What Emily Read Next

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I believe that these are all the books I have read since the last time I made one of these posts.  To me it feels like a lot, but then I read other blogs and turn green with envy and realise that it is actually not so many. Hey ho.

Some I’m working on full reviews of so I won’t include them here.

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor

After trying and failing to read this for years, I finally slogged through it. I enjoyed it well enough, but honestly I think I ruined it for myself by taking so long to get round to it and subconsciously putting it on a pedestal. It was a nice book, but the writing style was a bit irritating and it says it all that I read it at the end of August and have already forgotten pretty much everything that happens in it. 3/5

Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos

I have to question just what kind of idiot I am when I win a Facebook competition and am offered a book of my own choosing from And Other Stories and I pick the one with the naive child narrator, despite naive child narrators being one of my least favourite literary devices. Despite this, I enjoyed Down the Rabbit Hole, as much as a person can enjoy a story about a Mexican drug lord told from the perspective of his seven year old son. It was great to have the opportunity to read a book that I might not have ever considered otherwise, and I thought the translation was excellent – no quirky not-quite-correct sentences that I can remember. 4/5

The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock

You can read my review here at Judging Covers. 4/5

The Report by Jessica Francis Kane

I’m working on a longer review of this so will leave this at the bare bones. The Report is a fictional account of a real life story, the Bethnal Green tube station disaster in 1943. I thought the book was well written and very tactful. It was all the more devastating as I read it around the time that all the new information was coming out regarding the Hillsborough disaster. A really worthwhile book but perhaps not for the faint hearted. 4/5

One Million Tiny Plays About Britain by Craig Taylor

I have to admit that I’m not sure if I ‘got’ this. Some of the ‘plays’ were amusing, some were depressing, some were just blah. I gathered that the idea was that these were meant to be like real conversations that could happen in Britain but where it fell short for me was that so many of them were completely unrealistic, hugely clichéd and a bit try-hard for my liking. Still, they passed some time. 3/5

The Book of General Ignorance by John Mitchinson

This was exactly what I expected it to be like, and I enjoyed it a lot. I read it before I left for Slovakia and spent a good few hours following various family members around the house proclaiming ‘DID YOU KNOW…’ 5/5

How To Climb Mont Blanc in a Skirt by Mick Conefrey

This was really interesting but often seemed like a huge muddle with no focus, which must be part of the reason that it took me from June until September to read it. That said, it’s useful to have a book suitable for reading in chunks as and when you feel like it, so that it comes in handy when you have a bit of time to kill. 4/5

The First Time: True Tales of Virginity Lost & Found by Kate Monro

Another nice little non-fiction book that’s good for dipping in and out of (no pun intended, chortle chortle). Overall I found it  little disappointing, as though it was always reaching towards a conclusion that was never realised. 3/5

How I Killed Margaret Thatcher by Anthony Cartwright

You’ve heard the phrase about not judging a book by it’s cover – this is one you don’t want to judge by its title. The title injects a lot of arguably unnecessary shock value into a novel which is actually a slow-paced story of a young boy growing up in Dudley under the first few years of Thatcher’s rule. 3/5

Love and Other Possibilities by Lewis Davies

There was maybe one of these short stories that I enjoyed, and the fact that I can’t remember it speaks volumes. Overall I was wholly unimpressed. 1/5

Possessed by Niki Valentine

Read my review here.

Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan

I only read this because my Kindle had broken and this was one of the cheapest English language novels I could find. It was okay, and only just okay. I found it quite tiresome and felt quite relieved to have finished it, but it had some moments of humour in it. 3/5

I will refrain from writing a review of The European Union and its Eastern Neighbours, as I’m not so sure that anyone would want to read it.

At this very moment in time I am reading Mother’s Milk by Edward St Aubyn and I am not enjoying it at all. Anyone read it? Does it get better? Is it supposed to make me feel uncomfortable and queasy?

As for what’s next, I’ll probably read one of the new Kindle books I’ve recently downloaded: From Dictatorship to Democracy, The Redemption of Alexander Seaton, A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees, The Italian Chapel, Winter in Madrid, Safe House and The Last Talk with Lola Faye. Some of those were only £0.20 so if you have a Kindle, check them out.

