Catching up

It has been a while since I have written a post about the main thing I created this blog for, books. And whilst my writing has been side tracked a little by the lack of the correct tools, but also general life, my reading has stayed on track. Since my post about The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, I have read a further 8 books. It would be nice to take the time to write a review about all of them individually but to keep myself on track I will do a quick overview of these 8.

To quickly catch you up on my number with regards to my 52 books in 52 week challenge; I am currently on book 16 of 52, so fingers crossed well on track to meet if not beat my goal. On average I am reading 6 books a month! 6 books a month! I can’t quite believe that not only am I continuing to read at a good pace but that I am exploring genres I would never have thought to read before. I am actually feeling like a well rounded reader, something I have always wanted to achieve. And so to quote Shang from Mulan ‘lets get down to business…

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1984 by George Orwell

Pages – 355
Price – Free, it was a gift.
Genre – Utopian and Distopian fiction
Time to read – 4 days

I’m sure most of you that read this would have heard of 1984 so I won’t take too much time to go through the plot.
1984 follows Winston Smith set in a distopian Great Britain that is run by Ingsoc lead by Big Brother. The people in the country are heavily governed by Big Brother and the Thought Police who ensure that no ‘comrades’ go against the views of the Ingsoc. Winston starts an illegal love affair with Julia which lead to the two  of them trying to join a rebellious party that go against Ingsoc. Both are caught by Big Brother and ultimately ends with them being former shell of their already vacant selves.
I did enjoy 1984, but as it is so highly referred to in popular culture I knew that this book didn’t end very well and was very sombre. Due to the nature of the novel it is a very serious read so only if you want something truly thought provoking would I recommend reading this.

A Time for New Dreams by Ben Okri

Pages – 147
Price – £4.60 from Barter Books in Alnwick
Genre – Collection of Essays
Time to read – 1 day

Ben Okri is an author and poet well known for confronting modern day issues with thoughtful poems, novels and essays. A Time for New Dreams is a collection on Okri’s essays that cover themes such as childhood, censorship, London and beauty.
I have never read a collection of essays before because I didn’t think I would really enjoy that genre but Okri’s essays a easy to read and some of them really lovely. Some of the essays, such as the ones circled around childhood and content/form, I didn’t quite understand and to be honest found a little philosophical for me; however I found some inspiring. One in particular that I enjoyed was ‘London: Our Future City’ which mainly focused on how everyone needs a space to dream and for a city continue to grow it needed its occupants to dream; although there may not be much physical space in London there is a lot of mental space and time where the inhabitants can use this to develop ideas to make London an even more inclusive and diverse city.

The Girl Who Married a Lion by Alexander McCall Smith

Pages – 174
Price – £2.80 from Barter Books
Genre – Collection of short stories, Fiction.
Time to read – 4 days

Most people are familiar with Alexander McCall Smith from The No1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The premise of The Girl Who Married a Lion is that Smith researched many famous fables and popular stories from African culture and has retold them in his words. In total there are 34 stories in this book, some of them only being one or two pages long. This was the third set of short stories I have read recently and although it hasn’t been my favourite collection I did enjoy reading stories from a culture that I don’t know a lot about and would like to explore. Most of them had a moral to the story which was quite lovely and two that stood out the most for me were ‘The Grandmother Who Was Kind to a Smelly Girl’ and ‘Sister of Bones,’ if you come across these two stories definitely take the time to read them.

The Diamond as Big as the Ritz by F Scott Fitzgerald

Pages – 192
Price – £2.99 from Oxfam Bookshop
Genre – Collection of short stories, Fiction
Time to read – 4 days

Similar to Alexander McCall Smith, most people with know F Scott Fitzgerald from another piece of work – The Great Gatsby. The Diamond as Big as the Ritz is a lesser known collection of short stories that are meant to be a satirical portrait of the 1920’s. There were 5 stories in this book, all of a substantial length. Fitzgerald focuses on the vanity and growing materialistic nature of the younger generation in most of these stories with many of his characters learning the downside of being wealthy, vain and ignorant. My stand out story from the book was ‘May Day.’ 
‘May Day’ follows different characters of various social standings throughout the course of May Day with all of their paths crossing at one point As the plot grows you see the day starting to unravel chaotically with it ending with the characters waking up the next morning regretful of the previous days events.
Definitely give this collection a read if you happen across it.

The Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer

Pages – 292 discounting the references at the back.
Price – £1.50 from Cancer Research Shop
Genre – Non-fiction, History
Time to read – 5 days

This is the only non-fiction history book that I have read recently…don’t worry I have another Tudor book in my ‘to be read’ pile. Ian Mortimer mainly focuses on pre-Tudor medieval England in this and walks you through the main aspects of life so you could successfully navigate yourself through these times, were you to visit.
Of course, as a History fanatic, I really liked this book and found the way Mortimer narrated the book enjoyable and kept you interested. The chapters on the people,the medieval character, what to wear and what to eat and drink were the most interesting for me as I find the anthropology of these times fascinating. Mortimer has written about other historical eras in this fashion and I would love to get my hands on them to read.

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

Pages – 158
Price – £2.2o from Barter Books
Genre – Collection of short stories, Fiction
Time to read – 3 days

This was the last set of short stories that I have read recently and possibly my favourite. Just So Stories is a lovely collection of fables that are the origin stories for different animals. Rudyard Kipling’s unique take on the evolution of different animals are very heart-warming. They stories aren’t only simple yet entertaining, they also teach the reader lessons on being polite, not being selfish, being selfless and simply being a good person. The story that shone the most for me was ‘How the First Letter Was Written’ which contradictory to the above is the only story not to be centered around animals. It follows a father and daughter who go fishing one day and they need to send a message back to the mother. As written words had not been created yet the little girl draws a picture and sends it off to her mother with another human who does not speak the same language. This causes confusion and hysteria as the mother assumes the stranger has killed her husband and the whole tribe run down to where the father and daughter are. Both are well and the Chief of the tribe realises the confusion and from there the first letter is created which starts the creation of the alphabet as we know it.
This book, I imagine, could be easily found and I wholeheartedly recommend picking up a copy and basking in the delights of Rudyard Kipling’s stories.

Don’t Point That Thing at Me by Kyril Bonfigliolli

Pages – 166
Price – £1.00 from FARA Charity Shop
Genre – Crime, Fiction
Time to read – 5 days

Don’t Point That Thing at Me was a bit of a shot in the dark for me, to be honest the sole reason I got this was because Stephen Fry had praised it on the back of the book. The plot follows Charlie Mortdecai as he tries to cover his tracks from being discovered as part of a group that stole a painting. This results in him being followed, going to America and fighting off the FBI and random gunmen. Throughout the novel he is aided by his thuggish butler and a love of liquor.
For this being a rogue choice for me I was pleasantly surprised; although this was a little slow at times I rather enjoyed the friendship between Charlie and his butler, and in whole the story was amusing. One thing I did find a little irritating was the lack of depth that the characters had especially the two female characters. One of the female characters was only there as plot point and the other given no redeeming qualities and branded as a sex fanatic. Despite there being a few more installments of the Charlie Mortdecai series I don’t think I will go any further.

The last  book that I read I am saving for another post, but when the time comes I will unveil but I plan to work on a few things beforehand.

I am currently reading Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka. It may take a while.

 

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