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Reading wrap-up: August

September, it’s September, 8 months of the year have gone. That’s crazy. Anyway, looking back at my August reading I realise what a mixed month it has been, not necessarily for ratings but for books that I have remembered the details of, that have stuck with me, or made me want to share.

Here’s what I read in August:

The White Book

The first book I read in August, writing this post, it’s one of the books I could remember very little about. Written in short passages which could be read independently of each other, there is little plot but a lot of emotion. The timeline is non-linear, and the passages do not connect to each other. I enjoyed the reading experience. However, it was a slow process getting through it – surprising, considering it is only 161 pages in length and does include some double-page photographs. I enjoyed it but I wasn’t blown away as I was with The Vegetarian. I wonder if poetry enthusiasts would be a better audience for it. It is not a poetry collection but it had the same sense of whimsy, emotion, and musings that I often associate with my minimal experience of poetry.

The White Book
Author: Han Kang (Translator: Deborah Smith)   
Published: Granta, 2018
Genre (According to Goodreads): Fiction
Blurb
Writing while on a residency in Warsaw, a city palpably scarred by the violence of the past, the narrator finds herself haunted by the story of her older sister, who died a mere two hours after birth. A fragmented exploration of white things – the swaddling bands that were also her shroud, the breast milk she did not live to drink, the blank page on which the narrator herself attempts to reconstruct the story – unfolds in a powerfully poetic distillation.
As she walks the unfamiliar, snow-streaked streets, lined by buildings formerly obliterated in the Second World War, their identities blur and overlap as the narrator wonders, ‘Can I give this life to you?’. The White Book is a book like no other. It is a meditation on a colour, on the tenacity and fragility of the human spirit, and our attempts to graft new life from the ashes of destruction.
This is both the most autobiographical and the most experimental book to date from South Korean master Han Kang.
 Rating: 3/5 stars

A spoke in the wheel

I was sent this for review, and I loved it. You can read my full review here.

A spoke in the wheel
Author: Kathleen Jowitt   
Published: Kathleen Jowitt, 2018
Genre (According to Goodreads): Fiction
Blurb
The first thing I saw was the wheelchair. 
The first thing she saw was the doper. 
Ben Goddard is an embarrassment – as a cyclist, as an athlete, as a human being. And he knows it. Now that he’s been exposed by a positive drugs test, his race wins and his work with disabled children mean nothing. He quits professional cycling in a hurry, sticks a pin in a map, and sets out to build a new life in a town where nobody knows who he is or what he’s done. But when the first person he meets turns out to be a cycling fan, he finds out that it’s not going to be quite as easy as that. 
Besides, Polly’s not just a cycling fan, she’s a former medical student with a chronic illness and strong opinions. Particularly when it comes to Ben Goddard…
 Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Nevermind (Patrick Melrose #1)

This is another book which I enjoyed but which didn’t elicit very strong reactions. I was repulsed by many of the characters and their actions, however, after finishing it and moving away for even as little time as half-an-hour, I had, for want of a better expression, forgotten about reading it. I am interested in continuing the series, especially as I want to follow Patrick and see how the events have affected him (I predict not well), I also feel as though I’ll relate more as he gets older.

Nevermind
Author: Edward St. Aubyn   
Published: Picador, 2012
Genre (According to Goodreads): Fiction
Blurb
Never Mind, the first instalment in Edward St. Aubyn’s wonderful, wry, and profound Patrick Melrose Cycle, follows five-year-old Patrick through a single day, as the Melrose family awaits the arrival of guests. Bright and imaginative, young Patrick struggles daily to contend with the searing cruelty of his father and the resignation of his embattled mother. But on this day he must endure an unprecedented horror—one that splits his world in two. In Never Mind, St. Aubyn renders this vivid tragedy with profound grace and precision, and introduces us to the unforgettable, complex figure of Patrick Melrose.
 Rating: 3/5 stars

Hold back the stars

Gifted to me on my birthday by the lovely Amy, I immediately fell in love with the cover; it’s so pretty and subtle and it reminded me of The Book of strange new things‘ cover, a book that I have been trying to match for a long time. Read in, I think, two sittings, this was a welcome break from the slightly heavier books I had been reading and I was glad for something that would just take me along with it. Following Carys and Max, this is a love story which, if you’ll excuse the pun, is out of this world. While the present story is one of survival in space, it runs parallel to the story of their individual and shared stories on earth; earth in the future. Part post-apocalyptic, part dystopian this earth is one where global borders don’t exist and love is banned.

