May in books

This page saw no updates in May, but that doesn’t mean nothing happened!
On May 3rd I sat my American politics exam, and on May 4th I started a new job! It’s a full time position as a librarian, working both at the library in town and at a youth club at the House of Literature. The job is filled to the brim with creativity, with challenges, with colleagues and with care. I’ve had a month of getting settled and finding my feet with it now, and I honestly feel so lucky to call this my job: working alongside great colleagues to create a safe and fun environment for kids and young people, centered around literature, creativity and giving them space to express themselves by the words they write and the things they create. I’m looking forward to all the things I’m yet to learn and all the challenges still to master, but the first impression I’ve had of this job is marvellous. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

In May, I got through:

The Dictionary of Lost Words – Pip Williams

In 1901, the word ‘Bondmaid’ was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it. Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the ‘Scriptorium’, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutters to the floor.”

This book is a beauty, looking at the meaning we assign to words and the dangers of assuming some words more important than others simply because they are written down more. The book lets you witness Esme’s life through the words she seeks out like a detective on a mission – words deemed unworthy because they’re spoken by women with brightly coloured shawls in the market place and not by dusty scholars with brown leather shoes. Cathy, a very good friend from England, read and loved this book, and was kind enough to send her beautiful copy my way, and so one day this popped down in my mail box as a complete surprise! Would definitely reccomend this to anyone interested in words, their sound and their power.

How to get Filthy Rich in Rising AsiaMohsin Hamid

The astonishing and riveting tale of a man’s journey from impoverished rural boy to corporate tycoon, it steals its shape from the business self-help books devoured by ambitious youths all over “rising Asia.” It follows its nameless hero to the sprawling metropolis where he begins to amass an empire built on that most fluid, and increasingly scarce, of goods: water. Yet his heart remains set on something else, on the pretty girl whose star rises along with his, their paths crossing and recrossing, a lifelong affair sparked and snuffed and sparked again by the forces that careen their fates along.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a striking slice of contemporary life at a time of crushing upheaval. Romantic without being sentimental, political without being didactic, and spiritual without being religious, it brings an unflinching gaze to the violence and hopes it depicts. And it creates two unforgettable characters who find moments of transcendent intimacy in the midst of shattering change.”

Finished this book in two days and absolutely loved it. The second person pov doesn’t feel forced at all, the language is so vibrant and alive and the story, though quiet at times, is such a beautiful and graceful study of characters, of life and what hope and success might come to mean at different points in life and for different people from different walks of life. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have picked this book up on my own, but I got it sent through the Life’s Library book club, and am so glad I was given that gentle push to read it!

Please Come Off-Book – Kevin Kantor

“Please Come Off-Book queers the theatrical canon we all grew up with. Kantor critiques the treatment of queer figures and imagines a braver and bolder future that allows queer voices the agency over their own stories.

Drawing upon elements of the Aristotelian dramatic structure and the Hero’s Journey, Please Come Off-Book is both a love letter to and a scathing critique of American culture and the lenses we choose to see ourselves through.”

I’ve been following Kevin Kantor’s poetry online since about 2015, and along with Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, Kantor’s spoken word performances was one of the things that really made me fall in love with poetry. It was strange reading their words “cold” on a page, not actually hearing the musicality of Kantor’s voice, but this collection is a beautiful one – chilling and heartbreaking and musical to boot. Really liked this one.

The Magician’s Land Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater has lost everything. He has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams that he once ruled. Everything he had fought so hard for, not to mention his closest friends, is sealed away in a land Quentin may never again visit. With nothing left to lose he returns to where his story began, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. But he can’t hide from his past, and it’s not long before it comes looking for him. Meanwhile, the magical barriers that keep Fillory safe are failing, and barbarians from the north have invaded. Eliot and Janet, the rulers of Fillory, embark on a final quest to save their beloved world, only to discover a situation far more complex—and far more dire—than anyone had envisioned.

Along with Plum, a brilliant young magician with a dark secret of her own, Quentin sets out on a crooked path through a magical demimonde of gray magic and desperate characters. His new life takes him back to old haunts, like Antarctica and the Neitherlands, and old friends he thought were lost forever. He uncovers buried secrets and hidden evils and ultimately the key to a sorcerous masterwork, a spell that could create a magical utopia. But all roads lead back to Fillory, where Quentin must face his fears and put things right or die trying.

This book surprised me a lot! As earlier mentioned, I really like the SyFy show based on Grossman’s Magicians books, but I didn’t really like the first and second book in the series. There was something about how the characters were written, the pessimistic negativity and self-centeredness that surrounded them. I am all for a flawed and unlikeable hero, but sometimes it all just gets a bit much. However, the third book takes place a bit after the first two, and I liked this a lot better! It honestly felt like the characters had grown up a bit, and following them on their journey was a lot more fun and interesting this time around.

