Skip to content

Reading wrap-up: October

Another month over, this year is whizzing by. October was a really productive reading month for me. I tackled the TBR which was beginning to feel a bit overwhelming even at only 13 books which I know for a lot of readers is a drop in the ocean. I also read a few books – such as Flowers for Algernon and Persepolis –  which had been chattering away at the back of my brain for a while and even revisited Tin Man which I had previously DNF’d in frustration.

Without further preamble, here’s what I read in October:

It’s not me, it’s you

Author: Mhairi McFarlane
Published: Harper, 2015
Genre (According to Goodreads): Womens Fiction

Blurb
Delia Moss isn’t quite sure where she went wrong.

When she proposed and discovered her boyfriend was sleeping with someone else – she thought it was her fault.

When she realised life would never be the same again – she thought it was her fault.

And when he wanted her back life nothing had changed – Delia started to wonder if perhaps she was not to blame…

From Newcastle to London and back again, with dodgy jobs, eccentric bosses and annoyingly handsome journalists thrown in, Delia must find out where her old self went – and if she can ever get her back

 Rating: 4/5 stars

Light, fluffy, and surprisingly heartwarming, I swiped this brightly coloured spine from the shelves at work anticipating that it would be something to read at night; a bedside book for at least a week. That was not the case. Yes, I started it in bed but I finished it throughout the next day. I was completely engrossed and whilst there were no big revelations I thoroughly enjoyed the read. So much so that I immediately picked up another of her books. Unfortunately, this one did not grab me and I returned it unread.

Persepolis: The story of a childhood and The story of a return

Author: Marjane Satrapi
Published: Jonathan Cape, 2006
Genre (According to Goodreads): Memoir

Blurb:
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood tells the story of Marjane Satrapi’s life in Tehran from the ages of six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken child of radical Marxists, and the great-grandaughter of Iran’s last emperor, Satrapi bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Amidst the tragedy, Marjane’s child’s eye view adds immediacy and humour, and her story of a childhood at once outrageous and ordinary, beset by the unthinkable and yet buffered by an extraordinary and loving family, is immensely moving. It is also very beautiful; Satrapi’s drawings have the power of the very best woodcuts.

Persepolis ends on a cliffhanger in 1984, just as fourteen-year-old Marjane is leaving behind her home in Tehran, escaping fundamentalism and the war with Iraq to begin a new life in the West. In Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return we follow our young, intrepid heroine through the next eight years of her life: an eye-opening and sometimes lonely four years of high school in Vienna, followed by a supremely educational and heartwrenching four years back home in Iran. Just as funny and heartbreaking as its predecessor – with perhaps an even greater sense of the ridiculous inspired by life in a fundamentalist state – Persepolis 2 is also as clear-eyed and searing in its condemnation of fundamentalism and its cost to the human spirit. In its depiction of the universal trials of adolescent life and growing into adulthood – here compounded by being an outsider both abroad and at home, and by living in a state where you have no right to show your hair, wear make-up, run in public, date, or question authority – it’s raw, honest, and incredibly illuminating.

Rating: 4/5 stars

45668741_515385882277316_8477853645134626816_n

I wasn’t sure what to expect with Persepolis, I had never read a graphic novel before nor did I know anything about the Iranian Revolution. As such, this was a learning experience on many fronts. Autobiographical, I really appreciated the way it focused on the personal rather than the broader political nuances. It was easier to relate to, digest, and think about. I also really enjoyed the format and will definitely be reading more graphic novels in the future.

My family and other animals

Author: Gerald Durrell
Published: Penguin 1956
Genre (According to Goodreads): Memoir

Blurb:Fleeing the gloomy British climate, the Durrell clan move to Corfu carrying the bare essentials of life: acne cures for Margo; revolvers for Leslie; books for Larry and a jam jar full of caterpillars for Gerry. Recounted with warmth and humour, it is a heart-warming portrait of an eccentric family surrounded by a wonderful cast of friends and fauna.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

The second time I’ve read the first instalment of The Corfu Trilogy this year, I loved it just as much – if not more. Funny, charming, and warm, this is a book that makes me happy. I highly recommend it, especially at this time of year. It’s the perfect accompaniment for a blanket and a fire.

Flowers for Algernon

Author:  Daniel Keyes
Published:  Gollancz, 2011
Genre (According to Goodreads): Sci-Fi

Blurb
The story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance–until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?

Rating: 5/5 stars

45693341_704334476614084_7739300809900294144_n

 

Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what to say about this book. There was no hesitation in awarding it five-stars and yet I can’t quite articulate how good this book was. I went in not knowing what to expect, I knew the vague plot but nothing else and I am very glad that I went into this with so little information. Told through diary entries, I found this to be exceptionally powerful. First published in 1966, there are definitely indications of its time and occasional moments when reading it now, it was slightly uncomfortable, however, I continue to think about it.