Engaging, fun, tense, with an interesting premise, this is a book I would recommend. However, I was slightly let down by the ending. It’s hard to elaborate on without giving spoilers but I feel as though I was reading the author trying to work it out for herself.

Hold back the stars
Author: Katie Khan   
Published: Black Swan, 2017
Genre (According to Goodreads): Science Fiction
Blurb
‘We’re going to be fine.’ 
He looks around, but there’s nothing out here: nothing but the bottomless black universe on their left, the Earth suspended in glorious technicolour to their right.
Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left.
None of this was supposed to happen.
But, perhaps this doesn’t need to be the end…
Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the well-ordered world they have left behind – at the rules they couldn’t reconcile themselves to, and a life to which they might now never return.
For in a world where love is banned, what happens when you find it?
Hold Back the Stars is a love story like no other. 
 Rating: 3/5 stars

To all the boys I’ve loved before

and

Ps. I still love you

With all the hype about the film (which it thoroughly deserves – the film is excellent) I thought I’d give To all the boys I’ve loved before a second chance. I read it a few years ago and felt decidedly disappointed. I knew I wasn’t going to carry on with the series so passed my copy on. This time I decided to try the audiobook. I still have very mixed feelings. It was the perfect thing to listen to cosy in bed. It’s sweet and doesn’t require too much effort to be able to tell what’s happening. However, I could never wholly settle into it – there was something that made me want to roll my eyes and shake a lot of the characters. Many appeared to either be immature or overly mature for their age. Lara-Jean’s under-confidence and introverted nature seemed to be illustrated by an inability to be able to function without her sister but predominantly towards the everyday things like making coffee, not in social situations which I would better understand.

Furthermore, many of the characters were just unlikeable, Chris especially. All that being said, without hesitation I downloaded Ps. I still love you and I listened to it in a day. I’m not sure if I enjoyed it any better, the characters were still unlikeable and the explanations for frankly shitty behaviour seemed half-formed and flimsy. I have Forever and always Lara-Jean ready to play but if I do finish the trilogy it’ll be mostly due to my dislike of leaving series unfinished.

To all the boys I've loved before
Author: Jenny Han (Narrator: Laura Knight)
Published: Recorded Books, 2014
Genre (According to Goodreads): Non-Fiction
Blurb
Lara Jean keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her.
They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her, these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she can pour out her heart and soul and say all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.
Total length: 8h 22min
 Rating: 4/5 stars

We are our brains: From the Womb to Alzheimers

This is a book that is hard to write about. Fascinating, enlightening, and also completely and utterly mind-blowing, this had me muttering ‘wow’ under my breath within the first 30 pages. Talking about the brain and the way it influences everything, right from the first pangs of labour, even before, to death and how our brains can be useful afterwards, this is a relatively accessible and engaging read. There where moments towards the end when it became a bit more of an effort to carry on, however, I am very glad I perceived. Occasionally, I would have appreciated a few more sources and evidence. Swaab is quite obviously very accomplished and highly intelligent; however, there were occasions especially in the more controversial chapters where it felt as though we were expected to just take his word for it. Although, I suppose this can be said for all information and may be a smart way of approaching information.

We are our brains
Author: Dick Swaab   
Published: Penguin, 2014
Genre (According to Goodreads): Non-Fiction
Blurb
Everything we think, do and refrain from doing is determined by our brain. From religion to sexuality, it shapes our potential, our desires and our characters. Taking us through every stage in our lives, from the womb to falling in love to old age, Dick Swaab shows that we don’t just have brains: we are our brains.
 Rating: 4/5 stars

NCIS Los Angeles: Bolthole

I love NCIS LA, it’s ridiculous, completely unbelievable, but it’s also utterly engaging and addictive. If you haven’t seen it do – Hetty is everything! So, when I spotted this title peaking between the other crime titles at work, I couldn’t resist. I don’t really know how else to comment on this, it was engaging and I read it really quickly. However, I have to admit that I prefer the TV show – it’s original manifestation – the connection between the team members is much more prevalent and tangible, which is the part that really hooks me.