The Future – Neil Hilborn

Neil Hilborn’s highly anticipated second collection of poems, The Future, invites readers to find comfort in hard nights and better days. Filled with nostalgia, love, heartbreak, and the author’s signature wry examinations of mental health, this book helps explain what lives inside us, what we struggle to define. Written on the road over two years of touring, The Future is rugged, genuine, and relatable. Grabbing attention like gravity, Hilborn reminds readers that no matter how far away we get, we eventually all drift back together. These poems are fireworks for the numb. In the author’s own words, The Future is a blue sky and a full tank of gas, and in it, we are alive.”

The blurb says it all – hopeful comfort and hard-hitting sarcasm side by side. I took my time tasting every single poem in this collection, and both individually and as a whole, they were their own little constellations. Really enjoyed it.

I’ll Fly Away – Rudy Francisco

In his stunningly intimate, highly anticipated follow up to Helium, Rudy Fransisco has created a collection of poems that savor the day-to-day. Treating it as worship, turning it into an opportunity to plant new seeds of growth. Language so often fails us, but Fransico has found his way around this as he creates his own words for the things our language cannot give name to. “Felenter (Noun) Definition: Someone who finds joy in things that people believe to be mundane.” I’ll Fly Away Uses fascinating metaphors to convey common emotional states. These poems are an act of remembrance, and an act of believing that you dear reader, are a celebration waiting for the lights to come up.”

I love poetry that focuses on the beauty of day-to-day life, and this collection definitely did just that. Once again, the blurb says it all. Creating new words where the English language just won’t do is such a poetic solution to a poetic, emotive problem, and such a testament to the notion that language is a living, breathing being, constantly changing and growing to fit the needs of the communities were it’s spoken. The definitions he’s written down for all the new words are also beautifully phrased, and this is definitely worth a read.

Gosh, this became a ramble and a half! If you made it to the end I thank you and salute you. I hope June treats you well, and that you get clear skies above your head and green grass under your feet.

-Andrea

“hurry up please”

it’s time

A little wile ago I posted an impromptu mid-American lit assignment-reading of the first part of “The Waste Land” by T. S. Eliot, and just for the fun of it, I’ve decided to make this into a mini series. The post, where I discuss why I really like this poem and read the first part can be found here, so in this post I think we’ll talk a bit more about the second part on its own!

“II. A Game of Chess” is where Eliot’s fragmentation really starts to show: this is not only where his character voices start to blur and go hazy, but where the shape and format of the poem starts to change.

The first part of the second part (okay, hang tight, this might get a bit confusing) sketches a noble woman taking in her surroundings, questioning her life and her everyday. In this part, Eliot’s use of imagery is exquisite and exuberant – you as the reader can almost feel yourself revelling in satin fabrics and lush candle light. The noble woman’s thoughts are disjointed and fragmented, however, and her existence is not a happy one, no matter the jewels and riches she owns.

The second part of the second part (told you this was gonna get bad) is a disjointed conversation between two speakers, neither of which we know the identity of, but whose state of mind we know is anxious, paranoid or at the very least strongly uncertain. This is one of my favourite stanzas of the poem, if only for the line “I think we are in rat’s alley / where the dead men lost their bones.” Normally lines like this don’t really get to me, but this one is just so wonderfully creepy and kind of stands out starkly from the rest of the poem. This is also where Eliot quotes Shakespeare for the second time in about 5 stanzas, saying “those are pearls that were his eyes”, and thus writing himself into the literary historical canon, changing the meaning of that sentence to no longer be about 15th century ships but to now pertain to desperate back alley abortions. Awful subject matter, wonderful poetic implementation.

The third part of the second part (nearly there!) is The Gossip’s part, and this is also delightful. This part is another one that starkly contrasts the rest of the poem, but to be fair, that’s kind of the point of the whole poem, isn’t it – to just be one big contrast, conveying a conflicting set of confusing emotions and situations. In this last part of “A Game of Chess”, we meet a woman in what seems to be a pub, dishing out the gossip on another character whose husband has been away fighting in the first world war. The story gets more and more into the dark secrets and life of the woman not present, Lill, it feels like it is told on a single breath with half a pint recklessly clutched in an eager hand, and it is only occasionally interrupted by the bar keep or pub owner shouting “HURRY UP PLEASE, IT’S TIME”. Time to close the pub down, no doubt, time to get the gossips out, but as a reader you’re inevitably left wondering “time for what else, though?”

Gosh, I love this poem and all its strange features and characters.

(Gosh, this thumb nail is wonderful – definitely keeping that one)

-Andrea

“You gave me hyachinths first a year ago”

They called me the hyacinth girl

“The Waste Land” by T. S. Eliot was one of those poems I could not find myself enjoying when I read it for a poetry module in my first year of uni. It’s fragmented, it’s confusing and it has myriads of speakers, every new voice stranger than the last – I wanted to like it, I just couldn’t get the hang of it and there was never enough time in the syllabus to actually cement any real understanding of it.

