November books

The Aeneid- Virgil: Robert Fagles translation (physical book, new read)

‘’Robert Fagles’s latest achievement completes the magnificent triptych of Western epics. A sweeping story of arms and heroism, The Aeneid follows the adventures of Aeneas, who flees the ashes of Troy to embark upon a tortuous course that brings him to Italy and fulfills his destiny as founder of the Roman people. Retaining all of the gravitas and humanity of the original, this powerful blend of poetry and myth remains as relevant today as when it was first written.’’ (The Aeneid synopsis)

I’ve never studied literature or classics so I definitely don’t get as much from books like this as others, however, I’ve finally binge read enough mythology retellings to be able to read and keep up with The Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid. I knew little about this book, but I found it interesting and fairly readable, although I did prefer the early chapters with Dido and the underworld, and I began to feel a bit restless by the end of the story as wars and battle scenes are not my favourite unless I’m extremely invested in characters. The most striking thing I did find was the parallels between ASOIAF, particularly Aeneas and Daenerys and to a lesser extent Jon (unsurprising as Dany/Jon’s stories parallel in themselves). I’m extremely interested in ASOIAF mythology parallels and already made a blog post about some Greek/Norse parallels if you’re interested 😊. I recently bought the illustrated Game of Thrones (I do enjoy wasting money hahaha) and I’d love to reread the series (maybe one character at a time?) analysing anything that interests me and looking for parallels. I think next year (woohoo goodbye 2020) I’ll definitely give this a go and incorporate it into some rambly blog posts in a way.

Important/meaningful quote:

“Do the gods light this fire in our hearts or does each man’s mad desire become his god?”

Pride and prejudice- Jane Austen (audiobook, reread)

‘’Pride and Prejudice is one of the most cherished love stories in English literature; Jane Austen’s 1813 masterpiece has a lasting effect on everyone who reads it. The pride of high-ranking Mr Darcy and the prejudice of middle-class Elizabeth Bennet conduct an absorbing dance through the rigid social hierarchies of early-nineteenth-century England, with the passion of the two unlikely lovers growing as their union seems ever more improbable.’’ (Pride and Prejudice synopsis)

I read this in a very strange format, because I listened to Jen Campbell reading the book aloud. For those who don’t know, Jen is a writer with a youtube channel focusing on books. Over lockdown, she read Pride and Prejudice aloud and turned it into a youtube audiobook. This was a really interesting way to read this book! I’ve always loved the film, but I didn’t really have strong thoughts towards the book the first time I read it, around 6 years ago- I read wee bits at a time over a few months which made if feel a bit disjointed. I loved it a lot more this time around, I think with classics, audiobook can be the way to go for me to really bring the characters to life 😊. I’m sure everyone knows what this is about or has read it, but if you haven’t, I’d recommend giving it a go 😊. I love Lizzie as a character and the feminist themes throughout, particularly interesting due to the time period of the story. Also, not relevant to the book, but I’d recommend listening to the films score, especially ‘Your hands are cold’, it’s so beautiful.

Important/meaningful quote:

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

Great Goddesses: Life lessons from myths and monsters- Nikita Gill (physical book, new read)

‘’Wonder at Medusa’s potent venom, Circe’s fierce sorcery and Athena rising up over Olympus, as Nikita Gill majestically explores the untold stories of the life bringers, warriors, creators, survivors and destroyers that shook the world – the great Greek Goddesses.
Vividly re-imagined and beautifully illustrated, step into an ancient world transformed by modern feminist magic.’’
(Great Goddesses synopsis)

I read this at the start of the month and my memory is fading haha, but I found it interesting 😊. The writing style is lovely and I’m glad that I found it enjoyable as I don’t always love poetry. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, I’ve already stolen an idea to try and paint hahah. Again, it got me wanting to find more asoiaf parallels, such as Arya and Artemis, Stannis and Agamemnon. It’s a very engaging feminist retelling, however, there are trigger warnings for themes of rape and assault. The intention of these accounts is to shift the blame back to the men and Gods carrying out these horrific assaults, supporting woman to overcome trauma, however, it could nevertheless be triggering so it’s important to know going into the story. I would say, I enjoyed this book more before they started bringing the Goddesses into our modern world- apart from Percy Jackson, this seems to be a theme within my reading experiences of mythology, I don’t really enjoy reading about the Gods and Goddesses within the modern world.

Important/meaningful quote:

“Every woman is both match and spark, a light for each other from the dark.”

