Book number three.

I’m a little late in posting this, but better late than never! My third book of the year was Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates.

beasts“This was before voice mail, recorded phone messages you can’t escape. Life was easier then. You just didn’t pick up the phone.” 

I picked up this book on a whim when I saw it in a list of quick reads under 200 pages (link here). I recommend this site for people who are questioning whether they’ll be able to handle 52 books this year – or more, or less, everyone reads at different speeds – it’s a list of novellas, so you can just throw caution to the wind and choose a random book. They’re so short that you aren’t going to have to devote a great deal of time into getting them read, so if you hated it, then no harm done. If you loved it, then all the better, you just practically stumbled across  what could be a personal all time favourite.

I am so glad I picked Beasts because it was a fantastic and consuming read. It was an interesting look at what are basically really quite vulnerable young women vying for the attention of their college professor, whom they seem to adore and worship. I enjoyed this book because I think I formed a sort of love-hate relationship with the girls’ professor. I loved him as a character, but could see he was a vile and really quite self involved person, which of course made me feel sorry for the girls because they idolised this horrible creature! How could they possibly worship him this much? This confusion paired with the running theme of ‘ugly’ beastly carved totems (some of women, some of young girls, all distorted) posing as art installations, paired with arson (!) made for a hectic and frenzied read.

I shall most definitely be picking up another of Oates’s works in the near future!


Week 2, book 2/52 High Fidelity


“I’m glad I learned to stay home and sulk.”

First things first – I saw the movie High Fidelity with John Cusack and Jack Black before I read this book. I did not realise the actual book was set in the UK, rather than the US. I’m glad I watched the movie first, because if it was the other way around I would have been horribly disappointed in the film. (Although the scene in the book where Barry bursts into the shop and starts blasting ‘Walking on Sunshine’ by Katrina and the Waves could not have been done well by anyone but Jack Black – the enthusiasm and crazy faces pulled during what is meant to be a ‘Monday morning mix tape’ are just perfect).

Nick Hornby writes the perfectly grumpy, paranoid and lazy Englishman, so much so it’s like he’s written my partner into the story. Not that I’m calling my partner grumpy, or paranoid, or lazy. It’s just that Hornby has to perfectly captured what it is to be English, and English in the 90’s.

It’s like the main character Rob Fleming owns up to all the lazy and grumpy thoughts that we know we all have, but never want to admit to. The phrase he uses – “I’m glad I learned to stay home and sulk.” just perfectly captures how we all must feel sometimes, when faced with life and the prospect of having to do what we’re doing for the next 50 years. He admits to being stuck, and being lazy and seriously grumpy and even a little bit whiny. But that’s the great thing about Rob, he absolutely captures the hopeless moods everyone feels sometimes, and says the things to do with relationships that we wouldn’t normally dream of saying out loud – how he wishes that he had the freedom of the single life, whilst also being in a relationship. He verbalises the hedonistic needs we all probably feel sometimes, and that’s just great.

I think I’m going to give this book 4 stars, simply due to how fucking brilliant a character Rob Fleming is.

Next up is Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates. It’s going to be a quick read at 138 pages, but this is the first book I’ll be reading by her, so I thought I’d start with a novella, so I may be able to get through 2 books this week, giving me some days to spare if I want to tackle a longer book next time.

Once again, happy reading and good luck for the 52 book challenge, or whatever your reading goals for the year may be!

Virtual Bookshelves

Here’s a link to my Shelfari page, and my Goodreads page. I’m not going to pretend my virtual bookshelves are filled with earth-shattering literature, but I though I’d link it for anyone that might be interested. Feel free to comment with links to your virtual bookshelves, it’s always nice to be nosey.

Book 1 – The Diary of a Young Girl

AnneFrank“The musings of an ugly duckling”

I have finished the first book of the year, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, and it has left me in quite a sombre and thoughtful mood, as this book should.

I have given The Diary of a Young Girl 4 stars on Shelfari, though it feels strange and almost wrong to give a book like this a numerical stamp of approval. It feels like if I truly apply a star rating to this book that I am in some way attempting to alter it, to influence it, when it is the book that has truly influenced me.

Anne matures greatly over her 2 years within the secret annexe, and becomes an extremely clever and insightful human being. She notes that “paper is more patient than people”, and I have to agree, as her diary provides a far more in depth and expressive detailing of what life was like in hiding during the second world war than any account after the war could have.

Ironically, throughout her two years in hiding, it appeared that Anne greatly improved herself academically, focusing on her grasp of the English language and a great love of anything involving Greek myths and legends, but remained rather naive on the subject of human relationships.

It seems that Anne greatly improved her knowledge of things that reside in the world outside the annexe, yet lags behind regarding subjects that she is confronted with every single day within the annexe. Her relationship with Peter and her hatred of her mother are parts that I found hard to read, as Anne appears to be very naive when it comes to relationships, as any teenager would be.

What upsets me is that she continues to write about her hatred for her mother, and how she has never considered her to be a ‘mum’ (an affectionate term that Anne would have used if she liked her mother) when she is aware of the fact that her diary may be used as a historical document after the war.

This shows a teenage misunderstanding of how complex and fragile relationships can be, especially given their dangerous situation of being in hiding, and the possibility that they could all be found out and separated at any moment.

In 2013 I read After Auschwitz by Eva Schloss (ISBN: 9781444760682), which is a first hand account of time spent at a concentration camp by the stepsister of Anne Frank, and I strongly recommend the read if you wish to try to grasp the horror that Anne may have experienced after her capture.

For the second book of the year, I will be reading something entirely at the other end of the spectrum: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.

And so the year begins!

This year I have decided to do the 52 book challenge, which involves reading a book a week, for a year. I found out about this challenge

Fellow readers doing this challenge are welcome to follow my progress. I shall be posting my reading status on the subreddit weekly, with my reading updates – if I’m on track with my reading goals, whether I enjoyed the book etc. I would also like to know about any other people with a tumblr regarding any sort of reading goal, or just a book blog in general, so if you’re feeling helpful a shove in the right direction towards the blogs in question would be wonderful!

Sadly I only made it to 30 books in 2013 due to various distractions throughout the year. This year I hope to do much better and have started my challenge at week 1, with The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

If you’re reading this and are also undertaking a reading challenge of any kind, then I wish you the best of luck for 2014!

I shall next check in when I have finished my first book of the year, and until then, happy reading!