With time, this lanky, strange old poem has grown on me, though. I’ve kept dipping my toes tentatively back into it now and then, and now that I’m taking a couple of new American literature modules, I’ve finally been able to do the proper deep dive I’ve wanted to, and over the course of the last few weeks I’ve fallen more and more in love with all the things I used to not like about it at all. There are still so many things I do not understand, so many notions and ideas and elements that escape me, but that’s one of the reasons I feel so drawn to it now.

Of course, it also helps that the lecturer teaching the literature module I’m currently doing is such an inspiring and enthusiastic academic, and her lectures are a delight. Her essay questions are also of another world, and part of why I’ve been able to finally give “The Waste Land” the undivided attention I have wanted to give it for a while, is because I’ve been analysing the living daylights out of it for an assignment.

From not really having managed to get through it before, I’ve now read this poem way too many times, and I keep finding new and exciting things with every read. I wanted to share the first part of the poem with you guys – in a little reading from my very-intensely-and-not-at-all-neatly-annotated copy of the Norton Anthology, with the noise of a lorry droning in from the outside and the bunched up blanket on the sofa from where I was sat reading this to myself not even a minute before this.

I hope you like these words as much as I do.

-Andrea

January in books

January has come and gone, with new national lockdowns, cups of tea and a really lovely amount of snow and frosty mornings. These past few years I’ve really enjoyed using this blog as a way to track the months passing, and this year I’ll attempt to do so in books read and (hopefully) enjoyed. Maybe it can be a source of “hm, that looks like an interesting read,” or “oh gosh, nope, never picking that one up,” for someone?

The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.

Beautiful novel, beautiful language – just the right blend of poetic twists and turns and well-written prose. The seemingly (but definitely not) random fairytale stories linking the chapters together piece by piece, creates a really interesting ambience for the entire book, and the feeling when the different plots and storylines start weaving together is delightful. The huge character gallery sometimes makes the story a bit difficult to follow, and it’s a bit of a slow starter, but all in all, definitely worth both a read and a re-read.

Equal Rites – Terry Pratchett

“On Discworld, a dying wizard tries to pass on his powers to an eighth son of an eighth son, who is just at that moment being born. The fact that the son is actually a daughter is discovered just a little too late. The town witch insists on turning the baby into a perfectly normal witch, thus mending the magical damage of the wizard’s mistake. But now the young girl will be forced to penetrate the inner sanctum of the Unseen University- and attempt to save the world with one well-placed kick in some enchanted shins!”

I always find Terry Pratchett’s books to be all about the journey and very little about the destination. I love how he dances and plays with lanuguage, and his characters are a lot of fun, but at the end of a Pratchett book I often find myself wishing for the resolutions to be done a bit more center-stage and get a bit more focus. Equal rites was a very interesting and good read, with love-to-be-annoyed-at-characters, gender discussions and politics, and that wit and heart that Pratchett’s books are always properly infused with. 10/10 would read again.

The Magicians – Lev Grossman

“Quentin Coldwater’s life is changed forever by an apparently chance encounter: when he turns up for his entrance interview to Princeton University, he finds his interviewer dead – but a strange envelope bearing Quentin’s name leads him down a very different path. Instead of Princeton, he finds himself invited to study at Brakebills – a secret college of modern-day sorcerers.

Quentin plunges deep into a secret world of obsession and privilege, a world of freedom and power; and for a while, it seems to answer all Quentin’s desires. But the idyll cannot last. There are others powers than sorcery, powers that are as seductive as they are dangerous – and when the illusion of safety shatters, Quentin is drawn into a world far darker than he ever imagined. After all, power corrupts. No exceptions.”

When it comes to books and stories I really enjoy, I’ve got to admit I can grow a bit hyperfocused. Stories with heart and characters that really draw you in, a storyline that keeps you on your toes and that little extra nerve I’m still trying to identify what actually is (after years of recognising this habit but not being entirely sure what causes it) has me falling completely in love. The SYFY-show The Magicians (season 1-4, at least, I’m trying to forget about season 5) is one of those stories. The book didn’t do it for me as the show did, though – the characters felt a lot more negative and destructive, the casual charm I fell in love with in the series was just not there in the book, and I felt like the story didn’t feel as cohesive. It feels like the story Grossman was constructing while writing this book, definitely needs a longer format (like for example a TV series), where you get more time and chance to really explore both the characters and the main and minor themes. Thumbs up to the show, but not sure I’ll be rereading the book anytime soon.

Also, in true blog fashion, at the end of the month, here’re my seconds of January, a quaint month of working at the library, getting into studying part time, breathing in snowy air and reading in front of the fire place.

-Andrea

The big summer reading list; what I did end up reading this summer…

…which is far gone, I’m aware x

It will come as a surprise to no one that I didn’t end up reading most of the books on my summer reading list. The library job and my short attention span got in the way; the library because I just kept finding new books I was more excited to read than the one’s I’d decided I’d read, and the attention span for making me start multiple books at the same time.
However, I did end up reading a lot of interesting books, and I figured I’d gather them all in a post to see how this summer turned out, reading-wise!

