, just like her. What did Naseem mean by it? Had he himself been overwhelmed by fear and unable to finish it, and did he now want her to write the ending?
Dima Wannous is a Syrian author, so The Frightened Ones will be perfect for my Read the World project. Plus, I’m a big fan about stories about books, or books where there’s a story within the main story.

These are five of my most anticipated 2019 releases. I know they’re a bit obscure! What are some of your most anticipated 2019 releases? I’m always looking for books to add to my ever-growing TBR.

The Festive Christmas Book Tag

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Book Tag but as it’s blogmas and I’m looking for blog posts, here’s a seasonal appropriate one. This tag was created by Girl Reading on YouTube and I came across it via Bookables video.

1. A fictional family you would like to spend Christmas dinner with?
Is it cliché to say the Weasley’s? Because they are the first family I thought of and I can’t think of a better fictional family to spend Christmas dinner with.

2) A bookish item you would like to receive as a gift?
If we’re talking about items from a book, could I get a Time Turner? That’d be very handy. Or bookish items in the real world, I’m a big fan of book sleeves. I love there’s so many designs and companies out there. I have two from BookBuddle which I love, and I received a Black Panther one in a subscription box which is very relevant to my interests.

3) A fictional character you think would make a perfect Christmas elf?
Samwise Gamgee. He’s so kind, helpful and thoughtful that he’d make a great Christmas elf! Plus he’s resourceful so if there was any mishaps, he could sort it out quickly.

4) Match a book to its perfect Christmas song.
I find this kind of thing really difficult but after a lot of thinking I came up with Step Into Christmas by Elton John to be paired with The Martian by Andy Weir. My thinking is, it’s just the kind of song that Mark Watney would be stuck listening to months on end.

5) Bah Humbug. A book or fictional character you’ve been disappointed in and should be put on the naughty list?
I read the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness this year and was so annoyed by Todd through the entirety of the first two books, and then through a good chunk of the third book too. He disappointed and frustrated me with his naivety so he’d be on the naughty list.

6) A book or a fictional character you think deserves more love and appreciation and deserve to be put on the nice list?
The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet. It’s a completely bonkers fusion of fantasy and real life and when the line blurs between fiction and reality it’s a lot of fun. I don’t know anyone else who has ever read this book so it definitely needs more love – or at least, I need to find people who have read it to talk about it.

7) Red, Gold and Green. A book cover that has a wonderfully Christmassy feel to it.
Now this one I found really difficult and I thought I was going to skip it as I didn’t think I had any books with Christmassy covers (mainly because I don’t tend to read books set at christmas time) but then I remembered by copy of The Awakening by Kate Chopin. I haven’t read this book yet (it’s been on my shelves for years though) and while it might not be exactly Christmassy, it’s definitely wintery with all the snow and mountains.

8) A book or series you love so much, you want everyone to find under their Christmas tree this year, so they can read it and love it too?
As the spin-off is coming in the New Year and I’m so excited, I’m going to have to say the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. I think Eragon, and The Lord of the Rings films, was my gateway into fantasy. I’ve reread the Inheritance Cycle a few times over the years and I still love it.

I tag whoever wants to do this tag!

READ THE WORLD – Romania: The Fox was Ever the Hunter by Herta Müller

Translated by Philip Boehm.

Set in Romania during the last months of Communist dictator Ceaușescu’s regime, people struggle to keep their minds and bodies intact in a world that’s permeated with fear. Adina is a young school teacher, Paul is a musician, Clara works in a wire factory, and Pavel is her lover. But one of them is working for the secret police and is reporting on the others.

The Fox was Ever the Hunter was a bit of a difficult read for several reasons and the way it was written was the main one. There were little things like how there are no speech marks when someone is talking, so you definitely needed to pay attention to what’s going on – especially when there was more than one person talking in a paragraph. Then there’s the attention to detail the author has. There’s so much focus on tiny things like the creases in a dress, how ants move, or how the chalk is like on a blackboard, but when it comes to the characters, they don’t get much description or backstory at all. It’s almost like it’s an intense study of the time period it’s set. This writing style makes the characters very distant and hard to connect with, as it’s as if the environment they live in is more important than themselves.

The main plot of the secret police, and someone in their friendship group not being trustworthy, doesn’t really kick in till halfway through the book. The first half of The Fox was Ever the Hunter is more of a study of the environment the characters live in. The intense descriptions make the town feel like a very cold and unwelcoming place to live. It seems almost hopeless and when Adina, Paul, or Clara make an appearance they feel like they’re sleepwalking through their lives.

I could see some people loving how The Fox was Ever the Hunter was written as its prose is often poetic and strangely beautiful, but for me it made it a bit of a slog to read.

Thoughts on… Audiobooks

Before this year I had never listen to an audiobook for before. Well, that’s kind of a lie. I remember listening to cassette tapes of the Animal Ark books by Lucy Daniels when I was a child. I word listen to them on a walkman and I had a cassette player by my bed and I would sometimes listen to them at night before falling asleep instead of reading a book.