Athena’s Child- Hannah Lynn (physical book, new read)

‘’Gifted and burdened with beauty far beyond that of mere mortals, Medusa seeks sanctuary with the Goddess Athena. But when the lustful gaze of mighty Poseidon falls upon her, even the Temple of Athena cannot protect her. Young Perseus embarks on a seemingly impossible quest. Equipped with only bravado and determination, his only chance of success lays in the hands of his immortal siblings. Medusa and Perseus soon become pawns of spiteful and selfish gods. Faced with the repercussions of Athena’s wrath Medusa has no choice but to flee and hide. But can she do so without becoming the monster they say she is?’’ (Athena’s Child synopsis)

I can’t tell who this book was aimed for as it was interesting and fast paced but something about it felt young, it sometimes felt like YA but I’m not certain. Either way, it would be a good place to start in terms of myth retellings. This is a very glum story, but I enjoyed learning more about Perseus and his story (I knew quite a bit about Medusa already), particularly learning about his mother and I previously only knew what I’d read from Percy Jackson haha. I mentioned Jen Campbell earlier on, she has been discussing the use of disfigurement in characters as a negative trope being associated with ‘ugly’ or ‘evil’ characters, I’d recommend looking up her Instagram and reading her article. This is a very prevalent issue in stories and this book definitely equated disfigurement with ugliness and becoming evil or losing humanity in some way. This is not Lynn’s fault as this stems from early mythology itself, however, when retelling these stories, I think authors could be more conscious about this and use the opportunity to rewrite these tropes.

Troy: The Siege of Troy Retold- Stephen Fry (audiobook, new read)

‘’The story of Troy speaks to all of us – the kidnapping of Helen, a queen celebrated for her beauty, sees the Greeks launch a thousand ships against that great city, to which they will lay siege for ten whole and very bloody years. The stage is set for the oldest and greatest story ever told, where monstrous passions meet the highest ideals and the lowest cunning. In Troy you will find heroism and hatred, love and loss, revenge and regret, desire and despair. It is these human passions, written bloodily in the sands of a distant shore, that still speak to us today.’’ (Troy synopsis)

I loved listening to this, you can feel Fry’s interest in the subject and his enthusiasm makes it even better to listen to. This was my favourite listen of the trilogy as I’ve always been slightly more interested in the Trojan War and the people involved than the stories of the Gods alone (and I’ve never been particularly interested in the heroes, I can never seem to retain much info about Hercules/Heracles despite reading lots). This trilogy is definitely a great place to start with mythology and I enjoy the humour and input from Fry throughout. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading the story of the Trojan War, I enjoy the different perspectives of each writer and I was happy to see Achilles/Patroclus mentioned as lovers in this account as this is the version of their story that I prefer. I’ve mentioned this before, but I love that in every single myth retelling that I’ve read (including the Iliad), Patroclus is consistently a genuinely good compassionate person (there are few others that I can say the same about, except Briseis and some of the Trojan women).

Love lessons- Jacqueline Wilson (e-book, reread)

‘’Fourteen-year-old Prue and her sister Grace have been educated at home by their controlling, super-strict father all their lives. Forced to wear Mum’s odd hand-made garments and forbidden from reading teenage magazines, they know they’re very different to ‘normal’ girls – but when Dad has a stroke and ends up in hospital, unable to move or speak, Prue suddenly discovers what it’s like to have a little freedom.

Sent to a real school for the first time, Prue struggles to fit in. The only person she can talk to is her kindly, young – and handsome – art teacher, Rax. They quickly bond, and Prue feels more and more drawn to him. As her feelings grow stronger, she begins to realise that he might feel the same way about her. But nothing could ever happen between them – could it?’’ (Love Lessons synopsis)

I wanted to finish my nostalgic Wilson binge with another book that I loved as a child/teen. This is another of her older, darker books with themes of authoritative fathers (potentially verbally abusive) and heavily features a grooming type scenario between a 14 year old student and her art teacher. I’ve always found the tone of this book to feel far different from Wilson’s other books, you definitely get the sense of alienation Prue feels around others her age and the strain within her family and environments. Again, I appreciate Wilson’s approach to discussing heavy topics and would recommend this book if you enjoy her others.

Office Girl- Joe Meno (physical book, new read)

‘’Set in 1999 – just before the end of one world and the beginning of another – Office Girl is the story of two youths caught between the uncertainty of their futures and the all-too-brief moments of modern life. Odile is a lovely 23 year-old art-school dropout, a minor vandal, and a hopeless dreamer. Jack is a 25 year-old shirker who’s most happy capturing the endless noises of the city on his out-of-date tape recorder. Together they decide to start their own art movement in defiance of a contemporary culture made dull by both the tedious and the obvious.’’ (Office Girl synopsis)

I don’t want to spend much time on this as I found it incredibly pretentious and want to roll my eyes even thinking back now. I can barely remember how it ended, the characters were manic-pixie dream girls and boys and the themes were so dull and pretentious, I bought this from a charity shop not knowing anything about it and the only reason I finished it is because it’s a quick read and I have a compulsive need to finish books haha. I’m genuinely getting annoyed thinking about it. I also mentioned the representation of disfigurement earlier, I can’t remember the specific quote but there was a disgusting comment from a character that was very anti-disfigurement. I would not recommend this book; I will be trying to forget it.