Grab a cup of tea and get cosy, this is gonna be a long’un!

Heaven by Cristoph Marzi

This book got me hooked like a good YA book is supposed to do, but it also completely lost me at the end. I loved the creative and innovative story, and the characters’ voices were really well written. It is also set on the rooftops of London (“ooo, what a sight”) and in and around the city, and the writer clearly knows the city well, as it was easy to follow the plot around. The end felt really rushed, however, and had the main character leave a really bad taste in my mouth. It was the kind of ending I can imagine 13 year old me would find super romantic and heroic, but now I just found it problematic and unnecessary. There was a lot of angry, gendered language, and a lot of yelling of the variety of teenage boy being rude, brash and threatening to an adult woman for not letting him into a skyscraper in Canary Wharf in the middle of the night. The ending didn’t fit the rest of the story, which was frustrating, because the rest of the book was one of the better stories I’ve read in a very long time. Plus, the idea of a secret “underground”(overground?) network above London city is such a great start for a story about a girl with a stolen heart.

Blurb:
The night that Heaven lost her heart was cold and moonless. But the blade that sliced it out was warm with her dark blood…

David Pettyfer is taking a shortcut over the dark rooftops of London’s brooding houses, when he literally stumbles across Heaven: a strange, beautiful, distraught girl who says that bad men have stolen her heart. Yet she’s still alive…
And so begins David and Heaven’s wild, exciting and mysterious adventure—to find Heaven’s heart, and to discover the incredible truth about her origins. 

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

I really really liked this book! It came into my life in 2016, as the phrase “an angle who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards” really got me intrigued. Life happened, however, and it took watching the 2019 tv series to pick it back up and woosh through it. There are some quiet stretches in the middle which felt a little bit redundant, but all in all, I adore this book and the characters and ideas portrayed in it. Definitely a good contender for the next reread.
Also, the blurb is its own work of art.

Blurb:
According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Anges Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner. So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon – both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since the Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle – are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist.

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

I’m not sure what I feel about this book. I really loved the blurb (“Let me tell you stories of the months of the year, of ghosts and heartbreak, of dread and desire“), but I’m not sure the stories managed to deliver what was promised. I quite liked the poems, like “Fairy Reel” and “Locks, and loved some of the stories, like “October in the Chair” and “Harlequin Valentine”, but the book completely lost me on stories like “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” and the ones that were based on the American Gods book. It took me a while to finish, as I wanted to read all of the book, but the stories I couldn’t get into slowed in down a lot. As a short story collection it felt a bit thrown together, and it was a bit difficult to follow the connection between the stories, but I do love Neil Gaiman’s writing and voice, and the parts I liked I really, really liked. If you’re picking it up, maybe give each story a go, but skip the ones you can’t get into, so you’ve got more time for the good ones!

Blurb:
Let me tell you stories of the months of the year, of ghosts and heartbreak, of dread and desire. Or after-hours drinking and unanswered phones, of good deeds and bad days, of trusting wolves and how to talk to girls at parties.

There are stories within stories, whispered in the quiet of the night, shouted above the roar of the day, and played out between lovers and enemies, strangers and friends. But all, all are fragile things made of just 26 letters arranged and rearranged to form tales and imaginings which will dazzle your senses, haunt your imagination and move you to the very depths of your soul.

The Reprieve – Jean-Pierre Gibrat

I got this book at the library but can’t find the blurb anywhere online, and for once I didn’t get a picture of the back. In the Norwegian version it says that this is the prequel to Gibrat’s Flight of the Raven, but there doesn’t seem to exist an English translation of this originally French graphic novel anywhere? Well, here goes the plot, from memory:

The story is set in France during the WWII occupation, and we’re following the novel’s main character Julien. Julien is in the army, but jumped off a train to escape the war. Just after, the train he was on crashes, leaving very few survivors. A dead body is found in the wreckage with Julien’s wallet and papers on him, and so Julien is officially declared dead. He runs away back home and hides in the loft of an abandoned school, with the intentions of staying in hiding until the war is over. However, Julian grows impatient and bored, not satisfied with watching the village life from afar through an old telescope.

The colours and the illustrations in this graphic novel shows the days of war as both something terrifying and very concrete, but also as a haze, a sort of dance where people just had to keep living their lives and ignore the situation. As we see Julien watch his loved ones, his old friends, and even his own funeral from afar, we’re transported into a little french village of the 40s, with its quirks and its habits, its fashions, its politics and its aesthetics. The book got a little bit too long for what I felt the plot could fill, but still a great reading experience.

