Books I read in February 2021

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (physical book, new read)

‘’When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki. Immediately he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo, adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire – to a time when an impetuous young woman called Midori marches into his life and he has to choose between the future and the past.’’ (Norwegian Wood synopsis)

This was just such an intriguing and atmospheric book. I was so incredibly happy to find my exact type of reading style- long detailed character centred books where pages can go by describing minor things in great detail. I loved the writing (and translation as I can only speak English sadly). I would strongly recommend that everyone read this book, it’s beautiful, however, please check the trigger warnings before it as there are many. The characters intrigued me as well as the depictions of Tokyo, I felt enveloped in the setting whilst reading and I’d love to travel there one day. I’d like to learn more about the history of Japan, as I don’t know very much about this country and there were definitely references in the story that went over my head a little bit (although they weren’t central elements). This could obviously be perceived as very stereotypical and is only reflective of the books I’ve read, but I’ve loved every book I’ve read by a Japanese writer. I feel such a shift of focus, tone and atmosphere to more Western books I’ve read, and something about it really appeals to me. I feel that Murakami will discuss elements and include themes in a way that a lot of American writers, for example, may shy away from. It was just incredibly interesting and powerful. I also bookmarked one of the letters near the end of the book as I believe this message is one that everyone can take something from, and that really provided a frame for me to think about my own grief and loss (grief is a strong theme throughout). I’d recommend this to everyone, and I think it will be a favourite read this year. I’ve already started another Murakami and now plan to get to all of his books, however, I’m slightly worried that I won’t feel the same as I have heard it said that he doesn’t write women very well.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

”My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a life time, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives.”

Rage of Queens: The Homeric Chronicles book 3 by Janell Rhiannon (e-book, new read)

‘’After years of fighting, the fate of Troy hangs precariously in the balance. Rage and revenge rule the final days, as the heroines and heroes come face to face with their fates. Some will be victorious. Some will die.’’ (Rage of Queens synopsis)

The third book in a retelling of the Iliad. I read the first two last year, and the first was in my favourite books of the year. 😊I’d recommend the series, especially as a starting point to Greek mythology as the books as so detailed but incredibly easy to read! At times, I felt that this book was a little slower, however, this one focused more on the war itself and I’m always a bit lazy when it comes to reading action sequences haha. I think at times the writing was a little bit cheesy, especially some dialogue, as this was maybe due to the pressure to focus on ensuring chapters emphasised the powerful women of the Trojan War, as this was Rhiannon’s aim. Overall, though, I’d really recommend this series! 😊 Especially as it is relatively unknown, I don’t think it’s been given the credit it deserves yet!

A Series of Unfortunate Events books 4-9 by Lemony Snicket (physical books, reread)

Continuing the childhood nostalgia reread. As I said in the January blog, these books are gothic, eccentric, unusual and a bit pretentious at times but they feel so nostalgic and bring me back to childhood times (although I remember even then being annoyed by some of the pretentious elements hahaha). They are so unsusual, I’d recommend these books for children as something a little bit different 😊 (and the mystery like elements are woven through the books so well). I’m not really going into individual books; however, I would say book 9 features a carnival where the main characters are disguised as ‘freaks’. These books are set in times where carnivals and circuses of this nature still existed, and the characters themselves frequently reference how disgusting and wrong freak shows are, with the author obviously trying to educate children around the importance of treating everyone equally. I don’t however, feel that this excuses the representation of disfigurement. I felt uncomfortable reading this book and do not believe the characters moral discussions make the setting okay.

I feel like this blog would have been a lot better if I wrote it earlier in the month and remembered more about the books haha, but online teaching involved a lot more planning that you would think and I honestly couldn’t bare to look at a computer screen anymore hahaha. I hope you’re well, please let me know what you’re reading. Also, please let me know your favourite Murakami book if you’ve read any! 😊

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!