Readathon: #TBRTakedown || Wrap-Up

I cannot believe it has been a week already! That’s crazy. But it has been a week of reading and it has been great. So this is just a brief post to conclude the week!

I didn’t conquer my entire TBR but I’m very happy with what I did end up getting read. I think I underestimated The Bone Clocks a bit, I had it in my head that it was going to be quite a quick read when in actual fact it took half the week – which I guess for a 600 page book is still pretty going by most peoples standards but slowed me down considerably with everything else!

So, I finished three books and started a fourth – of the complete books I totalled 1163 pages which I’m really happy with – it’s not far off my monthly total for April! If you haven’t seen, I managed to get around to, and finish the following books:

  • The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell
  • Saplings – Noel Streatfeild
  • The Doll: Short Stories – Daphne du Maurier

And I started The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan which I am about 50 pages in to as of Monday morning when I write this!

As I said, I’m really happy with how the week went even if I didn’t conquer my entire TBR. It was a great way to kick me in to reading for the Summer and I should finish the TBR I set myself by Wednesday (10th!) and I think it’s a good sign of things to come for the next couple of months!

Thanks for reading!

Review: The Doll: Short Stories – Daphne du Maurier

The DollA readathon just isn’t complete without a smattering of du Maurier. I haven’t read any du Maurier in a while – though I’m trying to work my way through her bibliography there is such a thing as too much of a good thing! Though, I always find her short story collections a good addition to any readathon!

The Doll is a collection of her early works – written in the late 20s and early 30s in the majority – some predate her first novel. While it’s clear to tell this is early work, it is by no means awful. Her early work is very much a good indication of what is to come in her career, all her signature tropes are there and ultimately this is great. As always, it is her use of atmosphere which is prominent and, in my opinion, the most wonderful aspect of her writing.

There is great variety in the types of stories that are present in this collection; an overarching theme is romance I think, but the darker side of it. There is a lot of themes that are then further explored in some of her full-length novels (or at least the few that I have read) such as jealousy. I liked seeing that early ‘thought process’ that she clearly started within a short story format.

Some of these did feel ‘half-baked’ on the plot side of things, and it’s a good judge of what was to come from her writing. It isn’t a short story collection that I would recommend to a friend who wasn’t either familiar with du Maurier’s writing and wanted to explore her bibliography more or wasn’t all that familiar with the short story ‘genre’ (if you can call it a genre in it’s own right). It is definitely more for the du Maurier ‘completist’ than a place to start with her writing. It is a lot more varied, there is a lot more character studies, but it was good.

As for a favourite, I don’t really have one but it is the titular story that has stuck with me through reading this collection. It was the second story. It was weird. When it was written, it must have caused scandal. It was bold and showed a woman as “sexually immoral”. It is told to us through a letter; while the author is unknown, it is understood that it is a confession of sorts about a peculiar situation about a woman the writer of the letter was involved with who had a fetish for a doll. I can see why it was ‘lost’; I don’t think, back in the 1920s this would have been published, especially by a woman, about a woman! It was definitely one of the more explored and experimental of the collection and while reading it I couldn’t help but be linking things to Rebecca because it had that overall tone. I think it’s probably why it has stuck with me!

It was not an awful collection, but I don’t feel it was her best (I would say possibly The Rendezvous is her best collection, or at least the one I have fondest memories of reading, followed by The Birds very close behind!) It was definitely a good indication of where her career was heading and reading these stories was really a highlight in me reading her bibliograpgy, there was just so much that was good in these and seeing the potential that was there was really great as a du Maurier completist! This was her beginning; it wasn’t perfect, but I really I loved reading it. It’s a high 3/5 for these as some were much better than others!

Review: Saplings – Noel Streatfeild

saplingsThough I own a few Persephone books, this is the first I read and it was not in any way a disappointment. When I picked this up in a shop I had a feeling it was going to be one of those books that I just cuddled up and read – I wasn’t wrong!

It’s the story of the second world war as seen through the eyes of a group of children, the Wiltshire siblings, who have had a very upper-middle class background. The tone of the book at the start is no indication of how the story progresses as, ultimately, this book is heartbreaking! By the end of this book, most of the characters are detestable but you understand why they’re that way. Laurel wants to be loved, Tony is grieving, Kim wants attention and little Tuesday is just so damaged by what the war has done to her family that she’s hardly functioning. Seeing how a war has shaped these children and altered their family dynamic is really sad and, honestly, it isn’t something that I’ve seen explored in literature before.