I hope you’ve been reading lots of good books recently, please let me know if you’ve read any of these and liked them! 😊 I’m currently on 91 reads this year so I now feel a compulsive need to reach 100 before 2021. I’ll see what happens because I’m lazy haha, but December is usually filled with childhood rereads. Anyway, Merry Christmas month!

Five favourite books of 2020- so far

I always find it so hard to narrow things like this down haha. I reread lots of books and over the past couple of years I’ve actively been trying to read more new books- as of the end of June I have read 49 new books and 11 rereads, I’m improving! 😊 Since I only reread books that I love (or terrible yet nostalgic books ie. Twilight), I don’t count them in my midyear and yearly favourites. I don’t really have a particular order, but my five favourite new reads of 2020 so far are:

The Crimson Petal and the White- Michel Faber

Welcome to Victorian London as you’ve never seen it before. Amongst an unforgettable cast of low-lifes, physicians, businessmen and prostitutes, meet our heroine Sugar, a young woman trying to drag herself up from the gutter any way she can. Be prepared for a mesmerising tale of passion, intrigue, ambition and revenge.’ (The Crimson Petal and the White synopsis)

I read this in January and writing about it brings me back to a Wintery Christmassy feel with blustery, rainy nights- the perfect setting to read a about a Victorian time period (I’m so excited for Winter, I love it!). This is a long, long book with such intricate detail. Whilst they take a lot longer to read, I can’t resist long, character driven stories that really take the time to set the scene and envelop you in the world. Due to the subject matter, this is also quite a dark gothic novel that can be difficult to read at times. I heard about this book when both Jen Campbell and The Personal Philosophy Project talked about it on youtube- I love getting book recommendations on booktube, please recommend some of your favourite channels that discuss books! I often enjoy books that they recommend, and I was very interested in hearing that this book is loosely based on Jane Eyre. They also mentioned an abrupt ending that leaves you wanting more and I’m always very intrigued by endings like this. Jane Eyre references/parallels are apparent throughout, however, this does not ruin the story or make it easy to guess what’s going to happen, and the story and characters were very original- I loved the balance. There are characters that are definitely not likeable, and characters that I loved, particularly Sugar and Agnes. I love reading from the perspectives of the morally ambiguous characters and I found them all very interesting (although at times during the Rackham chapters I was excited to get back to other’s stories, which I think was intentional in the writing). I’d really recommend this book, although I wouldn’t recommend going into it if you are in a negative mental state, and I’d beware of themes of abuse. The narration within this story is also incredibly interesting as Faber breaks the fourth wall to talk to the reader- almost as though we are watching a Victorian play (the narration and themes remind me a little of Moulin Rouge, one of my favourite films). Whilst writing this I’ve been swept back into such a Wintery mood and it’s really made me remember how much I loved this book! I’ll definitely look into reading more of Faber’s books if they are written as intricately and beautifully as this one! (I’ve just paused writing this to buy another of his books, oh dear haha)

Girl, Woman, Other- Bernardine Evaristo

‘Teeming with life and crackling with energy — a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood. Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.’ (Girl, Woman, Other synopsis)

Apart from The Crimson Petal and the White I think my four favourites have been lockdown reads! This means that I’ve already written about them in some detail in blog posts, so I’ll try not to repeat myself. I don’t always like books that follow lots of perspectives (apart from ASOIAF) so it’s a credit to Bernardine’s writing and the vivid, engaging characters that I loved every chapter and perspective- I do feel that Amma and Yazz were maybe my favourites. I loved the opportunity to read about discussions of social justice issues from different perspectives and engage in very deep moral and philosophical thinking whilst reading, the relationships and integration of social justice issues in this book are so interesting! Like Faber, I’ve never read any of Evaristo’s other books so this is something that I’ll definitely try to do in the future (writing this blog post was a mistake hahaha, I’m going to end up buying even more books now).