Tell me what you’ve been reading, what you’re reading now, and what you’re going to read next!

Currently #3

Here’s what I was reading, listening to, watching, eating and admiring in March.

Reading Last night I finished It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet by James Herriot. It was an easy enjoyable read but not something I would necessarily recommend to anyone, and I won’t be rushing to read another Herriot. Then I closed my eyes and pointed at my bookshelf and came up with The Medici Secret by Michael White. I’ve also been spending too much of my time going square-eyed reading Wikipedia pages trying to teach myself about all the things in the world ever. I had a strange existential crisis and thought about all the things I knew nothing about and so my current mission is to teach myself everything. (This mission may fail.)

Listening to I’m not even ashamed to say that I have been blasting Euphoria by Loreen very often. Yes, that’s the Eurovision winning song. It’s amazing. I also adore Paloma Faith’s new tune.

Watching Against all odds, I have been watching – and enjoying – Cardinal Burns.

Eating Lots of salads. Yes, I’m feeling alright, and before you ask ‘Who are you and what did you do with the real Emily?’, hang in there for a moment. I’ve been buying the bagged salad that tastes really good but costs about a million pounds, and then putting fun things on it like halloumi and chorizo. Also, I made a pizza a while ago that was freaking delicious, and I threw together some red onion and cucumber pickle to go with it.

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Admiring Smart jackets on eBay that I could wear to my interview. I eventually settled on this bad boy in light grey, which should hopefully be smart and businessy enough to slightly mitigate the brazenness of wearing a bright yellow dress. (I don’t really shop in eBay stores very often so I hope it’s not terrible quality.) Now I’m looking for shoes. HELP ME OUT PLS.

Shameless self promotion I just wrote my first review at the wonderful website Judging Covers. I have read and admired this website for a long time and so I’m really pleased that I have the chance to write for them too. Take a look at my review of The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey here.

What Emily Read Next

WWW Wednesday #3: idea from Should Be Reading

What did you recently finish reading?

I did not finish but temporarily abandoned The London Train by Tessa Hadley. It was just going too slowly for me. Then I read I’m Starved For You by Margaret Atwood, which is a ‘Kindle single’, whatever that’s meant to mean. Then I read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Oh, and I finally finished Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo. It was not fantastic.

Jeannette Walls, Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo

What are you reading at the moment?

I am reading all the books: One More Year by Sana Krasikov, The Eaten Heart: Unlikely Tales of Love by Giovanni Boccaccio, Mad Mobs and Englishmen? Myths and realities of the 2011 riots by Steve Reicher and Cliff Stott and Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I have a stack of John Wyndham books on my shelf tempting me, so I might have a go at one of those. I’m thinking Chocky. (I still haven’t read The White Tiger. I don’t know why.)

May Goals

It’s been May for five days already and I’m only just getting round to making some goals for the month. Because that’s just how organised I am.

  1. Write ~creatively~ every day. I got an amazing notebook for Christmas from my sister, and the intention was to create great works of fiction inside said notebook. So far I’ve filled about three pages, proving just how useless I can be. I have drafted up a list of all the writing competitions I would like to enter so I guess that in order to enter them, I will have to write things. My goal is to write 2 short stories every week. (They don’t have to be any good, of course, they just have to exist.)
  2. Read 3 books. Reading may not be something I have to work very hard at, but it’s nice to set myself little goals just so I can bask in a completely undeserved sense of achievement every now and again.
  3. Get some business cards. Earlier on this week I made an attempt at real-life networking, and failed miserably. Rather than declaring that networking sucks and I never want to do it again (which is exactly like something I would do) I’ve decided to get some swanky business cards so that next time I can thrust them under people’s noses. I’m making this a goal for the month because I’m likely to procrastinate until I find the card that strikes the right balance of professional and pretty and doesn’t cost the earth.
  4. Sort out my unwanted clothes. Am I going to keep saying I’ll get round to this until the year 2050, when clothes are old-fashioned and we’ve all started wearing polymer bodysuits? No. I am not. I’m going to get donating, throwing out and selling this bloody month. Who wants some pretty miniskirts and high heels, things that a woman of 5’11” should know better than to keep buying?
  5. Bake something extravagant. The mission to find my signature dish is still on. This month I want to bake something a little trickier than scones, cake and cookies. I probably won’t bother faffing around with profiteroles or anything like that, but I just want to tackle something a little more taxing. Any ideas?

