April 2017 | Wrap Up

Well, well, well, yet another month has passed – does anyone actually remember April happening? Because I sure as hell don’t know how it’s May already (cough it’s gonna be May cough) and yet here we are. I think a large part of that is due to the fortnight-long readathon that I took part in in the middle of April. The Tome Topple readathon meant that I focused more on getting through some hunkers of books rather than the amount of books read this month… which is my way of saying I didn’t read many books so there’s my excuse. Plus, with finishing up at my job, this month has seen me be a little bit preoccupied with one thing or another – that will change as we head into May and I (hopefully) get settled into my new work place with no huge problems. Mostly though, I am glad I got round to a couple of books that I was really long overdue to finish and I hope to continue this kind of finishing spirit into next month as I still have some A Song of Ice and Fire to catch up with. But, for now, let’s look back at how April’s reading went…

In March, I read a total of 4 books – 4 fiction and 0 non-fiction, amounting to 2036 pages in total, and, of these, 1 book was a re-read.

In terms of format: 2 were paperback, 1 was an e-ARC, and 1 was an audiobook.

And as for genre, very broadly speaking, books were fantasy and 1 was a classic.

Onto the books themselves…

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Review | Hard Times

Title: Hard Times (1854)
Author: Charles Dickens
Read: 29th March- 4th April
Genre: classic
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Published in 1854, Hard Times is one of Charles Dickens’ shortest novels and presents a pretty damning indictment of mid 19th-century industrial society, taking a swipe at the social and political philosophies of Bentham and Mill, but ultimately failing to deliver an engaging or cohesive plot that would match the opening chapter’s brilliance.

“Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them.”

Hard Times tells the story of Coketown, a fictional 19th-century Northern industrial town which plays home to a host of polluting factories and their downtrodden employees, all overseen by factory owner Josiah Bounderby and his friend and Utilitarian Thomas Gradgrind, the schoolmaster who seeks to stamp out any sense of imagination or Fancy from the town’s schoolchildren. On the outskirts of the town cavorts Mr Sleary’s circus, a troupe of performers whose antics could provide a nice sense of distraction for the downtrodden ranks of Coketown’s population.

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Friday Reads | 31st March 2017

Well folks, the last Friday Reads I did I was saying that I couldn’t believe it was halfway through February and here we are at the end of March. Yep, that happened. So let’s just remain in a state of denial about the fact three whole months of 2017 have passed and focus instead on what books I’m currently reading and plan to read this weekend. Agreed? Agreed!

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Imagine a world in which every bad thought you had was made visible. Where anger, hatred and envy appeared as a thick, infectious smoke pouring from your body, leaving soot on your skin. A society controlled by an elite who have learned to master their darkest desires. Thomas and Charlie are friends at a boarding school near Oxford, where the children of the rich and powerful are trained to be future leaders. Charlie is naturally good, but Thomas’s father was accused of a terrible crime, and Thomas fears that the same evil lies coiled inside him. Then, on a trip to London – a forbidden city shrouded in darkness – they learn all is not as it appears. So begins a quest to understand the truth about this world of smoke, soot and ash – and perhaps to change it. (source)

I have no idea what the hell is going on in this book… and I kind of love it for that. I was sold on it in the opening chapter when there was a posh boarding school full of repressed little school boys being “examined” by the prefect for their sins. If that sounds weird, it’s because it is. The academic in me is also super intrigued because it’s doing interesting things with corporeality and fluid bodies and basically the former MA student in me is clutching this book in delight. I’m sure that will continue today and into this weekend.