Bolt Hole
Author: Jeff Mariotte
Published: Titan Books, 2016
Genre (According to Goodreads): Thriller
Blurb
A brand-new original thriller tying in to the hit TV show, NCIS: Los Angeles. When a Navy counselor paying a home visit to a former Navy SEAL finds him inside his hose, tortured and murdered, NCIS are called in to investigate. Meanwhile, a bank hold-up goes bad downtown and an LAPD officer is shot. The cop is a friend of Deeks’, but a trace on the getaway vehicle shows no connection between the crimes, that is until NCIS dig deeper.
 Rating: 3/5 stars

 Notes on a Nervous Planet

Although I pre-ordered this the first chance I got, it took me a while to pick it up. However, I’m happy that for whatever reason there was the delay between receiving and reading this book. This was one of those wonderful occasions where it was read at just the perfect time. I turned 24 last month and it’s been a strange adjustment. I struggle with comparing where I am in life to others. Rationally, I completely understand that everyone’s life moves at different speeds and in different directions; however, I still find myself becoming anxious and pressured to be doing more, etc. etc. I picked this up during an especially meh week and it was perfect. Written in an almost list like way this is not necessarily a one sitting read, I read it a couple of chapters at the time adding page-markers as I went. It was a non-patronising, non-condescending, conversation about social media and its perceived effects. It reminded me of chatting with a friend, a gentle hand on the shoulder, and a reassurance that these feelings exist. I hugely appreciate this book and Matt Haig for writing it.

Notes on a nervous planet
Author: Matt Haig
Published: Canongate, 2018
Genre (According to Goodreads): Non-Fiction
Blurb
Rates of stress and anxiety are rising. A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected, yet feel more alone. And we are encouraged to worry about everything from world politics to our body mass index.
– How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad? 
– How do we stay human in a technological world?
– How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious?
After experiencing years of anxiety and panic attacks, these questions became urgent matters of life and death for Matt Haig. And he began to look for the link between what he felt and the world around him.
Notes on a Nervous Planet is a personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the 21st century.
 Rating: 5/5 stars

The Not-So-Very-Nice Goings On at Victoria Lodge Without Illustrations by the Author

A short, sweet, amusing read is essentially all there is to be said about this book. It’s wonderful. Able to read in 10 minutes or so this book is perfect if you want a laugh. Victoria Lodge

 

The not-so-very-nice goings on at Victoria Lodge
Author: Phillip Ardagh
Published: Faber and Faber, 2004
Genre (According to Goodreads): Humour
Blurb
Whilst flipping through issues of “The Girl’s Own Paper” from the 1890s, it dawned on Philip Ardagh that he was witnessing tantalizing glimpses of a mystery story unfolding in the seemingly-unrelated illustrations. With these original illustrations and new text, he has created this new story.
 Rating: 4/5 stars

A Court of Thorns and Roses

The book community has ardently loved this series for years, it dominated Booktube, Twitter, and, I would imagine the blogs. I stood firm in my belief that it wouldn’t be for me. I don’t tend to read fantasy and as I saw more and more descriptions of it, I became more and more certain. However, with #soapgate and the conversations surrounding that Subscription box it was on my mind when I came across it at work. With a week off looming, I figured I had nothing to lose, checked it out, and bought it home. It followed me around the house for days until I finally decided to sit down and see what all the fuss had been about. Oh my! This book, this series (I’m 200 pages into A court of mist and fury) is incredible. I could not stop reading, I gasped, I cried, I was literally on the edge of my seat. It’s so rich, so detailed, and, what I didn’t expect, so relatable. I never thought I would thank phallically shaped soap for anything but here we are.

A court of thorns and roses
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Published: Bloomsbury, 2015
Genre (According to Goodreads): Fantasy
Blurb
Feyre is a huntress.
She thinks nothing of slaughtering a wolf to capture its prey. But, like all mortals, she fears what lingers mercilessly beyond the forest. And she will learn that taking the life of a magical creature comes at a high price…
Imprisoned in an enchanted court in her enemy’s kingdom, Feyre is free to roam but forbidden to escape. Her captor’s body bears the scars of fighting, and his face is always masked – but his piercing stare draws her ever closer. As Feyre’s feeling for Tamlin begin to burn through every warning she’s been told about his kind, an ancient, wicked shadow grows.
Feyre must find a way to break a spell, or lose her heart forever.
 Rating: 5/5 stars

 

What did you read in August? Did you read any of these titles? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

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