Back from the age of say 7 years old to nearly 20 years later I haven’t really listened to audiobook but that was until this year. At the end of 2017 I started a new job where I could walk to work every day, instead of getting the train as I had previously. When I was commuting to work by train I would read on the train, but now I didn’t have that time I wasn’t reading as much. So that’s when I started looking into audiobooks, so I could listen to something as I walked to and from work and also maybe when I was walking around town on my lunch break. Obviously, I’d heard of Audible but when I looked into that it’s kind of expensive and I rarely read physical books more than once so I doubt I’ll ever listen to an audiobook more than once so when I joined local library I discovered they have audiobooks you can borrow from the library.

I downloaded a couple of apps one is called Borrow Box and another is called RBdigital and these are the two I use the most. Obviously different libraries have different catalogues, so some have more choice than others but since January I’ve listened to two audiobooks a month on average depending how long the audiobook is.

I’m finding that audiobooks are a great way for me to read more books during a month or a year. And it’s a way for me to read books that have been on my shelves for a long time that I was perhaps intimidated by. For instance, I listen to the audiobook of The Three Musketeers over the summer, a book that I’ve had on my shelf for at least 15 years and I had yet to read it and I doubt I would have read the physical copy. Last month I listened to the audiobook of Dune by Frank Herbert and that was definitely a book that was so big and such a classic that I really don’t think I would’ve read it if it wasn’t for the audiobook. I listened to Bleak House on audio this year and I think that made it an easier book to understand because listening to the characters talk and the description made it less dense than the few times I’ve tried to read my paperback copy of Bleak House.

I find audiobooks are not only good way of reading intimidating books that I’ve had my possession but also to find new books I hadn’t heard of before. It has been audiobooks that I’ve listen to a lot for my Read the World Project and because I’ve borrowed them through the library, they haven’t cost me any money.

I think once upon a time I believed that audiobooks weren’t “real books” and if you listen to audiobooks you weren’t reading but I stand corrected. Whether you read a book that’s a physical copy or an e-book or you listen to an audiobook, you are still consuming the story and I think that’s the most important thing.

I am now an audiobook convert I think they’re brilliant and so handy and such a great way to get stories to people that might not have the time to sit down and dedicate time to reading a physical copy. I can listen to a least an hour each day of an audiobook on my walk to and from work. If I’m doing the cleaning or cooking, I’m usually listen to my audiobook then as well so I’m still paying attention and I’m still consuming the story, but I don’t have to dedicate all my time to the action of reading when I’m listening to an audiobook.

Do you listen to audiobooks? If so, where do you get your audiobooks from? I’m always looking for cheap and new ways to listen to audiobooks.

READ THE WORLD – Malaysia: The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

Yun Ling, the only survivor from her internment camp, sets out to build a memorial to her sister. Her quest leads he to The Garden of Evening Mists, and to Nakamura Aritomo, a man of extraordinary skill and reputation, once the gardener of the Emperor of Japan. When she accepts his offer to become his apprentice, she begins a journey into her past, inextricably linked with the secrets of her troubled country’s history.

The Garden of Evening Mists is told in the first person from Yun Ling’s point of view and spans over fifty years. The novel takes place in three time periods, when Yun Ling is a retired judge and writing down her story, when she becomes a gardener’s apprentice, and when she’s a teenager in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during Japan’s invasion of Malaysia. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Anna Bentinck and I really how she narrated it. The way Bentinck narrated it was great as she had a different voice for the older Yun Ling and the younger Yun Ling making it easier to follow what point in time the story is set.

I knew very little of Japan’s invasion of Malaysia during World War Two, or Malaysia’s history in general, before reading The Garden of Evening Mists. As it spans so many years, you get to see how the country changes over time, the different political influences it has, and how the people must adapt and deal with some the atrocities they face.

Yun Ling is a brilliantly complicated and realistic character. She suffered a great deal at the hands of the Japanese, she suffered physical and mental abuse, her family was torn apart, and she became a changed person due to her experience. She has every right to hate those that hurt her, but her feelings go towards all Japanese people so naturally her relationship with Aritomo is strained – at least to begin with. Seeing Yun Ling learn to deal with her anger, hurt and resentment and try and move on with her life was really powerful and compelling. Her relationship with Aritomo was fascinating as they were constantly learning from one another and as they slowly started to share more about their pasts, they were becoming a solid unit.

There were some surprises along the way as slowly Yun Ling started to piece together hers and Aritomo’s pasts, and how they may have been connected long before they met. The Garden of Evening Mists is a great historical story with some beautiful writing. The way the garden was described was so vivid and stunning, but equally the brutality Yun Ling faced was just as vivid and shocking. I enjoyed The Garden of Evening Mists far more than I was expecting to, and would recommend it to just about anyone. 4/5.