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Reading Challenge 8/12



This month has flown past like a whirlwind and I've felt as though I've been playing catch up all month. I've done no proper writing at all, although I am brimming with ideas for short stories and novels and now just need the boys to go back to school and work so that I can start trying to get them all written. My card is also in need of a break I think - there are some hefty looking scorch marks on it at the moment. However, we have had a fantastic summer holiday together and it's been wonderful having the flat and being able to spend so much time in Cornwall.


I have managed to squeeze in some reading though and the long journeys have meant that I've added a few to the list of audiobooks as well. My husband doesn't really do long distance driving so I tend to do most of the motorway driving when we go away. However, the payoff is that once we're there he does most of the daily driving so I get to alternate between reading and enjoying the beautiful Cornish scenery.


The list is substantially shorter than usual this month. This is because I've had less time to read as we've spent a lot of time out on day trips and by the time we've got back, I've been too tired to do much apart from watch TV. The other reason is that it took me a long time to read Vanity Fair!


I've now read almost all of the long books (600+ pages) on the BBC's list so I'm looking forward to tackling some of the shorter ones next month. I still have a couple of the long ones to go but most of the remaining books are less than 500 pages thankfully!


August book total: 18


Overall Challenge Total: 193/150 (203 including audiobooks) and 77/100 on the BBC 100 list.


Audiobooks (month/year): 3/10


August Book Reviews


Crime


The Man Who Died Twice – Richard Osman (was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book in exchange for a review. Utterly loved it and a full review will follow on 16th September)


Death Comes To Bishops Well – Anna Legat (one I read for review and enjoyed. Full review will be published on 5th September. Very cosy crime with glimpses into life in rural England.)


Classics


Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky (read it because it’s on the 100 list. Not a favourite, but an interesting psychological study into the mind of a murderer)


Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray (It’s an interesting book inasmuch as it plays with the stereotypes usually found in this kind of book and doesn’t have a ‘hero’ as such, but more of an anti-hero. However, I found the ending a bit of a letdown and for me, this felt as though it was about 200 pages too long and then suddenly comes to a fairly abrupt conclusion.)


The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas (thoroughly enjoyed this. It was interesting to note that the opening scenes are reflected almost exactly in Dogtanian, which I loved as a kid. I now feel the need to watch the whole series to see if the rest follows the book as closely! In spite of the cartoon being based on the book, I was quite surprised to see the book was classified by the library as a children's book. I had no idea!)


Ulysses – James Joyce (wasn’t looking forward to this. Saw it was stream of consciousness and sighed. I don’t like it as a style of writing and at times this was utterly incomprehensible. Having reached the end, read a précis and looked at the reviews on Goodreads, I’m still not much clearer about what actually happens in certain sections. Tried mixing reading with audiobook and that didn’t help either. There were odd sections I really enjoyed, but on the whole this isn’t a book I’ll come back to unless I have to.)


Play


A Winter’s Tale – William Shakespeare (this is meant to be a comedy. It’s not. Too many people die and have their lives ruined permanently for this to be classed as funny.)


The Life And Death Of King John – William Shakespeare (not the most interesting of Shakespeare’s plays. Too many self-righteous people for my liking and not enough attention to the facts of history – I blame Henry for this. I’ve spent too much time listening to him rant about historical inaccuracies in fiction!)


Henry VI Part One - William Shakespeare (I’ve read a fair amount of books set during the Wars of the Roses so it’s interesting to see Shakespeare’s take on it. I was quite pleased at how much of the genuine history I remembered and enjoyed this take on the story, particularly the way we first meet Margaret of Anjou.)


Henry VI Part Two – William Shakespeare (reminded me of just how duplicitous the nobility were at that time and how tenuous any king’s hold on the throne was. So difficult to keep up with who was doing what to who and why. Also scary to think how easy it was to be accused of treason!)


Henry VI Part 3 – William Shakespeare (this one I’ve actually seen performed at The Globe and is about the conflicts in the Wars of the Roses. It’s interesting because it deals with the desire for revenge for the sake of family honour and the consequences of that for all concerned. Much is made of the death of Rutland – but his murderer is not held to account for killing a child. It is generally accepted as being a part of war and I found this very difficult to accept.)