Birds, beasts and relatives

Author:  Gerald Durrell
Published: Penguin, 2017
Genre (According to Goodreads): Memoir

Blurb
Just before the Second World War the Durrell family decamped to the glorious, sun-soaked island of Corfu where the youngest of the four children, ten-year-old Gerald, discovered his passion for animals: toads and tortoises, bats and butterflies, scorpions and octopuses. Through glorious silver-green olive groves and across brilliant-white beaches Gerry pursued his obsession . . . causing hilarity and mayhem in his ever-tolerant family.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Having bought the entire trilogy – as three separate books; does anyone else dislike bind-ups? – and having enjoyed the first so much, I was really excited to go back to Corfu with, who had become, one of my favourite families. Just as with My family and other animals I found this to be warm and amusing.

Happier thinking

Author:  Lana Grace Riva
Published: 2018
Genre (According to Goodreads): Non-Fiction

Blurb
Changing how you think is possible. I wasn’t always so sure that was true until I experienced it myself, but I know now we don’t have to just accept unhappiness. Not always anyway. This book is my collection of tips and suggestions that have helped me achieve happier thinking. It’s sort of a gym for my mind. I’d love to tell you it was easier than the real gym but well… it’s not really. It takes time, effort, and practice but it’s absolutely well worth the rewards.

Rating: 3/5 stars

I received this tiny non-fiction title from the author, Lana Grace Riva, I am always extremely grateful and quite surprised when I am approached by an author; however, I was particularly touched when Lana approached me as it was without expectation of a review or promotion. I have not yet written a review but am considering doing so in the future so I won’t say too much here. This is a very short book, around 49 pages, and reads informally; maybe like a series of blog posts. Due to its size, I read it in one sitting.  However, I imagine it would best fulfill its aim if read in small parts – chapter by chapter – with focus and want to really absorb its message. This is a book that reminds you what you already know but may have temporarily forgotten. I can imagine that this little blue booklet may be best finding a home in a bag, ready and waiting to help when needed.45517196_271409523514761_1484137012968554496_n

Scratch: writers, money, and the art of making a living

Author:  Manjula Martin (Editor)
Published: Simon and Schuster, 2017
Genre (According to Goodreads): Non-Fiction

Blurb
A collection of essays from today’s most acclaimed authors—from Cheryl Strayed to Roxane Gay to Jennifer Weiner, Alexander Chee, Nick Hornby, and Jonathan Franzen—on the realities of making a living in the writing world.

In the literary world, the debate around writing and commerce often begs us to take sides: either writers should be paid for everything they do or writers should just pay their dues and count themselves lucky to be published. You should never quit your day job, but your ultimate goal should be to quit your day job. It’s an endless, confusing, and often controversial conversation that, despite our bare-it-all culture, still remains taboo. In Scratch, Manjula Martin has gathered interviews and essays from established and rising authors to confront the age-old question: how do creative people make money?

Rating: 3/5 stars

I wrote a review of this collection a few weeks ago; it can be found here.

Against empathy

45708486_308726566401954_5788167750820036608_nAlong with Scratch, this was the longest standing member of my TBR pile. I really enjoy reading non-fiction but find I have to be in just the right mood; even more so than with fiction. This was an interesting book and one which substantially dented my stock of page tabs. I appreciated what Bloom was trying to convey, trying to explain, and I really appreciated the accessible language used (so often I find that the prologue to a non-fiction work is inviting and inclusive while the body tends to be convoluted, dry and a bit ‘over-my-head’). The nods to psychology, biology, sociology, anthropology, and philosophy were really interesting, and I enjoyed the fact that he had drawn on so many different disciplines. However, some of the evidence provided seemed subjective at best – monkey’s don’t use language being one such example. I also felt that the structure could have been improved. A lot of the time I was reading I had an internal monologue of “that’s really interesting but…”, instances like this would be tabbed at the top of the book: there were a lot of them. Some were addressed later on, but it tended to be so much later that it almost felt as though he’d forgotten prior parts of his argument; there was very little relating back.

I may be being a bit harsh, Bloom introduced me to an intriguing topic and one that made me feel a little uncomfortable. Maybe I am being defensive, who knows. I am glad I both bought and finally read this. It is extremely topical.

Asymmetry

Author:  Lisa Halliday
Published: Granta Books, 2018
Genre (According to Goodreads): Fiction

Blurb
In New York, Alice, a young editor, begins an affair with Ezra Blazer, a world-famous, much older writer.
At Heathrow airport, Amar, an Iraqi-American economist en route to Kurdistan, finds himself detained for the weekend.
What draws these characters together, and how do their lives connect?

Playful and inventive, tender and humane, Asymmetry is a novel which illuminates the power plays and imbalances of contemporary life – between young and old, West and Middle East, fairness and injustice, talent and luck, and the personal and the political. It introduces a major new literary talent, writing about the world today with astonishing versatility, acuity and daring.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Oh boy, this book was a mess! A birthday present from my sister this book appeared to 45516860_700995046938734_2938045990273286144_ntick all the boxes for a ‘Rachael book’ yes, it was possibly slightly more literary-sounding than I would usually go for but I was excited to read it. I read it in one sitting purely because I knew I would not pick it up again and I didn’t want to leave a gift (one that my sister was really excited about finding) unread. Split into three parts, the first and last are connected by character whilst the middle section – my favourite – was entirely unrelated. Predominantly about a young girl and her relationship with a much older man, the middle section about an Iraqui – American whose dual citizenship and two passports see him detained over the weekend, has no consequence, interaction, or link with the rest of the book. Whilst this surprised and confused me, it was the affair that made me most uncomfortable. ‘The Author’ as we first know him is creepy. Alice is frequently referred to as ‘good girl’, is essentially bought through lavish gifts, and frequently has to play Nurse after Author has had bypass surgery or issues with his joints. The power-play is subtle but oh so gross. I don’t know what Halliday was trying to achieve with this book, there probably was some attempt at commentary but I either didn’t understand it or was too distracted to notice.

