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

Advertisements

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

WWW Wednesday October 10th

And it’s Wednesday again! Life’s a bit hectic at the moment and I’m not getting as much writing or creative work done as I’d like to, but nevertheless, this week’s given me one of the better reading experiences I’ve had in years! I’m properly falling in love with books again, and there’s no better feeling in the world.
All will be revealed in a couple of paragraphs, so without further ado,
welcome to another WWW Wednesday!

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:
Mirage by Somaiya Daud


This book gives off a clear fairytale-esque space opera-vibe, which got me proper intrigued from the get-go. I’m only a couple pages in, but I love the language and the tone, and the intricate world building is really clever. My copy is also beautiful with sprayed purple pages and the cover is breathtaking! So excited to get further into this!

Blurb:

“The crown of Dinah had been stripped from me, my face changed, my body broken. But I was not a slave and I was not a spare. I was my mother’s daughter, and I would survive and endure. I would find my way back home.”
In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, sixteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation, and of receiving a sign from Dhiya that one day she, too, will have adventures and travel beyond her isolated moon.

I just finished reading:
Rubiks kube og den femte beatle by Hans Olav Hamran


This is the book I was talking about in the introduction to this post, one of the better reading experiences I’ve had in years. I found it on Monday by a coincidence, and both started and finished it that same evening. 312 pages just flew by in about four hours.

It falls perfectly into this little niche I adore and that I’ve talked about previously; Scandinavian urban life and the lgbtq society, in the 60s and 70s.

Set in my hometown in the late 70s, at a school a lot of my friends actually went to some thirty years later, it depicts the town my parents would have grown up in. The main character also has a summer house in a little hamlet with about 2000 people, the exact same place my family used to have a summer house, and now ultimately have moved to! I recognized so many of the places and concepts and both the story and the characters in this book are really well written. I started reading it and could not put it down, and even though it deals with heavy themes like un-diagnosed (and badly diagnosed) mental health, lgbt rights in small towns in the 70s, adultery and alcoholism, it was also an inherently hopeful story, about friends figuring things out together, spontaneity, new relationships and following your dreams.

I feel like this book will be pushed on a lot of people, and I’ll definitely give it a reread myself in a bit.

Blurb (translated):

What do you do when you’re the only one at your school who likes The Beatles?
Anders can’t wait to finish secondary school, he’s dreaming of the freedom only a moped can provide and is irredeamably and incurably in love with Julia. But life had been so much easier if he wasn’t the very last person at school that listened to The Beatles. Why couldn’t he just be a KISS fan like the rest of them?
When Anders wakes up to the news that John Lennon has been shot, a goal forms in his mind; there are only three of them left now, he’s going to meet the rest of the Beatles. Along with a mildly alcoholic teacher, he flies to London where he finds crazy punk rockers and closed gates, and even sneaks in to a gala event at a James Bond premiere, just to get a glimpse of his heroes. And maybe, just maybe, these Beatles adventures can cheer up Mum, who’s not always able to get out of bed in the morning.
A novel about growing up and being true to what you believe in, no matter what everyone else tells you. A story about being different and about how hard it is when you can’t tell anyone about what’s difficult at home.

Next book on the list:
Whuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte

Okay, so this one is a big maybe. I’ve started this book so many times and never really gotten into it, but I found a really cheap but well-kept copy in a charity shop, and the quote at the back totally got me, so I figured I’d give it another go. Might be nice as an October read, now that we’re getting a little closer to Halloween. I really liked the Penguin Classics cover on this one too. Here’s to hoping I actually get the dialogue this time! Wish me luck, haha x

Blurb:
“May you not rest, as long as I am living! You said I killed you – haunt me, then!
Caught in a snowstorm, Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange on the bleak Yorkshire moors, is forced to seek shelter at Wuthering Heights. There he discovers the history of the tempestuous events that took place years before: the intense passion between the foundling Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, her betrayal of him and the bitter vengeance he now wreaks on the innocent heirs of the past.
Emily Bronte’s novel of impossible desires, violence and transgression is a masterpiece of intense, unsettling power.

So these are the books I’m dealing with this week! Now that we’re well into October I’m all here for curling up in my reading nook with my books, and there have been a lot of great reading sessions lately, as already mentioned. Busy weeks and lot of uni work only make these moments of reading even more important! A nice way to let your mind focus on other things and not just on achievements and learning and goals.