Song of Sacrifice- Janell Rhiannon

The heart of the Trojan War belongs to the women. Mothers and daughters; wives and war prizes all whisper to us across time.. praying they be remembered alongside the mighty men of myth. As the Age of Heroes wanes, the gods gamble more fiercely with mortals lives than ever before. Women must rely on the inner strength and cunning if they’re going to survive the wars men wage for gold and glory. They struggle for control on their own lives. Rise from the ashes of brutal assaults. Fight to survive.. by any means necessary. In a world where love leads to war and duty leads to destruction, it is the iron hearts of these heroines that will conquer all’. (Song of Sacrifice synopsis)

I knew some mythology would end up being in this list somewhere haha, I just love it. Rhiannon is relatively unknown which is such a shame as this book was an incredible depiction of the events leading up to the Trojan War, with numerous interesting perspectives of the characters who aren’t often given a voice (all three books I’ve mentioned so far cover multiple perspectives, I must have been wrong in thinking that I don’t like these sorts of books haha). I would recommend this book if you’re interested in learning more about the Trojan War or reading from multiple perspectives, particularly the women involved- this is a long book, however, it is very easy to read and I was interested throughout. I wish this series was more widely known, and I hope that Rhiannon’s books will become more popular with time, I love her Greek mythology retellings and think they stand up to many that I’ve read- for example, I’m sure this is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t really like Natalie Haynes writing style, I feel like the characters lack something and I far preferred a Song of Sacrifice (although my favourite mythology author is still Madeline Miller).  

Percy Jackson- Rick Riordan

‘Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood. I never asked to be the son of a Greek God. I was just a normal kid, going to school, playing basketball, skateboarding. The usual. Until I accidentally vaporized my maths teacher. Now I spend my time battling monsters and generally trying to stay alive. This is the one where Zeus, God of the Sky, thinks I’ve stolen his lightning bolt – and making Zeus angry is a very bad idea.’ (Lightning thief synopsis)

As of the end of June, I had read three of the five books in the Percy Jackson series and it’s hard to pick a favourite- maybe the second as I loved the storyline- so I’m going for the series as a whole. These books are so full of humour, sarcasm and light-hearted fun and friendship, whilst discussing heavy important topics and tackling deep issues. I love the bond between Percy, Annabeth and Grover, the portrayals of family and identity and I love Grover’s interest in the environment. The depiction of the Gods and Goddess’s are so funny, and I love all the characters. I’m very fussy with children’s books I read as an adult (I’m reading potential books for my class just now and they are not always the best haha) but this series really works for all ages 😊. As I mentioned before, the three friends remind me of the Harry Potter golden trio and I love that Percy is a normal sarcastic, friendly, sassy young person like lil Harry- although, sadly the Harry Potter series has been tainted now. I’m excited to see what happens next. 😊

Queenie- Candice Carty-Williams

‘Meet Queenie. She just can’t cut a break. Well, apart from one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That’s just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Stuck between a boss who doesn’t seem to see her, a family who don’t seem to listen (if it’s not Jesus or water rates, they’re not interested), and trying to fit in two worlds that don’t really understand her, it’s no wonder she’s struggling.’ (Queenie synopsis)

I read this in May so it was very recent and I loved it! I love when an author can cover heavy themes and create realistic dimensional characters that you are connected to within a funny book that’s quick and easy to read, I think I read Queenie within a day! She’s such an amazing character and I felt connected to her throughout the story. I loved learning more about Jamaican culture through the perspective of someone who is from London and cannot necessarily relate to her family’s perspective. This book is primarily about family and friends, relationships, identity, and mental illness, all of which are themes that I love to read about and are frequently found in my favourite books. Trigger warning for abuse, gaslighting and mental illness although they are handled in a very mature and positive way. I have so much more to say about this book but I don’t want to repeat myself from previous blog posts in case you’ve read them (thank you if you have and you’re still here! 😊) so I’ll let it at this but I cannot recommend this book enough!

It has been such a fun experience looking back at the year so far and remembering how much I loved these books- it makes it worth it when you read a few books in a row that weren’t for you. I think they are all quite different, however they are all character driven with similar themes that I am often drawn to. For this reason, I’m not sure if I’d recommend them all to everyone, but hopefully you’ll find something that you like 😊 I’m so interested in learning about other’s favourites, please let me know you’re favourites of 2020 so far! Also, despite really not needing any more books I’m always looking haha, so please let me know if you’ve read other books by these authors and if you’d recommend them 😊 (especially Faber, I’m intrigued to know if all of his books are so amazingly written). I hope you’re well, thank you for reading!