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Here you can see photographic evidence of all the procrastinating. One of my May goals should be ‘stop procrastinating’, but that has been a life goal for at least 6 years so it’s not likely that this month will be the one.

What are you goals for May?

WWW Wednesday #1

Post idea from Should Be Reading.

Snow Child (1)

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What are you currently reading?

I bought a gorgeous hardback copy of The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey with a book token the other week, and started reading it yesterday. At five pages in I can’t tell you anything about it other than that the book itself is stunning and I have high hopes for the words inside.

What did you recently finish reading?

Cool Hand Luke by Donn Pearce. I really enjoyed this book. I thought that it would be a fun and easy read as I knew the story from watching the film, but I was genuinely surprised at how beautiful and poignant the writing was. It might still be 99p for the Kindle edition if anyone is interested in reading it!

And I knew that it wasn’t over yet, for any of us. There was still more hope and disappointment way out there in the Free World, where the traffic still swished and roared along restless highways. There was more battle to be given and lost, rewards to be sought and forsaken, more loves to be wooed and unrequited.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Now this is where I’d like your help, dear bloggers. Last night I downloaded some new books to my Kindle, and today I bought some new books from a charity shop. I would like your opinion on what to read next.

What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn / The London Train by Tessa Hadley / The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

So help me out here. Which would you read first?

And what are you reading, have you read, and are you going to read?

2011: Books

I’ve managed to read 43 books this year. I’ll probably manage at least one more before the year’s out. I didn’t finish my reading challenge, but I would still call it a good year for books. Here are my personal highlights. Think of this like my personal awards ceremony for books.

Books that I read for my degree

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Nobody has any excuse not to read The Hours by Michael Cunningham. It’s a short and relatively easy read, but is beautifully written, and fascinating in the way it unfolds. If your excuse for not reading it is ‘I’ve never read Mrs Dalloway’, that really doesn’t matter either. The plot (or lack thereof) is interesting without necessarily needing to be bolstered by the Woolf references.

I was not expecting to enjoy South Riding by Winifred Holtby. It was a set text on a 1930s literature module that I did not want to be enrolled on in the first place. I took a copy out from the library and it was huge, and it was falling apart, and it smelt boring and dusty. I opened it to read it and half of the pages fell out. I stuck them back in and then returned it to the library because I didn’t want to destroy this ancient artefact, and put it all to the back of my mind. When I saw the BBC adaptation being advertised, I knew I was going to have to read the book before I watched it, so I went and bought a brand new copy that smelt like Waterstones and stayed in one piece. Much to my surprise, I loved it! As much of a cliché as this sounds, I actually laughed and cried through most of this book. Books barely ever make me laugh out loud – I might smirk, or think ‘oh that’s quite funny’ – but something about Holtby’s writing had me cackling to myself in my bedroom. The novel deals with extreme hardship and tragedy in a way that is thought-provoking but never disheartening or depressing.

The Accidental by Ali Smith is one of those rare books that was immeasurably improved in my estimations by studying it, analysing it, and then writing a 2500 word essay about it. When I first read it, I thought it was quite enjoyable, but my main thought was that it would be good to write an essay on. So I did, and found that the more I delved into it, the more I loved it. The way that Ali Smith manipulates and shapes the language is just fantastic. While writing the essay it was sometimes all I could do to prevent myself from just copying out a line from the book and writing ‘JUST LOOK AT THIS! JUST LOOK!’ My favourite example of Smith, and her characters, playing with language is when Astrid is forbidden from talking about Amber, and starts reciting the colours of the traffic lights in order to say it, and then when she is busted for doing this, starts saying ‘amb’ instead of ‘am’. I find this so funny and unusual and fun and silly and sad and interesting!