What are you reading right now? Have you read any of these? And what are your thoughts on Wuthering Heights? If you’ve written a WWW Wednesday post, or just want to talk books for a bit, please pop a link or a few lines in the comment section below! So excited to hear from you x

Have a wonderful day,
-Andrea

“I’ve got time”

Prompt: “Shy people tend to interact better with animals than people”

The letters got stuck in her mouth,
why would any word need that many syllables.
The stutter prevented fey world and magic from filling
her little room,
and book after book was thrown against the wall,
cracks in the paint after all the lifetimes
caught in her throat.
He came in quietly
and softly put his head in her lap.
Small cries stilled as the heavy dog brought her back to reality,
he looked at her with big eyes.
She could see the world she couldn’t read aloud in there.
“Read to me,” his eyes said,
“I’ve got time.”

A bit delayed day 4 of OctPoWriMo, and the prompt was about strange animals and pets. I’ve never had any pets myself but have fallen in love with all of my friends’ dogs and cats, even though it’s rarely mutual. It’s interesting to read up on dogs as support animals, though, and especially how they can help children in learning situations, for example children struggling with reading out loud.

Hope you have a wonderful day!
-Andrea

WWW Wednesday September 5th

And it’s a Wednesday!
Throughout June and July I did a WWW Wednesday post every week, but I haven’t done one for about a month, now. However, as I’m finally getting properly settled into this new little house of mine, I’ve also finally gotten into the headspace for reading again, and figured I’d get back into posting WWWs again too!

As you can see from the background of these photos, all my reading (that’s not uni course related) is happening in one place. I’ve made myself a cosy, little reading nook. It’s a small-esque chair, nestled under the stairs. It’s got a lamp and a bookshelf right next to it, and my favourite Harry Potter-blanket, the only thing I brought with me from my flat in Winchester to this new uni home. I figured I’d put in a picture of my cosy nook at the end, but before that; let’s look at some books!

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words, and anyone can join. 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:
Flight by Vanessa Harbour

I’ve been so excited for this book for so long! It’s written by Vanessa Harbour, a writer of wonderful children’s fiction and a “master storyteller”, as the praise on the back of the book says. All three years of my Creative writing BA, I was lucky enough to have her as my lecturer and in my third year, she helped me immensely (and was awfully patient with me and my rising stress levels) as my dissertation tutor. Vanessa always stressed how writers have to ask questions, and she sometimes used her own process of working on this book to set examples for us students. This helped us a lot, both as what she talked about and taught us was very helpful, but also because it felt like she was taking us seriously, as students, as writers and as people. Flight popped down in my mailbox today, and I absolutely cannot wait to read it.

Blurb:
If Jakob sneezed, he could die.
Austria 1945. After losing his family, Jakob shelters with Herr Engel in a rural stables, where they hide the precious Lipizzaner stallions they know Hitler wants to steal. When a German officer comes looking for Jakob and finds the horses, Jakob and his guardian know they just get the stallions to safety, but the only way is straight through Nazi territory.
Joined by Kizzy, an orphan Roma girl, the three must guide the horses across the perilous Austrian mountains. Will they reach safety? What will be waiting for them on the other side?

What did you just finish reading?
Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton

I know I was gushing about this book in my last WWW post, and I really wanted to like it. I loved the concept of women having developed magic to deal with systematic oppression, and how that magic again was mistaken for a dangerous force that needed to be quenched, when in fact it is even more powerful when used for good. I also really enjoyed the world building, the maps and the different cities, all the talk of languages and the nuances in the different languages. However, I feel like this book could have benefited from a bit more editing. Some of the sentences were awkwardly worded and a lot of the world building came through in huge info dumps and unnatural pieces of conversation. The back describes it as a feminist fairytale, and though the inclusivity is wonderful (yay LGBT characters, strong female characters, disabled characters and people of colour in heroic roles), it also sometimes felt awfully forced. This is still a good book, though, and like I said, I loved the concept enough to want to read it again at some point.

Blurb:
Mia took the knife and held it high, silver moonlight glinting off the blade. She stared at herself in the reflection. A demon in oyster silk stared back. And yet, in spite of everything – even as she stood amidst the charred cinders of her life – she felt freer than she had in ages. Powerful.
Run, little rose. Run fast and free. 

What are you planning on reading next?
The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White

I don’t have any clever reasoning for wanting to read this book; I used to love the Disney adaption of it when I was a child, and I saw this in Waterstones, months ago, and just fell in love with the colours on the cover. Now I’m excited to see what the original story is actually like!

Blurb:
When Merlyn the magician comes to tutor Sir Ector’s sons, Kay and the Wart, schoolwork suddenly becomes much more fun. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy being turned into a fish, a badger, or a snake?
But Wart is destined for great things, and Merlyn’s magical teachings are only the beginning of his amazing future.

Okay, that was fun! Like I said; I’ve settled in now, which means more energy for reading, which means that hopefully, it won’t be a month until the next WWW Wednesday post! If you’ve done a WWW post this week, please leave it in the comments, I’d love to check it out! What have you been reading lately? Have you read any of these books?

As usual, have an absolutely brilliant day,
-Andrea