Richard III – William Shakespeare (Heard a lot about this but never read it. In contrast to Henry VI Pt 3, much more is made here about the deaths of innocent children and is obviously where the need to please the reigning monarch comes in. Was very interesting to see the difference in the way the characters are portrayed here compared to in Philippa Gregory’s Cousins War series.)


Henry VIII – William Shakespeare (covers the period of the downfall of Cardinal Wolsley and the rise of Anne Boleyn up to the birth of the future Queen Elizabeth. I can only assume that this was written to give Shakespeare the opportunity to write predictions about the glory of her reign to come as it skirts over anything remotely controversial and most of the truly interesting stuff from this time is left out!)


Troilus and Cressida – William Shakespeare (When I researched it I was unsurprised to see it listed along with Measure For Measure and All’s Well That Ends Well as Shakespeare’s ‘Problem Plays’. As I noted when I reviewed them, they are all very dark in places and people are not treated well. If you want to read something set in Classical times, I’d avoid this and read Pat Barker’s books or anything by Natalie Haynes or Madeleine Miller.)


Historical


The Women of Troy – Pat Barker (I loved the first book in this series The Silence of The Girls and was really excited to get an ARC of this. Definitely lived up to my expectations. Full review can be found here.)


Poetry


Selected Poems – Charles Causley (not a poet I’d ever heard of, although it turns out I knew one of his poems without knowing who it was by! Will definitely read more of his work. In general, I much prefer his poems set in Cornwall to the ones written at war and found them quite inspiring for my own short story writing.)


Psychological


The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks (I’d actually worked this out halfway through, but I suspect that when it was first published, people probably wouldn’t have been aware of the issue at the heart of it and it would have been a much bigger shock. Found some of the graphic descriptions of violence very hard to read. Could see why it was on the 100 list and it was interesting, but not one I would return to.)


Romance


Starlight Cottage - K T Dady (one I read for review. I enjoyed it and the full review will follow on 10thSeptember)


Audiobooks


Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad (audiobook – was very confused listening to this. At first I put it down to the fact James had mucked up my audible and I’d skipped from about 40 minutes into the story, to the last forty minutes. However, even after listening to the missing section and reading a summary of the plot online, I’m still not much clearer about what happens. It addresses an important issue – that of slavery in Africa, but as a novel, I can’t see why it’s regarded as a classic.)


Richard II – William Shakespeare (audiodrama – Sam West and Damien Lewis were in it so it was always going to be difficult not to enjoy. Realised partway through I’d actually seen an adaptation of it on TV - The Hollow Crown - which was also very good!)


Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson (Audiobook – love this. Genuine laugh out loud moments were plentiful and his love for the UK is apparent right the way through, particularly when he is ranting about the lack of foresight amongst town planners. The only place I thought he got wrong was Exeter, where there ARE plenty of cafes and restaurants – or at least there were 3 years after the book was written!)


Favourite Book Of This Month?


Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed Notes From A Small Island (and Arthur loved the occasional outburst of swearing in it) and The Three Musketeers (which I hadn't been too sure I would enjoy) and The Man Who Died Twice, I think the reason for the choice for my book of the month is threefold.

  1. I got it from the library in Launceston, which made me feel like I really belonged in the town.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed the poems and kept reading some of them to the boys. One of them is now on the wall of the flat and again it made me feel like a part of the county as it really brought to life the places we visited.

  3. I got loads of ideas for my own writing as a result of reading it and this is always going to be a winner.

Therefore, my top recommendation for this month is Selected Poems by Charles Causley. If you've never read his work, these were my favourites:

  • The Seasons In North Cornwall

  • Keats At Teignmouth

  • A Ballad For Katherine of Aragon

  • Serenade To A Cornish Fox

  • Ballad Of The Faithless Wife

  • The Ballad Of Charlotte Dymond

  • On Launceston Castle

  • Eagle One Eagle Two

  • On Millers End

  • Jolly Hunter





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