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

‘Facts alone are wanted in life’: the children at Mr Gradgrind’s school are sternly ordered to stifle their imaginations and pay attention only to cold, hard reality. They live in a smoky, troubled industrial town so entertainment is hard to come by and resentments run deep. The effects of Gradgrind’s teaching on his own children, Tom and Louisa, are particularly profound and leave them ill-equipped to deal with the unpredictable desires of the human heart. Luckily for them they have a friend in Sissy Jupe, the child of a circus clown, who retains her warm-hearted, compassionate nature despite the pressures around her. (source)

You know, I’m mildly surprised by how easy this is proving to be to read. I always find it’s more daunting to look at a Dickens book rather than just getting round to actually reading it. It helps that I picked the shortest Dickens book to read though, there’s no denying that fact. But the fact I can read this comfortably on a sometimes noisy train probably attests to how it isn’t too tricky to follow. I’m intrigued by this Dickens novel because I know very little about it, except for knowing Gradgrind as a character, and I’m being pleasantly surprised. The Northern industrial setting is also my bag… and Coketown is definitely Preston, right?

I’m likely to be doing a lot of reading today/this weekend since Liz is working this weekend and so I won’t be procrastinating by watching Friends with her. I’d also really like to get down to some good blogging and get caught up in all the reviews I need to write because that’s been playing on my mind for weeks now. In between that I’m sure I’ll find time to read, maybe even finish these two books? Is that too ambitious? Probably.

So, those are my likely reading plans for today and heading into the weekend ahead. Do you have any Friday Reads posts? Or perhaps just some fun plans for the weekend? Let me know in the comments!


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WWW Wednesday #2 | 22nd March 2017

Exactly a month after I did my last WWW Wednesday, I bring you another! (You have to admit: this is a sort of consistency… just not the regularity the meme originally suggests.) Whilst you can always find out what I’m reading via Goodreads (mainly because I update my page number obsessively in case my bookmark falls out of my book, true story) it’s nice to pause, mid-week, and reflect how the week is going and, mostly, what I’m reading at the moment. WWW Wednesday is currently hosted by Sam at Taking On A World Of Words so do head over to her blog if you want to see more readers’ WWW Wednesday posts.

The Three Ws are:
1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you’ll read next?

 

thesongrising1. What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading Samantha Shannon’s The Song Risingthe third book of seven in her Bone Season series. I’ve been anticipating this for so many months and I’m so glad that Samantha pushed back the release to make sure the story was as wonderful as it possibly could be because, boy, was it worth the wait. Attending YALC last year and getting to meet the author reignited my love for the first two books in this series so once the pre-order link came up, I knew I had to have it as soon as I could get my grubby little hands on it. I’m really enjoying this instalment in the series as the action is now moving away from Scion-controlled London and exploring other parts of the UK (such as Manchester and Edinburgh), which is completely my jam because dystopians that only focus on one city/place always leave me wondering how everyone else out there is faring – this is answering that query!

 

themimeorder

2. What did you recently finish reading?
Since I was planning to pick up The Song Rising, I made sure to re-read The Bone Season and The Mime Order first since it’s been a few months since I read them (ok, re-read them, I’m obsessed, what can I say?). I’m very grateful for that decision because it cemented in my head how much I love the second book, The Mime Order, and I definitely picked up on things in it that I must have just skimmed over when reading it for the first and second times. Third time’s a charm! If it wasn’t obvious… I completely recommend this series.

 

smoke3. What do you think you’ll read next?

If you saw my recent blog post about my TBR Jar project then you will have seen that I picked a book from there to read next, and that was Smoke by Dan Vyleta. I’ve been meaning to read it for months, the concept sounds super intriguing so, despite some not so favourable reviews, I’m going to give it a go asap. Because I’m incapable of just reading one thing at a time I’ll also probably be listening to the audiobook of either J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince or Clariel by Garth Nix. I’m feeling a little bit neglectful of my classics too so I may (and it’s a very big “may”) pick up something extra like Emma by Jane Austen or something Dickens (super specific, I know, but hey I have many to choose from!). I don’t do monogamous reading, as you might have realised.