Flight of the Raven by Jean-Pierre Gibrat

A sequel to The Reprieve, this graphic novel can also be read on its own. I wanted to like this more than I did, especially since I really liked the first book in the series. However, I felt like it didn’t deliver the strong female lead both the blurb and the cover promised you, and the feeling of “the places between shadows” (which I was very intrigued by) was also never really explored. The plot twist at the end also felt a bit hollow, as you as a reader wasn’t really given enough time to properly start caring about the characters. The relationship in the story starts of as snarky and sarcastic, and as a reader you’re not really sure when the romance starts to blossom as it suddenly just seems to be there.
However, it is filled with absolutely stunning art work and beautiful depictions of late 40s France, with its people, its rivers and its streets.

Blurb:
The story takes place in Paris during the German Occupation and stars a memorable heroine in the French Resistance, named Jeanne. With the help of an apolitical cat burglar named Francois she tries to save her comrades, including her missing sister Cécile, from the Gestapo. They walk in the places between shadows, as Gibrat uses the evocative Paris rooftops and river barges on the Seine almost as separate characters. 

Finna kyrkjedøra i meg (To find the church door in me) by Per Helge Genberg

I really wanted to like this book, but turns out it wasn’t for me.
It’s written almost like prose poetry – a story about a young queer boy growing up on a farm. It portrays his love for the animals on the farm, and coming to terms with his sexuality in a small and traditional place. It’s an explosion huge ideas condensed into punching, short lines, and it is written in nynorsk, which is another standard of Norwegian written language than the one I use. I love reading books in nynorsk, so that’s not what got me about this book, but I could not wrap my head around the ideas, I couldn’t catch a hold of the plot. All of the ideas felt so specific, but written in such a poetic way that I had no idea what I was reading, and it felt a bit like the writer was speaking a language in which I knew the words, but none of the implied meaning of any of the concepts. However, I’m so glad books like this one are being published though, as I’m sure it is the perfect read for someone else.

Blurb: (translated)
The thirteen year old boy sees a grown man naked on a warm day. It awakens an excitement strong enough to tell that something’s not entirely straight about his affections. What will happen to the farm now, the duties to his heritage which have been planted so firmly in him, and what about his inherited love for the animals? Everything may end with him.
Finne kyrkjedøra i meg is a gripping and tender story about growing up in rural Norway at a time when being gay brought more shame with it than it does today. It is about being without friends, and about social damage. It is about being who you are, where you are, and about finding and being allowed to live with the love of your life. It is a story covered in the love a farmer feels for his farm, his land and his animals, a love as strong as there are days in a year.

Wilder girls by Rory Power

This book is a ride!
The cover is beautiful, and I must admit, the reason why I picked it up. There are few flowers within the pages though; it is a very violent and gritty story, with a lot of interesting thoughts and ideas about illness, dysfunction, grief, pain and survival. I loved how unlikeable the characters were, it was interesting to read a completely female-lead story that was on one side exploring the characters and who they were growing up to be, but on the other hand having those same characters battle life threatening dangers, all on the same page. I also loved how unapologetically angry the characters were allowed to be, and how naturally characters who were part of the LGBTQ community were written.
The ending rubbed me the wrong way, though, it felt super rushed and like there are a couple more chapters hidden away on Power’s computer that really should have been included. I do quite like books where the ending makes you question literally everything you’ve just read, but this book didn’t feel finished when the last page was turned; a very frustrating feeling. It was also occasionally a bit challenging to keep track of all the characters, as some of the names are quite similar, but this was a very small issue all in all.

Blurb:
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

Harvey’s mum, Tara, read this book while we were in France, and told me I had to read it. It’s always a little bit scary to read books other people tell you they’ve loved, cause you kind of feel like now you have to love them too, but I wanted to give it a go. I mean, you’re not sat in a wicker chair in an idyllic French garden overlooking a field full of horses NOT to read books with beautiful sentences like: “I put my hand on his hair. I’d stroked that hair when it was long and blond and full of sea salt, heather and youth; brown and shorter, full of building plaster and the kids’ play dough; and now silver, thinner, full of the dust if our life.”
I loved the beginning and I loved the ending of this book. The middle got a bit too long for me, and there were a couple of chapters I’d definitely cut if given the chance. But all in all, a very calm and quiet read, which made me want to underline a bunch of sentences because the language was very poetic.

Blurb:
Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home and livelihood is taken away. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.

They have almost no money for food or shelter and must carry only the essentials for survival on their backs as they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

I finally read Will Grayson, Will Grayson!
2013 saw both my David Levithan and John green book obsession, but I never read this little gem. I remember my sister reading it and loving it, but I just never got to it. However, the campsite in France found me book-less, and so Harvey’s uncle very kindly lent me this one. I’m so glad I’ve finally read it now – I loved the journey that both writers took the reader on, from not really liking any of the Wills, to falling deeply in love with the characters, their thoughts and the changes they went through. I loved how explicitly they talked about how love and romance can’t fix mental health issues, and how friendly and familial love wasn’t looked down upon as less than romantic love. Lowercase will grayson’s mum was also a character I came to really appreciate, as a mum who’s been doing her absolute best with her own ups and downs. Also, how can you not love a book that reminds you that “you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you cannot, under any circumstance, pick your friend’s nose.”