It’s really hard to describe this book because, it isn’t really plot heavy, it is definitely a character study of events that pretty much everyone is familiar with, just told through new eyes. I think the nature of observing WWII through the eyes of children was something new and, actually, a very novel way to look at war. I’ve read very little fiction set around wars, especially WWI and WWII but it’s just not something that interests me (and I know that probably sounds a little bad, but it’s just not my thing). However, I think this was a really good look at it.

Once I started this book I couldn’t put it down. I had to, but I didn’t want to, and I read it in 3 sittings. I just love Noel Streatfeild’s writing, it’s fluid, it’s simple but it is absolutely wonderful. There were a lot of parallels in style with that of Ballet Shoes but it was definitely a lot more grown up and far less sunshine and rainbows! I think it could have been explored a bit more, some bits were surplus but on the whole it was wonderful. It was a cozy read in spite of the background and the story material. I’d happily recommend this to anyone who likes her children’s writing, enjoys WWII novels or just loves books about family dynamics. 4/5!

Review: The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell

bone clocks

I finally read this book! I know, I’ve put it on several TBRs over the last 10 months but it took someone to tell me, in person, “read it!” to actually bother. I’m really conflicted about this, I have to be honest – overall I loved it but it took me a long while (over 300 pages) to get to that point. Once I was there, I couldn’t put it down – the final 200-300 pages were read in one day.

I’ve never read any David Mitchell before – I’ve had Cloud Atlas on my shelves to read for years – and maybe going in to this without the background on some of the more subsidiary characters was a bad thing (although I now do want to go back and read more of his work and I’ve been motivated to do that!).

This essentially is a book about the life of Holly Sykes. The first section, in 1984, is told from the perspective of Holly aged 15 on the day her brother disappeared. The second follows Hugo in 1991 and how he meets Holly in Switzerland (he then features somewhat in future sections of the book). Then we fast forward to 2004, where Ed Brubeck is waiting – he’s been waiting to say his piece for a while as he featured heavily in Holly’s tale in part one.

The fourth section is set in the present day – 2015 – and follows author Crispin Hershey and this is where I started to lose the thread a bit. Up until this point the book was chugging along at a good pace, I read most of the first 300 pages in a day, but this section felt stilted and slowed me down considerably, I just drifted and I wasn’t invested in this thread of the overarching story. I really didn’t like Crispin, or his voice which is a problem I do frequently have with first person narration. Then Holly popped up and it started to find it’s pace again, I still didn’t like Crispin but Holly (and Aoife) were the shining parts of this section and the only time I actually felt invested in Crispin was when Holly was around. Eventually, I was sad to see this section go as while I didn’t like his voice, I liked a lot of the plot that happened during this section!

I got what I wished for in the fifth section; it answered a lot of questions. Who IS Esther Little? Who IS this mysterious Marius character. This section made the drag of the previous sections worth it. It was crazy, it was by no means an easy read but it was a good one! It gave background to things and while some of it was a little confusing and required reading twice, some of it was a little outrageous, it was what I’d been waiting for from the beginning!

Then, finally in part 6 we’re thrown way in to the future, a dark and twisted future where Holly is raising 2 orphans. I won’t give too much away about this section but it’s something I would love to read more of. I would love to know what happened to Lorelei, I’d love to know what happened to Marius. By the end of this book I was so invested in Holly I felt sad to put it down, however much me and this book disagreed to begin with!

Overall, I’d give this a 4/5. The start was a bit rocky, then it started to up the pace; once I had completed it I understood things that were maybe confusing very much earlier on, subtext became important and I really liked that intricacy. I will definitely read more of Mitchell in the future!

May Wrap-Up & June TBR

Exams are over, I am finally free. I am (hopefully) no longer a second year. That is a scary thought! But I don’t know how I am going to top May in terms of reading! I’m sorry that there has been post after post this weekend, I’ve bee catching up on all what I have to say!

This month has been really, really awesome. In spite of having 5 exams I’ve somehow managed to read 8 books and all of them have been… great. I feel like I seriously hit the jackpot with the content of the books I read this month because not one of them was downright awful, The Buried Giant wasn’t great but it wasn’t the worst book ever written. It really looks like I’m shying away from a bad review but this is honest. I cannot remember a month in which I’ve read this many books and they’ve all been THIS GOOD. It’s crazy.