Ok, that’s all the time we’ve got, folks  I hope you enjoyed this insight into my current reads. Do you have a WWW Wednesday post of your own? Please link it below if so (or answer in the comments), I’d love to hear your responses.
Have you read any of the books I mentioned – how did you like (or not like) them?
Until next time – happy reading!


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Victorian October #victober | My TBR

Throughout October a readathon is happening called Victorian October or #victober if you’d like to use the catchy hashtag. Much like Ronseal, it does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s a readathon in which people will be reading works of literature from the Victorian period. By Victorian we are meaning works written between 1837 and 1901, and primarily by British and Irish authors or those who lived in Britain in that time. Quite foolishly, I am deciding late in the game to join in with this little event.

I first heard of this readathon from Katie from Books and Things’ video announcing the readathon back at the start of September and I did scribble down something in my calendar then, a note which I promptly forgot until right this second! The hosts are the aforementioned Katie from Books and ThingsAgne from Beyond the PagesAlysia from exlibrisYamini from TheSkepticalReader and Kate Howe, a group of lovely ladies whose videos you should definitely go and check out, particularly if you do enjoy Victorian literature.

So, after scrambling around my still packed boxes of books (there are a lot of them, in my defence), I have put together a tentative TBR for this month’s reading, aided by the challenges set by the readathon hosts. I’ve kept my list fairly short and low-key, simply because I would like to have the time to also read other non-Victorian novels that I have already committed to reading in October. So, let’s see how ambitious I am being…

Challenges

1. Read a Victorian novel in a week
2. Read a Victorian Gothic novel
3. Read a Victorian novel by a female author
4. Read a work of Victorian literature that isn’t a novel (i.e. non-fiction, poetry, plays)
5. Read a Victorian novel that has a plot or scheme afoot

I love these challenges – particularly number 5! – but I will be probably doubling up on some of them, simply because, as I said, I have a lot of things to get round to over the course of the next few weeks. My tentative TBR pile looks a little like this…

My TBRimg_0951

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde – challenge 4
The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens – challenge 1/2
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte – challenge 3
Sherlock Holmes stories (A Study in Scarlet or Adventures of Sherlock Holmesby Arthur Conan Doyle – challenge 4/5


That was my hopeful TBR for #victober.
Are you also participating in Victorian October this month?
If not, do you enjoy Victorian literature?
Comment below, I’d love to chat all things Victorian!


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T5W | Favourite First Sentences

Welcome one, welcome all, to ‘Emma Remembers Top 5 Wednesdays Exists And Decides To Join In’… again. Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme/challenge which was created by the wonderful Lainey from gingereadslainey and is now overseen by the equally lovely Sam from Thoughts of Tomes. Every Wednesday, participants devise their Top 5 based on a given topic. This Wednesday’s theme is Favourite First Sentences. As we all know, first sentences do a lot to sell a book to a new reader. They are an author’s chance to really grab the reader and suck them into the world they have created. Because of this, my favourite first sentences are often ones which instantly highlight the weird or wonderful story that is about to unfold in front of my very eyes.

Confession time: I am a fiend for browsing those ‘top 100 first lines of novels’ lists that you often get on book sites (I’ve linked some at the bottom of this post), to the point where I collect opening lines. I might end up with a first sentence in my collection which I adore because it sets up a story so wonderfully, even if I didn’t end up loving the story that follows. Likewise, some of my favourite books only have so-so opening lines in comparison. So, whilst some of these first lines are on the list because they are the opening lines of some of my favourite books, others on this list are just damn good first lines. Since this is quite long enough already, I’ll just let the lines speak for themselves instead of rambling on about why I picked them – if you’re curious though, comment below and I’d be happy to explain my reasoning.

Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t simply pick five so, instead, I offer up 4 different lists which contain my top 5 first sentences from… Shakespeare plays, classics, modern/contemporary novels, and books I have yet to read – hopefully you enjoy a good list as much as I do, since I’ve given you four of them!

Enough explanation, let’s go…

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