Blurb:
Will Grayson meets Will Grayson. One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers are about to cross paths. From that moment on, their world will collide and lives intertwine.

It’s not that far from Evanston to Naperville, but Chicago suburbanites Will Grayson and will grayson might as well live on different planets. When fate delivers them both to the same surprising crossroads, the Will Graysons find their lives overlapping and hurtling in new and unexpected directions. With a push from friends new and old – including the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, offensive lineman and musical theater auteur extraordinaire – Will and Will begin building toward respective romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most awesome high school musical.

Long post done, thanks for sticking with me!
Of course, as we’re at the end of September, summer’s been over for quite a while, but I hope you had some lovely reading experiences this summer past, and that autumn and winter will bring you many more evenings of snuggled up reading.

This is our time to shine, fellow blanket loving, hot chocolate craving book enthusiasts.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day!
-Andrea

Like some surrealist invented this Fourth of July

And there goes July. I’ve spent the last two weeks in small French mountain villages, driving along winding forest roads, swimming in a lake and eating more cheese than anyone should eat in a lifetime – let alone a summer (of course this is not true at all, if you find yourself some really good brie there is never a reason to not just eat all of it). There was not a lot of phone reception and even less internet to acquire, and so this post is a bit late. But as Harvey and I are on the train-tram-plane x2-coach journey home now, it seemed like a good time to post the July wrap-up post and video!

July’s been a good one on many accords.

I’ve gotten to:

  • Get to know, to hold and spend a lot of time with my new nephew!!
  • Work at the library
  • “Farm” radishes
  • Do a lot of baking and cooking
  • Get to know my sister’s husband’s family better as they came and stayed with us for a week
  • Fish for crabs again like we did when we were children
  • Travel to France on my own
  • Stay a night with a (lovely) family who I didn’t know at all (but who literally saved me), because Harvey’s plane (from England) got cancelled and suddenly I was stuck in Lyon all alone
  • Go to a beautiful wedding in St Segolene
  • Eat my own body weight in French brie and baguettes
  • Know and stay with Harvey’s family, which was lovely
  • Get a little bit of a tan!

So this has been my July; new nephew, work, food and France. Not a bad month summed up. And Harvey’s come back to Norway with me, and is staying for another 3 weeks, so fingers crossed August will be wonderful too.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day!
-Andrea

Why I’m breaking up with a beloved New Years resolution…

…6 or so months into the year!

“Confession: I have read Pride and Prejudice two hundred times. I get lost in the language, words like: Thither. Mischance. Felicity. I am always in agony over whether Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are really going to get together. Read it! I know you’ll love it.”- Kathleen Kelly, You Got Mail (1998)

And so began my confused relationship with Jane Austen’s authorship; watching Meg Ryan so eloquently discuss literature I deemed far beyond my 8 years of life well-lived, on my grandparents VHS player.

As explained in this post, I’m not very good at New Year’s resolutions, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still give it an honest go every single year. A resolution that’s followed me around ever since getting to visit the Jane Austen House in Chawton (on three lovely occasions in 2018, you can click here to watch pictures and read last year’s Andrea chatter on excitedly about it), has been to read all of Jane Austen’s books. I’ve never read any of her work to completion, but I love the idea of her as a writer. The woman who sharply criticised the society she knew, who challenged the notion of a women’s role in relationships and in societies, and who published her first novel not by her own name, but signed “Written by a lady”.

The resolution was to finish all of her books, but as I still keep restarting Pride and Prejudice, I haven’t gotten any further than I was in February 2018. I had a real boost where I read it all up to where Darcy writes Elizabeth the letter (slight vagueness to avoid any spoilers of this much loved and 206 year-old narrative) but then life got hectic and I didn’t sit down with the story again until it felt wrong to pick up where I left and so I had to start all over again. Cue this happening multiple times, and come July 2019, I’m none the further.

So, let’s get into what this post is really about.
I am breaking up with this new years resolution, as I think maybe I’m not ready to delve into all of Austen’s books just yet. I do love the stories of hers which I’m familiar with, and I love hearing people talk about them, but I think right now they may not be for me. I don’t want them to be books I just get through, I want them to be stories to be cherished. 21-year-old me was so sure that I was finally ready to understand what Austen wrote about, but 23-year-old me isn’t so sure. And so I’ll remove this point from my list of (rather lacking) New Years Resolutions, and get to them in my own time. May be when I get back to uni over the summer, or in a couple of years, and who knows, maybe I won’t ever read all of Austen’s books. The ones I do end up reading, however, I will read properly, slowly, and with a big mug of tea in my hands. I’ll process the story and grow on it. In my own time.

Hope you’re having a wonderful day,
-Andrea

The Big Summer Reading List, or “A Very Gaiman Summer”

Hello!

July is here and summer’s officially started. I mean, it’s been summer for a while, but July is kind of the “proper” summer month, you know?