Tin man

Author:  Sarah Winman
Published: Tinder Press, 2018
Genre (According to Goodreads): Fiction

Blurb
It begins with a painting won in a raffle: fifteen sunflowers, hung on the wall by a woman who believes that men and boys are capable of beautiful things.

And then there are two boys, Ellis and Michael,
who are inseparable.
And the boys become men,
and then Annie walks into their lives,
and it changes nothing and everything.

Rating: 2/5 stars

45549388_996346773881342_247179959204839424_n

 

I met with Sarah, a great fan of this book, at the beginning of the month. It’s because of her that I gave this its second chance. I am still not enamoured and will probably pass my copy onto the library where demand seems far greater. However, I am glad I gave it another go. Michael’s contribution to the story was definitely my favourite and, having spoken to Sarah, knowing that his section may save this title for me, I persevered. There’s very little else I have to say about this book my thoughts from back in July, while lessened, still stand: ultimately, even whilst seeing the beauty in its simplicity, I found it boring.

Miss Peregrines home for peculiar children

Author:  Ransom Riggs
Published: Quirk, 2011
Genre (According to Goodreads): Fantasy

Blurb
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow-impossible though it seems-they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

Rating: 4/5 stars

With the publication of The map of days, a book I had hoped to take on holiday with me, I knew I needed to re-read the previous three books before delving in. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to read one, two, and three, before heading to Cornwall but diving back into the series, has been fantastic. It is a wild mix of genres, predominately fantasy, I would personally also class it as mild horror, YA, and coming of age. However it is shelved, this is a fabulous start to a wonderful series.

The Colonel and the Bee

Author:  Patrick Canning
Published: Evolved Publishing LLC, 2018
Genre (According to Goodreads): Fantasy / Steampunk

Blurb
Beatrix, a spirited but abused acrobat in a traveling circus, seeks more than her prison-like employment offers. More than anything, she wants to know her place in the world of the halcyon 19th century, a time when the last dark corners of the map were being sketched out and travel still possessed a kind of magic.

One night in Switzerland, the mysterious Colonel James Bacchus attends Beatrix’s show. This larger-than-life English gentleman, reputed to have a voracious appetite for female conquests, is most notable for traveling the world in a four-story hot air balloon called The Ox.

Beatrix flees that night to join the Colonel, and the two of them make a narrow escape—Beatrix from her abusive ringleader, the Colonel from a freshly-made cuckold. Beatrix, feeling the Colonel may have the answers to her problems, pledges to help him catch the criminal he seeks in exchange for passage on his magnificent balloon.

The criminal seeks a precious figurine, The Blue Star Sphinx, but he’s not alone. The Sphinx’s immense value has also drawn the attention of the world’s most deadly treasure hunters. A murder in Antwerp begins a path of mystery that leads all the way to the most isolated island on Earth.

What dangers await the Colonel and the acrobat?

Rating: 4/5 stars

I was sent this fantastic title by the author – Patrick Canning – in exchange for a review. As I will be reviewing this in the next few weeks, I won’t say any more here but keep an eye out for that.45460966_275369409754608_3945816145944117248_n

Diary of a Bookseller

Author:  Shaun Bythell
Published: Profile books, 2018
Genre (According to Goodreads): Non-Fiction

Blurb
Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover’s paradise? Well, almost … In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations (of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.

Rating: 4/5 stars

I knew I was going to have fun with this book (and Shaun) when the first page contained a reference to the television program Black Books (if you haven’t seen it, do!). This diary takes us through the ups, downs, challenges, frustrations, highlights, and community of running a bookshop. Running The Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Wigtown Scotland Shaun helps us become achingly familiar with his every day which, whilst the customers mean that there are rarely two days the same, are clouded by falling profits, the growing shadow of Amazon, and the impacts and hair-pulling frustration of failing or inconsistent technology. The dry delivery sometimes portrayed Shaun as a slight curmudgeon; however, I have a feeling that this was a somewhat cultivated personality. It is clear that despite the difficulties, Blythell loves his shop, the books, and his customers. A frank, informative, and in some ways deeply personal book, I strongly recommend this to anyone with a love of books and/or book shops.

I have since decided to cease buying books from Amazon or, since this article – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/04/technology/abebooks-amazon-protest-booksellers.html – Abebooks which I had not previously known was also Amazon-owned.

 

What did you read in October? Have you read any of these books? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

img_0149-1

2 thoughts on “Reading wrap-up: October Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: