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Top Ten Tuesdays: Books I Would Read in my Bookclub (if such a creature existed)

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Thanks as always to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting the meme.

So this week’s pick is an interesting one.  I’ve never belonged to a book club.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to try – I love talking about books with people, but I don’t have a ton of people to talk about them with!  My boyfriend and I have a fair amount of crossover in our tastes, but he doesn’t read YA, so I never get to talk about that with him.  My mum and I also share tastes, but there is a pretty big gulf of things we just don’t cross over on.  My best friend loves YA and contemporary fiction.  So I do get to chat about a lot of the things I love. However, I simply read in greater volume than anyone else I know, so a lot of books I’ve read are things they haven’t got round to yet.  I’m not tooting my own horn, I just don’t have a lot in the way of other interest 😉

Anyway, that’s why I’d like a book club.  Now!  I am the book club overlord. So what are we reading?  I’m going to pick five books I have read, and five that I haven’t.

  1. Cloud Atlas – this novel is weird and multi-layered and I’d love to get other people’s take on it.  I loved it, but I can’t decide whether the structure was sort of gimmick-y or not.  I’d also like to hear which part other people liked best.
  2. Bring Up the Bodies – this is a long book, but I think it would be beneficial to discuss this one in the context that obviously it’s based on things that actually happened – I’d love to talk to someone who knows more about that period of history than I do about this book.
  3. Oryx and Crake – this book is just so good and well written and brings up so many interesting ethical issues.  I don’t necessarily completely agree with Atwood’s stance on everything in this novel, but I think it would be great for creating a discussion around the issues it references.  Also it’s just plain fantastic and I want to reread it already.
  4. The Joy Luck Club – this just seems like the quintessential book club book and I’ve been meaning to have a go at it soon.  It sounds like the kind of thing I’d like to discuss with other women in order to gauge their opinion on the portrayal of women in it.
  5. A Streetcar Named Desire –  I just had the hardest time with the drama.  I was left in shock by what happens between Blanche and Stanley near the end.  On one hand, Stanley is clearly a violent man, and this, in itself, was sadly not unusual behaviour at the time of writing.  On the other hand, I’m not sure I like what was implied about working class people in general in this play – I’m not sure if I was reading it right, but it felt a bit fatalistic and maybe a little one-sided. I’d love to get the opinion of others on this.
  6. In the Woods – Tana French’s books have been getting such an amazing write up, and I love a good murder-mystery, so I think it would be great to discuss this book.  I’ve also not read many books set in Ireland, so this would be a good addition to round out that area of my reading.
  7. Persuasion – mostly because I want to know if everyone loves this book as much as I do.  It often feels a little neglected, compared to Austen’s more famous works, but it might just be my absolute favourite.  It’s a little more reserved and austere, much like its heroine, but I absolutely adore it.  Plus, reading it for a book club would just give it more attention, which I feel like it totally deserves.
  8. The Martian – so. Much. Hype.  It really does sound like my kind of thing, though, so I’d be interested to see whether it’s universally popular or not.
  9. The Knife of Never Letting Go – mostly just for reactions to that one bad thing that happens.  Plus, I think this is a really good book for the YA-skeptical (of which I am often one!) as it combines a strong narrative voice with an (imo) excellent plot.
  10. Invisible Cities – because it’s bound to be a bit of a mindfuck, and differing interpretations of these kinds of work are always fun.

Are any of you in a book club?  What would your picks be?

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Top Ten Tuesday – Freebie time!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Favourite Epistolary Novels!

Thanks again to The Broke and the Bookish. So, inspired by a conversation that I had on Twitter last week (if you want to follow me there it’s @beingsuzie by the way) I wanted to make a list of my favourite epistolary novels.  I really, really love these kinds of novels; I suppose I just think it’s an interesting way to get into the heads of characters – especially when they often  leave so much to the imagination about the surrounding people in the main character’s life:

For the avoidance of doubt:

An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. The usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used.

Thanks,Wikipedia!

  1. I Capture the Castle – this remains, to me, the ultimate epistolary.  Set (largely) in a crumbling castle in the middle of nowhere in England, with a cast of characters including the frustrated writer Mr Mortmain, Topaz, a hippy-like model, Rose, beautiful and longing to see something else of the world than what she already knows… and of course, Cassandra, my favourite forever, who chronicles all of this in her journal.  Despite the improbable circumstances, there’s something so true about the emotions as portrayed in Cassandra’s diary – even those of others.  Highly recommended.
  2. Les Liaisons Dangereuses – how could I not include this?  It’s a surprisingly easy read, a rip roaring tale of passion and betrayal.  The machinations of Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquis de Merteuil are just deliciously evil and the excess of drama is balanced really well with the more realistic undertones of characterisation.  Also, props for including such a complex female character as the Marquis.
  3. Finding Cassie Crazy (and the other Ashbury books) – these books are so much fun!  They’re also probably the first books I read that were set in Australia.  I’ve picked the second one, but really the first three are all amazing in different ways.  Though I don’t think the idea of the original project (exchanging letters between a private school and a state school) is very realistic it makes for a very realistic portrayal of the lives of teenagers.  It was so much more emotionally authentic to my experience of growing up than a lot of American YA.  The fourth book is not really very good, but the first three remain some of my favourite books even now.
  4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – I probably don’t need to say much about this one.  I know it gets a lot of stick for being pretentious but I really liked this.  I think that Chbosky is a a pretty incisive writer and he writes about the big emotions pretty well.  Realistically, I think this is one you have to read when you’re a teenager, especially if/when you’re going through a period of feeling isolated from your peers and having difficulty understanding what you feel about growing up.
  5. The Moonstone – I unexpectedly loved this! Often touted as the writer of the first mystery stories, Collins has such a wonderful sense of glee and wonder in his writing, coupled with some of the most wonderful and amusing character sketches that I can think of.  You can see the mutual influence that he and Dickens have on each other, but this is definitely lighter than a Dickens novel – that’s not a criticism, just an observation.  The story centres around the titular moonstone and the mystery surrounding its disappearance.  It’s told through a series of statements by the people peripherally involved in the incident, and still feels exciting and innovative nearly 150 years later.
  6. The Remains of the Day – this story is just heartbreaking. The meditations of a butler on his increasingly obsolete profession and the relationship between his master and himself.  Definitely worth a read if you like Downton Abbey as you can see the same themes of the decline of the British aristocracy.
  7. Attachments – this is just so much fun and easily Rainbow Rowell’s best novel to date (though Eleanor and Park is also very good).  Although the premise of reading someone’s emails without their knowledge is pretty creepy I think it’s handled fairly well.  The relationship between Beth and Jennifer is just so beautiful and touching that it really carries the book and makes it worth reading.
  8. Flowers for Algernon – don’t read this if you’re feeling even mildly depressed or sad.
  9. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 3/4 – has the funniest first five pages that I have ever, ever read.  Honestly, you can tell this book’s age, but it doesn’t matter because there is so much that is funny and recognisable in this book.  I’ve only read one of the sequels, but this first book is a classic of British literature for a reason.
  10. The Color Purple –  I expected this to be kind of miserable and, I’m not going to lie, there are some horrible bits in there.  But there is a running undercurrent of hope in Celie’s letters and this is an important book for people to read for many reasons.

So what are your favourite epistolary novels? Please recommend me some!

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Top Ten Tuesdays: bookish goals for 2015!

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Thanks once more to The Broke and the Bookish for facilitating Top Ten Tuesday!  I can’t believe we’re at the end of 2015.  Without further ado, here are my bookish resolutions for 2015.

  1. Read at least 84 books, 63 of those being paper books – this might seem oddly specific, but it’s for a reason.  As you know, the purpose of this blog is to clear out some of the paper books that occupy my collection.  I currently have 162 unread  books overall, 142 of those being fiction.  My ideal scenario would be to cut that down to under 100 this year.  I read 110 books this year, but a goodly percentage of those were on my Kindle Paperwhite, which I got for my birthday.  However, I start my first “real” post-university job at the end of July, so if I’m being realistic, I know there’s a decent chance my reading will fall off a cliff around then.  Therefore, a lower goal than last year seemed like a good idea.  I want to try to concentrate on making sure a decent percentage of my read books are physical, and give myself a chance of clearing the 100 mark, while allowing for the fact that I will read on my Kindle while out and about because it’s just more convenient.  Here’s hoping…
  2. Read at least 30,000 pages – this is mainly to ensure that I read a mixture of longer and shorter material.  Again, I aimed for 40k this year, and am very close to that mark depending on how much reading I do tonight and tomorrow.   However, with my “real” job starting,  I feel like a lower goal is safer (and allows for more reading of “easier”,  shorter books, if that’s what I need when I’m working.)
  3. Complete all challenges I sign up for – I’m currently scoping out some of the challenges that are floating about in the book blogging network – I’ve found Novel Challenges really useful in that respect. I aim to complete the challenges I sign up for this year instead of floundering like last year – with that in mind, I’m only signing up for things that I feel I can complete out of my existing library and not things that I feel are going to push me to find titles/buy new things.  I’ll make a page for these called “Other Challenges” above so you can see what I’ve been up to.  Also part of this resolution is to engage with other book bloggers more as the more the merrier when talking about books!
  4. Read at least half an hour per day – an hour a day last year was frankly unrealistic.  Some days are just hectic.  I probably averaged at least that with a few day long readathons, but if we’re just counting each day separately I think I was closer to 2/3 days being hour reading days.  With that in mind, a little, and often, seems more appropriate.
  5. Blog at least three times weekly, but aim for five – self explanatory – I’m planning to have some regular features, some facilitated by others, and some created by myself.  Hopefully that should be of interest to my readers!
  6. Review what I read – this has been a bad year for reviews – apart from a spree I went on in about April, I’ve reviewed very little of what I’ve read.  This is a shame as I have had things I’ve wanted to talk about.  I’ve got quite good at keeping a reading diary in the physical world, so I’m hoping this habit should help with reviewing my reads for the coming year.
  7. Keep up with Librarything AND Goodreads – I like both websites for different reasons, so keeping my catalogues up to date is important.  My LT still needs tidying, despite the epic tagging spree I went on this month, and I definitely have some duplicates, as the numbers don’t match up with my GR, but I’m hoping that should even out, particularly as I decrease my TBR.
  8. Give away what I don’t want – I have a habit of fetishising books as objects and finding them difficult to part with even when I didn’t really like them very much.  I have to give away what I don’t like, want, or need.  It’s the only way I’ll ever have room for any more…
  9. Stop starting series – I get anxious about unfinished series, even ones I was only lukewarm on.  So I need to stop starting them until I have enough breathing space to remember which ones I still have unread books in.  With this in mind, no more starting series I don’t own all the books in until further notice (note: this doesn’t have to last all year but best foot forward).
  10. Stop buying books – like I said above: 162 unread books.  That’s not counting Kindle books (upwards of 100 of those also unread).  I clearly need to stop buying books as I obviously don’t need any more! Being realistic, I know I won’t stick to a complete book buying ban, especially once I’m on a graduate wage.  But I just want to think much more carefully about my purchases and whether they’re necessary before I make them, at least for the next year or two.

What will your bookish resolutions be?

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Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List

Thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for the prompt. Welcome to my first post – hopefully the first of many!

Anyway, not only am I going to answer this question for meme-based purpose,  but I’ll be using this as my first chunk of books for my first blog challenge! Although they’re technically my “fall” (AUTUMN DAMMIT) reads, I’ll probably be aiming to finish these by the end of October.

TOP TEN BOOKS ON MY FALL TBR!

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(sorry for my crappy photography – my real camera is out of batteries at the moment!)

      • The Forever War – Joe Haldeman

This sounds right up my street.  I like space opera when done right, and this most likely isn’t a classic of the genre for no good reason.  A lot has been made of the parallels to Vietnam so it’ll be interesting to see how it’s aged from that perspective, especially given I was born long after that war ended.

      • The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka

This will be my first Kafka – I hope I’m ready for it!

      • Sons and Lovers – DH Lawrence

 I know very little about this text as I picked it up almost on a whim – which is why I decided to read it before the more well known Lady Chatterley’s Lover.  I’m not really sure what to expect from it and I know Lawrence can be polarising, but I intend to at least give it a good shot.  It’s not in the picture as I couldn’t find my copy when I went to look, but I do know it’s there.

      • The Golem and the Jinni – Helene Wecker

 This is a fairly hefty book and one that got quite a lot of attention over the last year or so.  I love the premise and the variety of settings that seem to have been used for the book, so I’m really looking forward to an immersive experience with this one.  It’s within my slightly fantasy-leaning comfort zone, too, so that should help me to enjoy it (though on the other hand may make me more critical).

      • The Windup Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi

 I’m not a huge fan of steampunk but this came fairly strongly recommended so I’m going to give it a go. It sounds intriguing, but I have been burned on this kind of thing before.

      • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller – Italo Calvino

 I’m maybe a little wary of this one because of the unusual writing style (it’s in second person, singular)  and because I’ve been told it’s a bit, well, weird, but I read the first page and was blown away by how gorgeous the language is so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.

      • Castle in the Air – Diana Wynne Jones

 I loved Howl’s Moving Castle when I read it a few years ago, and I’ve been meaning to get round to this one for far too long.  I’ll probably reread the first before I get to it, just because I can.

      • Labyrinths – Jose Luis Borges

 I’ve woefully neglected my reading of short fiction in the last few years – I think I was strongly put off it at school by reading and over-dissecting a couple of short stories that I really didn’t care for.  However,  my boyfriend read a few of these out to me one night (he has a great reading voice!) and I knew I definitely had to give them a go.  This is one of quite a few short story anthologies on my list, so we’ll see if I can get over my distaste!

      • Midnight Riot – Ben Aaronovitch

 I’ve been told this is like a less problematic Dresden Files set in London.  I have no idea how true that is but I’ll look forward to finding out. (NB I have not read any of the DF books but I have been strongly put off them by some of the excerpts that I’ve come across, especially regarding the women in the books and will be unlikely to read them.)

      • A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams

 I know, I should probably actually go and see this, but I simply don’t have the money for the theatre.  I’m going to compromise by watching the film straight afterwards.

So these are what I’ll be getting cracking on with once I finish The Stand.

  • BONUS KINDLE READ: I’ll be re-reading Northanger Abbey on my Kindle while I’m out and about as preparation for reading the Val McDermaid treatment of the same as part of the Jane Austen Project.