The strange thing about reading is that it’s one of my favourite things to do, but I’m just really bad at doing it. There’s always something more important to do, an exam to revise for, work to go to, social media to scroll through (this is the worst one, but I know I’m guilty of it). May saw exams and June saw work, and books haven’t really been brought center stage yet. Until now.

Work won’t stop me now because I’m back to working at the library, and let me tell you, nothing fuels your want to read like working in a library. I love to hear people chat about the books as they hand them in, or be excited about new titles they are checking out. Stacking books others have picked out of the wooden shelves exposes you to a lot of books you wouldn’t have found any other way, and I’m so here for it. Also, I got a little bit obsessed with the new Good Omens mini series, and have therefore dug out all the Neil Gaiman books left on my own shelf that I haven’t read yet for this. This is why, this summer I’ve made a provisional Summer Reading List, which will most definitely change throughout the summer. I’m excited.

But without any further ado; here we go. Bring on 2019’s Reading Summer.

The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes

Blurb:
Tony Webster and his clique first meet Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, terribly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life. Now, Tony is retired. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove.

Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman

Complete with price tag.. Forgot to remove that one!

Blurb:
Let me tell you stories of the months of the year, of ghosts and heartbreak, of dread and desire. Of after-hours drinking and unanswered phones, of good deeds and bad days, of trusting wolves and how to talk to girls.
There are stories within stories, whispered in the quiet of the nights, shouted above the roar of day, and played out between lovers and enemies, strangers and friends. But all, all are fragile things made just of 26 letters arranged and rearranged to form tales and imaginings which will dazzle your senses, haunt your imagination and move you to the very depths of your soul.

Smoke and Mirrors – Neil Gaiman

Blurb:
In Gaiman’s richly imagined fictions, anything is possible – an elderly widow finds the Holy Grail beneath an old fur coat in a second-hand shop; under a bridge, a frightened little boy bargains for his life with a very persistent troll; a stray cat fights and refights a terrible nightly battle to protect his unsuspecting adoptive family from unimaginable evil…

The View from the Cheap Seats – Neil Gaiman

Blurb:
“Literature does not occur in a vacuum. It cannot be a monologue. It has to be a conversation.”
This collection will draw you in to exchanges on making good art and Syrian refugees, the power of a single word and playing the kazoo with Stephen King, writing about books, comics and the imagination of friends, being sad at the Oscars and telling lies for a living. Here Neil Gaiman opens our minds to the people he admires and the things he believe might just mean something – and welcomes the conversation too.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant – Seth Dickinson

Blurb:
Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home and see red sails on the horizon. The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They will conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She’ll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of the empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she’ll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free.

The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion

Blurb:
“Terry’s last request to me was to make this something he would be proud of. And so that has been my job.”

As already mentioned, and as you can see, I’ve got a Gaiman-heavy summer planned. However, this is just a suggestion. Like I said, now that I’m back at the library, my favourite thing is picking up books from there and reading stories I’d never been introduced to otherwise, so I’m still not sure what the Books (with capital B) have got planned for me this summer. It’s best that way.

Do you make reading lists, or do you just read whatever you feel like, next? If there is a list, what’s on it, and what are you reading nowadays?

I hope you’re having a wonderful day,
-Andrea

WWW Wednesday, 6/03-19, Welcome back, Creativity

Hello and welcome to another WWW Wednesday!

I’m feeling creative these days, and thankfully, there are a lot of projects I can channel that creative energy into. I’m working on a cross stitch piece for a workshop I’m a part of, I really want to write again (I’m just not sure what), and I’ve just gotten my hands on some exciting new books. So what better time to do a WWW Wednesday post!

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words, and anyone can join the fun! All you have to do is answer three simple questions (“The three Ws”):

-What are you currently reading?
-What did you just finish reading?
-What are you planning on reading next?

I am currently reading:
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Cathy and I went to see this play broadcasted at the Cinema in Winchester last winter, and I loved the intrigue, the confusion and the strange and wonderful characters. Yesterday I found it for £2.50 in a little Swanage book shop, and I’m working my way through it now. So far very good!

Blurb:
Variously melancholy, lyrical, joyous and farcical, Twelfth Night has long been a popular comedy with Shakespearian audiences. The main plot revolves around mistaken identities and unrequited love. Both Olivia and Orsino are attracted to Viola, who is disguised as a young man; and Viola’s brother, Sebastian, finds that he is loved not only by Antonio but also by Olivia.
While offering broad comedy, Twelfth Night teasingly probes gender-roles and sexual ambiguities.

I just finished reading:
The Hat by Selima Hill

This isn’t the sort of poetry I usually read just for fun, but we had another one of Hill’s books, Jutland, as a set text for a poetry module last year, and I do really like her style. It’s playful and witty and truly bisarre. I think I’ll have to read it again, though, to really get under its skin!