Books that I couldn’t put down

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I’m sure everyone knows all about One Day, and how much everyone loved it, and how much I loved it. I read it at a really crucial time, shortly after graduating and moving home, when the reality of the post-student life was just settling in. At first it made me want to lie down on the floor and cry and give up and not bother, but as I kept reading, it made me realise that things can be shit, and they can also be good, and things can get better, and they can also get worse. It scared the living daylights out of me, but in a good way.

My reviews of The Wrong Boy & How To Be A Woman can be found here & here!

Books that I read on holiday

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The four books I read on holiday were Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano, and The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. I discussed them in this post.

Books that were a disappointment

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There was nothing wrong with When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman, and in fact I really enjoyed it, but there was just something missing. It did not live up to its own hype and left me thinking ‘what was the point of that?’ Too many things were left unexplained, and it seemed to me as though the author was piling tragedy upon tragedy just to create some feeling of drama and excitement.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby is very well written. That may be as far as I can go with good things to say about it. The narrator is a very unlikeable character, and as much as I appreciate the skill that went into creating this character, this did not make me like the book.

I felt quite personally let down by Smashed by Koren Zailckas. I thought it was going to offer me a new perspective on young women and their drinking/partying habits. I thought it was going to rewrite the cultural narrative of girls only getting drunk to prove something, to cope with something, and never because they are human beings with a mind of their own who may sometimes choose to drink because they enjoy it. It went some way to discussing these ideas, but always fell short. Although I in no way want to belittle her experiences and how she is affected by them, it seemed to me that Zailckas takes herself too seriously, is very preachy, and believes that what goes on inside her mind is the same thing that goes on in the mind of every other woman who likes a drink. I did like some of the things she had to say about how girls having fun are viewed by society and by the male gaze, however.

What has your year in books been like?

Are you going to set yourself any reading challenges in 2012? I’m considering making myself read one book from my never-ending pile of charity shop books every time I buy a new one. Kind of like a one in, one out policy!

Currently

Reading I’m about halfway through The Bone People by Keri Hulme. I’m really enjoying it but it’s a slow read so on the side I’m dipping into Are We Nearly There Yet? by Ben Hatch and, er, The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. Why I chose that last one is quite beyond me. Romance and soppiness has its time and place, but this is enough to rot your teeth.

Listening To There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the array of tunes I have been blasting lately as I search for jobs and lament my life.

Imogen Heap – Leave Me Here To Love / Kanye West – Hey Mama / Carrie Underwood – Before He Cheats / The Small Faces – I Can’t Make It / Rebecca Ferguson – Nothing’s Real But Love / Taylor Swift – Picture To Burn

I guess the only thing they have in common is that I find them all quite uplifting. Who knew I had such a penchant for angry lady country singers?

Watching Lately my eyeballs are almost constantly glued to some kind of visual entertainment. Misfits is so amazing I can barely formulate the words to talk about it, and end up just saying ‘IT’S SOOO AMAZING’ which I imagine is rather annoying. I’m also a staunch defender of both How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory, although I hear that common consensus is that nobody likes the new series. Then there’s Hollyoaks. Say what you will, it’s a guilty pleasure and I bleeding love it. Then on the dvd rotation are Green Wing, The IT Crowd, and Gavin & Stacey. I’m going to need a tv detox very soon, I can tell!

Eating & Drinking I’m on yet another ‘I’m gonna be sooo healthy!’ kick at the moment, so I’ve been eating a lot of proper healthy tingz. This includes a lot of pulses to stand in for the stodge I inevitably find myself craving at this time of year. Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, Israeli couscous. As for drinking, lately I can’t get enough of Blue Moon wheat beer. My love affair with wheat beer began on my sister’s birthday when, goaded by her boyfriend, I tried a local brew from the Thornbridge Brewery. A few weeks later I spotted Hoegaarden on offer in Tesco, and ended up buying a ridiculous amount. I have now settled on Blue Moon as my current favourite – so much so that it’s currently 5pm and I could drink one right now. I won’t, for the sake of being a citizen of normal polite society, but it would be lovely. (Also, yes, it would appear that my definition of a health kick involves drinking copious amounts of 5% beer. That’s what happens when you’re brought up in a pub.)