May Stats:

So, I got through the TBR I set last month and some, reading 8 books. I’ve managed some good variety in there too, a couple of classics, some literary fiction with overlap in to the sci-fi/fantasy/dystopia realms, some children’s literature – it’s been a really good month. From the 8 books I managed a total of 2614 pages, and it was a 3:5 split between male and female authors. I read one book by a PoC, which was The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro.

My favourite book of this month is a hard one – my average rating of the month was 4.1 which is really saying something. Of the books I read, I think I have to put The Year of the Flood at the top but it was a very hard decision. It’s saying something when my least favourite book of the month was probably The Buried Giant which is saying something given that I didn’t loathe it – it just wasn’t mindblowing!

I am so, so happy with what I’ve managed to read this month. I thought I was being ambitious with the TBR I set but the fact I managed to whiz through it and get some additional books read was pretty impressive!

June TBR:

Having finished with exams and hitting the Summer break, I’m being ambitious this month. I want to read at least 10 books. As I managed 8 in May, I feel this is attainable. However, as I’ve finished uni for the year, I’m probably going to pick up books as and when – TBRs tend to work during term time as they mean I just don’t have to think about what I’m going to read next! Though as it’s now Summer I can pick up what I want, when I want and it will be rather fun.

So, it’s a small TBR as these are the books I want to get to immediately this month. Every other book I read will be spur of the moment! It’s a luxury that I’m looking forward to.

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood is self explanatory. Final part of the MaddAddam trilogy and having absolutely loved The Year of the Flood I want to get around to this ASAP. I need to know what happens, it’s as simple as that! I also don’t want to make the mistake I did between Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood and leave it nearly 6 months before I read the next, and final, instalment

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan is one I’ve heard recommended by several people in May and I absolutely cannot wait to start on this. I know very little about it, all I know is I’m very excited about it and cannot wait to get sucked in. I trust Jen to recommend books to me and this comes in top of her list at the moment so… I’ve got big expectations of this!

Finally, we have a second or third appearance of The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell on my TBR. I’ve wanted to read this since I bought it in September and, after Tracy from Ketts Books (my favourite bookshop, in case you’re new) said that she loved it, she instructed me to come back once I had read it so we could talk about it; this has catapulted it back to the top of my TBR.

Aside from that, what I read is anyone’s guess. I’d like to read some classics this month; I have so many sat there that I want to read now it’s very hard to choose some to put on a TBR! Also, I have stacks of non-fiction which I am excited to read so that’s a definite to get around to for the Summer. Maybe a general “Summer TBR” would be a good thing to do sometime…

Feel free to recommend away to me if you think there’s something I ought to read soon. I’d love to have some suggestions on what to read! Until next month!

Readathon: #TBRTakedown

So, what better way to get started with June and enjoy freedom than to take part in a readathon?! #TBRTakedown was created by Shannon over on BookTube. It’s a week long readathon so it’s right up my street as it means I can invest time in slightly longer books!

She created a few challenges that can be part of this readathon, I’m actually not going to follow any of these! I’m ashamed to admit it but I’m just not going to pressure myself like that to read things that maybe I don’t actually want to read! I’d rather be enjoying what I’m reading and not following challenges so strictly. So, here is my TBR for the week:

So, we have two from my June TBR – The Bone Clocks and The GracekeepersMy main reason for trying to read both of these is they’re bulky and I don’t want to take them on holiday with me later in the month. So get them done sooner!

Then we have The Picture of Dorian Gray which is a classic that has been sat on my shelf for months. I can’t wait to read this. It’s not very long and I’ve only ever heard good things about it so I’m looking forward to it!

Next up is a short story collection, and not only that it is a short story collection by the wonderful Daphne du Maurier. I love short stories during readathons to break bigger books up and I love du Maurier so this was a no brainer! I picked The Doll and Other Stories because they’re her earlier, only recently discovered short stories and I love her early work!

Finally we have a Persephone classic and I picked Saplings by Noel Streatfield. I loved Ballet Shoes, it remains one of my favourite childhood books and when I discovered she wrote for adults I was excited. This book is one I actually cannot wait to get around to.

I’m being ambitious; I know. But when am I not? I’d love to hear if any of you are taking part in any readathons this month and can point me in the general direction of them! I will, as always, be reviewing all of these books and if there are any you think I should pick up earlier in the week, let me know!