Blurb:
Selima Hill’s latest collection, The Hat, is a disturbing portrayal of a woman’s struggle to regain her identity. Her story emerges through a series of short poems, often related to animals: how she is preyed upon and betrayed, misunderstood, compromised and not allowed to be herself. Like all of Selima Hill’s books, The Hat charts ‘extreme experiences with a dazzling excess’, with dark humour and surprising combinations of homely and outlandish.

Next, I’ll be reading: 
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

A reread of an old favourite; I love Neil Gaiman’s books and the strange worlds he creates! I read this the first time when I was fifteen, and keep coming back to it, for the rich character gallery, the edge-of-your-seat moments and the biting dialogue. Chris Riddel’s beautiful illustrations are also a reason for why this book is a work of art.

Blurb:
Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts.
There are dangers and adventures for Bod in the graveyard. But it is in the land of the living that real danger lurks, for it is there that the man Jack lives and he has already killed Bod’s family.

So these are my reads right about now. How about you, what have you been reading lately? Have you read any of these, and if so, what did you think? And if you’ve got a WWW Wednesday post up today, pop a link in the comments and I’d love to have a look!

I hope you’re having a wonderful day,
-Andrea

WWW Wednesday 14/11-18, Poetry and Quiet Nostalgia

I’ve been really getting back into poetry lately; I love the little breathing space it provides in an exam-centric week. I’ve got my first of five exams this semester in about two weeks, and the nerves are starting to properly set in! To combat the stress, however, I’m trying to schedule one hour of reading time every day, either in the morning before uni or at night before I go to bed. So far it’s been working, and it’s provided me with a couple of books to talk about in this week’s WWW Wednesday post!

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words, and anyone can join the fun! All you have to do is answer three simple questions (“The three Ws”):

-What are you currently reading?
-What did you just finish reading?
-What are you planning on reading next?

I am currently reading
Date & Time by Phil Kaye

I started following Phil Kay’s poetry in 2014 but have only now managed to get my hands on the physical copies of his books. I love the cover on this one, and in it is written so many of my favourite poems of his. It’s a quiet collection, yet incredibly inventive and strong. It “explodes with imaginative scope, intelligence and feeling” and is one of those collections that you want to read slowly so it never has to end.

Blurb:
Date&Time is a vulnerable exploration of the distance between memory and lived experience, between the speaker and the reader, between how we see ourselves and how we see our lovers, our friends, and family. Through poems that are as wry as they are heart-breaking, Phil Kaye’s work is unflinchingly honest as he considers the chronology, or rather achronology, of love and loss.
“Phil Kaye does not simply walk us through the door of the past, he asks the reader to assist him in taking the door of its hinges. I am so thankful for this collection. It gives us all a new vocabulary with which to consider who we have been and who we are becoming.” -Clint Smith

I just finished reading
A Light Bulb Symphony, Poems by Phil Kaye

A mesmerizing choice of words, sentences that sing themselves off of the pages, emotions too big to fit the 10p font. This is Phil Kaye’s first poetry collection, and it’s just as strong as his later works. His writing is elegant and sincere, as he writes about his memories and his life, family and loved ones, the small things and the big things and all the things that make up a life well lived.

Blurb:
The book doesn’t have one, but I want to show you some excerpts from one of the poems in it:

“Ayekaye – For Aurora”
It’s days like this I wonder what I’m doing
3,000 miles away from the only person
whose skipping stone heart
leaves ripples that sounds just like mine
when they lap against the shore.

[…]

I keep all your cards
like Magic Marker prayers.
I hang them up around my days
like Post-It notes that read, “Live.”
Because you made me believe in ice cream for dinner
and Disneyland on a school day.

[…]

So the nights I need you the most
I take a pocket full of skipping stones
And off the New York coast
I listen to you breathe.

Next, I’ll be reading
the five people you meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Ever since 2013, every year when November comes around I have to pick this book up. It’s been read and thumbed through, thrown in my bag and forgotten on the bus multiple times, dropped in the bath and accidentally splattered with tea more times than I can count. There is something in this story that I always gravitate back towards, something quiet and intimate, something kind and forgiving. A book about how everything we do affect something or someone somehow, how our actions can change someone’s life without us even knowing it, and how small acts of a stranger can have a massive impact on our own lives. It’s a celebration of the goodness in people, something I think we all need to be reminded of from time to time, and therefore I make sure to read it once a year, at the time when the days are darkest and the weather the most dreary. A book I really, really recommend.

Blurb:
All endings are also beginnings, we just don’t know it at the time… An enchanting, beautifully crafted novel that explores a mystery only heaven can unfold.

So a week heavy with poetry and nostalgia; it’s wonderful all the stuff books can make you feel.
Have you read any of these? Or any of Mitch Albom’s other books?
If you’ve written a WWW Wednesday post today, please leave it in the comments, I’d love to have a read! Or if you just want to chat books, I’m always here for that, too!

Have a wonderful day, until next time,
-Andrea