Admiring Pictures of skies.

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Looking Forward To Prague! Christmas markets, Czech lager, Franz Kafka. Boom!

The problem with reading the back of the book

Say I want to buy a new book. I ask a friend what they think I should read. I look up books by authors I already like. I use the internet to find out what I should read based on what I’ve already read. I find a book that appeals to me, and I want to read a plot summary. I find one. If I’m buying the book in a shop, I simply turn the book over and read the blurb. I want to make sure it’s something I will raroomwithoutbooksead before I part with my ever-precious money. Even though I enjoy stepping out of my comfort zones, I see no point in buying a book that will sit gathering dust for years while I wonder what possessed me to buy it, or something that I will likely altogether hate.

The summary, or the blurb, is where the problem comes in. Far too often, the blurb tells you important plot points that would have been better as a surprise. It tells you which characters you will love, and which you will hate. It tells you that the two protagonists hate each other for most of the book and then fall in love. I’m left wondering if there’s any point in reading the book now that I’ve found out everything that happens in it.

I don’t like to be told which characters I ought to love and which I ought to hate. If the writing is good enough, and my moral compass is accurate, I should be able to figure this out on my own. I don’t want to be told that whatshisname and thingamybob are secretly in love all along. This should be obvious, and if not, it should come as a nice surprise when it is revealed. I like to be able to look back over a book after a major revelation and see if there were any hints. I was just put off from reading a quite short novel because it seemed as though the blurb described everything that was going to happen, as well as how I would feel about the protagonist at the end. A character’s personal development isn’t something I need to be warned about beforehand, and if it is, it might ruin my enjoyment of watching (reading?) them develop.

Does anyone else think this is a problem? Or do you like to go in fully informed?

Five Things Friday

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last five meals I ate

  1. Bagel with spring onion & black pepper cream cheese, salad
  2. Crackers, cottage cheese, ham, olives, gherkins
  3. Crackers & cottage cheese (a very strange thing to be addicted to, I know…)
  4. Pasta with aforementioned cream cheese, bacon, courgettes and mushrooms
  5. Scrambled eggs, toast, Franks hot sauce

five places I’m going

  1. I’m planning a trip to Hull soon
  2. Rich & I are booked into a spa at the end of October
  3. I will probably go to his house in Halifax at some point
  4. Hopefully a day/night out to Manchester/Newcastle. Who’s in?
  5. A friend & I are going to Prague in December

last five books I’ve read

  1. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  2. Q&A by Vikas Swarup
  3. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  4. Smashed by Koren Zailckas
  5. The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing

five things in my bag

  1. felt purse with an elephant on it
  2. card wallet with a gazillion loyalty cards in it (do I need a Subway card when I live nowhere near a Subway? Of course!)
  3. Moleskine diary
  4. phone & camera
  5. book

five things I do every day

  1. shower
  2. drink coffee
  3. attempt to plan my life
  4. listen to Emmy the Great (no joke)
  5. read blogs

Have a great weekend everyone!

Indian summer

Being a layabout has its perks when the sun comes out and decides to hang around.summerisbackapparently 001

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I can devote an afternoon to sitting in the sunshine, reading a book, eating fruit and satisfying my raging Diet Coke addiction.

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Taking unnecessary photos of grass.

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Yeah, I was pretty warm wearing this. The art of summer dressing evades me at the best of times, let alone when I have been dreaming about wooly tights and wearing a coat. Denim shirt from Oxfam, yellow bird shirt from Primark, skirt from M&Co, dirty feet model’s own. Oh hey mini rainbow in the corner of my picture.

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The sky is so blue!

Fun facts: a) it is far too hot to run inside on a treadmill b) Bacardi mojitos are amazing but expensive c) I might be going here at the weekend and I am so freaking excited.

Hope everyone is enjoying whatever weather they’re having.

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