Monday 7 July 2014

What I've Been Reading

Since Sam was born I've been reading like a demon, mostly because there's very little else I can do at 3am while he decides to feed for 2 hours (other than play Kingdoms and Lords on my phone...) and I've been meaning to get around to writing full reviews for everything but it's been two weeks and increasingly it seems like it's unlikely to happen, so I've given up and am just going to write little mini reviews of all of them in one post. Here goes! 

 First up, Mr Penumbra's 24 -Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane. I was reading this at my last clinic appointment before having Sam. Usually clinic is quite prompt so I'd only brought this one fairly small book which I was pretty far through and lo and behold, this was the day they were inexplicably running an hour late. Having finished the book after fifteen minutes I had nothing to do but sit there watching the incredibly disturbing videos they like to show expectant mothers about why you should never leave your child unattended in the bath and the importance of rear-facing car seats... Not the funnest trip ever, but I did really enjoy the book, which I'm glad about as opinion was divided when I started it! Clay Jannon starts working as the night clerk of a 24 hour bookstore after losing his job as a designer for a bagel company, and pretty soon he realises that it's not just an ordinary bookstore. Things progress from there and it reminded me a little bit of Scarlett Thomas's writing in The End of Mr Y and a little bit of The Historian and lots of other good things. Overall I enjoyed it, although I wasn't quite as blown away by it as I'd expected to be and to be honest I did find the ending a little bit of a letdown, but I really loved all of the characters and generally the plot was really well paced and pretty gripping. If you're planning on reading it already, I would definitely say go ahead :-) 

I was actually reading Using the Plot by Paul Merrett while sitting around the induction bay at the hospital, as a way of distracting myself from all the mindless crap they show on ITV in the daytime. I honestly think I went into labour just to avoid having to watch any more Jeremy Kyle or Loose Women. Urgh. Anyway, the book is really interesting. Lots of you will know about my adoration of shopping local, growing your own and the overall idea of self-sufficiency and the premise of this book is that Merret (who is a Michelin star awarded chef) and his family will have an allotment and live solely from the produce of the allotment, without visiting any supermarkets at all, for a year. Mostly, it's about how that fails, but it's an interesting look at the realities of maintaining an allotment, especially with kids who mostly don't want to be there and wife who is varyingly supportive, and the difficulties of actually being fully self-sufficient, especially with the British weather being as unpredictable as it is. It also has the massive appeal of being half recipe book, which was a major draw for me. Not as good as Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but interesting if you're interested in this kind of thing, and particularly if your parents happen to live in Ealing, up the road from where Merrett has his allotment!

Of everything I've read, Tell the Wolves I'm Home is the one which deserves its' own review. I've tried - there's a paragraph sitting in my drafts which has been there for nearly two weeks - and I've reached the conclusion that it's just not going to happen. Much as there is loads I could say about this book, I can't make it form a coherent review, so here we are. A lot of people told me I would love this book and that I would cry, and they were right. I nearly got away without crying, but then something happened right at the end and it got me. Anyway, it's set in 1987 which is, coincidentally, the year I was born, and is pretty much a story about AIDS, but it's incredibly beautifully written. The relationships between the characters are really well thought out and pretty intense and within the novel so much hurt and damage is caused by people who don't understand and won't talk openly about the subject because it's so taboo. The importance of telling kids the truth and discussing difficult subjects with them is one I've been thinking about a lot recently and Tell the Wolves I'm Home really brought home the importance of communication as well as the complexity of love. Seriously amazing, everybody should read it. 

And finally, I got Little Beach Street Bakery in my Ninja Book Swap parcel from Kelly of Paper Obsessed and read it in two days. I've read and loved both of Jenny Colgan's Cupcake Cafe books as well as both the Rosie Hopkins books and The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, so it was a pretty good bet that I was going to enjoy the latest of her food -orientated 'woman finds herself alone, decides to make the most of it and start a business venture, thus finding talent and strength she didn't know she had' books. Although Little Beach Street Bakery was pretty predictable in terms of storyline, there was a little twist I wasn't expecting, and the writing was as engrossing and enjoyable as always. All in all it was exactly what I was expecting it to be, and the perfect read for recovering from childbirth! 

So that's everything I've been reading lately. I also started reading Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon, which is what Outlander is published as in the UK, but I found it quite difficult to get into and then I realised I'd run up another huge library fine, so it's gone back for the time being but I'm sure I'll give it another go at some point!

What's everyone else been up to while I've been absent? 


  1. I really liked Mr Penumbra, so am glad you enjoyed it, and Tell The Wolves I'm Home was one of my top reads of last year. I discovered it at just the right time. I think I want to reread my "favourites" shelf but there are so many books waiting to be read. This year I have bought, borrowed or otherwise acquired 50 books, and that's not including those swiped from the family library. I would like to give the Diana Gabaldon books a go but they are a bit intimidating in size and I really can't be 'avin' with the mushy stuff. I'm trying to be a bit more tolerant of romance as you can't get very far in the world of story without it, but I fear I am a bitter old maid. I think Cross Stitch/Outlander will stay on my "maybe some day" list for a while to come.

  2. Ooh I loved Mr. Penumbra. It's such a quirk book - and perfect for waiting rooms :-)

    Tanya Patrice

  3. Awww, I love this with the where you read them, and at what points in your baby having :) I cried SO MUCH during Tell The Wolves I'm Home that I can't even deal with it. I love it so much, but I was HARROWED! *sniffles*

  4. It's been two weeks since you've read a book and you haven't written a review? Amateur :p Talk to me when you're three months behind, haha!

    Speaking of, I need to write my review of Tell The Wolves I'm Home as well. I did like it, I think, but it was very emotionally manipulative.

  5. I made the horrible mistake of reading "Tell The Wolves I'm Home" on the plane and ended up sniffling all the way to my destination because I couldn't stop thinking about it. I can't wait to read Penumbra!