Goodreads 50 books to read before you die (part one)

I really liked doing this challenge for amazon books and people seemed to like reading it- it was really fun looking at the comments to see how many everybody has read!- so I’ve decided to do it again, it’s always fun to see if I’m influenced to read classics or popular books 😊

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
  2. Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen

I have read this book, but as I think I mentioned before this is one of the rare occasions where I enjoyed the film more (blasphemous hahaha but I do love the film). It wasn’t my favourite classic that I’ve read which is strange because I love the sisters, however, I think it felt a bit too long with sections about side characters that I didn’t really care about. Maybe if I reread it one day I’d enjoy it a little bit more.

3. Jane Eyre- Charlotte Bronte

This is maybe my favourite classic that I’ve read, I really like the story and enjoyed Jane as a character. I’d also like to mention here that I loved ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ which is loosely based on Jane Eyre, I’d recommend it!

4. The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald

I swear there is a ghost in my house because I read half of this book in the bath, came out of the bath and it was never seen again, I have searched my entire house and this book is gone hahaha. I will get it and finish it one day.

5. Lord of the Flies- William Golding

6. Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War- Sebastian Faulks

7. 1984- George Orwell

8. The Diary of a Young Girl- Anne Frank

This book is very impactful and emotional, however, the main thing that stuck out whilst reading this was the depths of kindness, love and positivity in Anne’s writing, she was incredibly hopeful despite her horrific circumstances and this is a loving, relatable book about growing up and family.

9. Brave New World- Aldous Huxley

10. The Grapes of Wrath- John Steinbeck

11. The Picture of Dorian Grey- Oscar Wilde

I really want to read this one day, this is high on my list of books I always say I’ll get to soon!

12. Wuthering Heights- Emily Bronte

This was not a favourite of mine hahaha, I struggled through this book. I was very intrigued by the intensity of Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship and I enjoyed the concept of the story, however, it dragged a bit without any ‘goodness’ or humour to balance. Again, I’m blasphemous and a very bad reader when it comes to classics, but I’d like to see a new big-budget film based on this book, I think I’d enjoy the story far more as a film.

13. The Bell Jar- Sylvia Plath

This book was difficult to read due to the themes and heavy depression weighing it down, however, I think this is an important book to read to understand mental illness and I would recommend The Bell Jar if you are okay with heavy themes.

14. The War of the World- H.G. Wells

15. The Quiet American- Graham Greene

16. The Catcher in the Rye- J.D Salinger

I really enjoyed this book, I read it this year and found it really easy to read and interesting (a few books are coming up that I’ve already mentioned in a blog post so I’m trying not to repeat myself too much).

17. A Passage to India- E.M Forster

18. Catch-22- Joseph Helle

19. Anna Karenina- Leo Tolstoy

I listened to a fair chunk of this audiobook but then I forgot about it (and the narrators voice annoyed me haha, I can be fussy with narrators). I would like to finish the book, but it’s been long enough that I’ve forgotten everything so I’d have to start from the beginning and make sure I read this book at a time when I can really concentrate on the story.

20. Frankenstein- Mary Shelley

This is another book that I read half of before stopping, I was sad because it’s such a well-known book but I just couldn’t keep going. I have such a thing about death and corpses, dead bodies etc so the creation of the monster in this book made me feel a bit ill hahaha, I honestly couldn’t keep reading. I’ve always been like this, I can’t read or watch anything with zombies without feeling sick.

21. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time- Mark Haddon

This is an unusual and interesting book, I’ve never read a book where the narrator has ASD and I found it very insightful. I’ve read a couple of Mark Haddon’s books and enjoy his dark humour and sarcasm.

22. Life of Pi- Yann Martel

I knew very little about this book and if you haven’t yet read it I’d go into it knowing nothing if you can. This stayed with me for such a long time and I felt almost a haunted feeling after reading it, it’s a very philosophical book, particularly around religion, and I’ve never really read anything like it.

23. The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexandre Dumas

24. Heart of Darkness- Joseph Conrad

25. Rebecca- Daphne De Maurier

I really enjoyed this book, the characters are a lil bit crazy and I didn’t necessarily feel for any of them but the gothic themes make it interesting and really envelop you in the plot and time period. I remember reading a wee short story called ‘The Drowned Rose’ for English in school and looking back I’m not sure if it’s based on Rebecca because there are lots of similarities. Please let me know if you’ve read it and know anything!

I’ve read 9 of 25 books and plan to read more, I really liked this list and I think I’d recommend all of the books I’ve read 😊 Please let me know how many you’ve read and if you’d recommend any, I loved reading the comments last time. Also, I’ve been thinking about diversity in reading as I think lots of us have at this time. There are several books on this list that I haven’t heard of so I’m unsure of the diversity of authors and characters on this list- based on gender, race and sexuality- but I look critically at lists like these in thinking about how books are chosen and the opportunities authors have. If you have read most of these books please enlighten me a little bit more about the spread of diversity.