I thought that I would start a monthly feature here that basically summarises the books I’ve read in the previous month and gives mini reviews of them. I haven’t got anything specific figured out, so this idea may evolve into something quite different in format over the next few months. I’m thinking along the lines of set questions for each book that will give an overview and then a brief monologue from yours sincerely as to whether I enjoyed it or any pertinent comments that I just must get out there. If I ever get to Andrew’s level of reading, I could maybe do a weekly summary, but I can’t see that happening any time soon, ha. So, on with the show.
What books did I read this month?
I go through phases, some weeks I get through maybe 2 or 3 books, and others I get through about 10 pages. Anyway, from the above pile, I read them from the bottom up. I haven’t finished the Ahern book yet, I’m not hugely enjoying it so far so I’m finding it hard to get it finished.
1. Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka, published by Fig Tree in 2007
I really enjoy Lewycka’s writing, and bought this in an Oxfam bookshop after reading A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian. This book was as good as ASHOTIU, although not as laugh-out-loud funny. It’s an eye-opening book as although it’s fictional, there are some themes that clearly have roots in reality (mainly around things like how refugees and immigrants are treated and the cruelty of mass chicken farming). It was a wonderful read that was both heart-warming and heart-rending. After reading this, Not on the Label by Felicity Lawrence is on my “To Read” pile.
2. The Jewel of St. Petersburg by Kate Furnivall, published by Sphere in 2010
This is the first of Kate Furnivall’s novels I have read, and I will absolutely be reading her others if this was anything to go by. I read this within 24 hours because I just couldn’t put it down. Pages and pages left me almost breathless with anticipation, desperate to know how the story would unfold. It’s set around the time of the Russian revolution, the last of the Tsars, the Bolsheviks, etc. which I find fascinating. It’s a beautiful love story, worthy of the label ‘epic’ with the perfect balance of struggle and success, ups and downs – it doesn’t leave you feeling depressed, but it’s not unrealistically optimistic, it’s hopeful.
3. Salaam Brick Lane by Tarquin Hall, published by John Murray (Publishers) in 2005
This is the only non-fiction book I got through in January. I’m not naturally inclined to non-fiction at the minute, I think because I see reading as a way from my mind to escape and unwind. If I’m reading non-fiction, there is more pressure involved – does anyone find that? You almost feel obliged to remember details and facts, because they could realistically be useful at some stage. Anyway, what with studying and the other reading I do, I don’t feel as able to let myself go with a non-fiction book, however good it may be. Back to the book though, it was really interesting in terms of the history behind London’s East End, and was the second book within a week that highlighted how difficult life is for most immigrant refugees who come to the UK. Books like this are an important counteraction against so much of the media that screams the injustice of people “coming to our country for free food and free houses etc. etc. blah blah blah”.
4. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, published by HarperCollins in 2001
I had heard quite a lot about this book (and film when that came out) but had never had the opportunity to read it, and the film didn’t particularly appeal to me. I was visiting some friends a couple of weeks ago who love books as much as Andrew and I do, and I borrowed around 6 to try and finish before the end of January. Suffice to say, I didn’t succeed! This was the first one I finished, and the next one is also borrowed. Anyway, this took me around a week to get through as it’s pretty long and there is a lot to take in. It’s based loosely around actual events but there is a lot of speculative writing and creative licence is definitely employed! There are parts that are genuinely disturbing, and I admit that I spent about an afternoon on Wikipedia looking up more information on the Boleyns and all that went down back in the Tudor days, and thankfully my mind was put at ease as reality seems to have been much less extreme than the book! All in all, it wasn’t bad. I probably wouldn’t read it again, but I did find it entertaining.
5. If You Could See Me Now by Cecilia Ahern, published by HarperCollins in 2005
So, I’m only about 60 pages into this one. This is the type of book that ruins a good run for me. I started reading it about 2 weeks ago and I just haven’t got into it. And because I have odd little OCD tendencies about some things (this being one of them), I can’t start another book until I’ve finished this one. So I’m pretty much having a stand off with it. Stay tuned for February’s edition of “Books I Read This Month”, where hopefully there will be more than just 120 pages of If You Could See Me Now to review.
Have you read any good books recently? What would you recommend that I add to my “To Read” pile?