Book of the Week

Book of the Week: The World’s Wife

I’m a bit off-piste with this week’s BotW choice – because it’s poems.  It’s not the first poetry to be BotW- because Sarah Crossan’s One was free verse – but Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife is the first poetry collection to get the nod from me.

Copy of The World`s Wife
My copy of the World’s Wife -it isn’t the latest edition which I think is prettier.

The World’s Wife is a collections of poems about the women behind famous men, or in some cases changes famous men into famous women.  It’s on the AS level syllabus these days – I think my sister studied it, although I got stuck with Wordsworth back in my day – so I’m not going to pretend to any profound knowledge or insight.  In fact I feel like I need to read them again already, with whatever the modern equivalent of York Notes is to help me get the most out of them.  But I enjoyed reading them – and I’ve been off down the internet rabbit hole afterwards to find out who some of the men I didn’t know were.

I have studied Carol Ann Duffy though – at GCSE.  In the big orange English Anthology, as well as Poems from Other Cultures and Traditions, there was a selection of poems from 3 poets – Simon Armitage, Ted Hughes and Duffy – and you had to study one of them.  Carol Ann Duffy was the one we had to do.  Towards the end of our two years, a local theatre held a GCSE poetry day – with a selection of the featured poets on stage reading from their works and answering questions.  And Ms Duffy was one of them – she read a few poems (I can’t remember which) and was generally very tolerant of 1400 teenagers’ questions she’d probably heard a hundred times before*.  My friend’s question wasn’t answered and at the interval, she wanted to see if she could get an answer, so dragging me with her, we scoured the theatre for the green room, and found it and waited for Ms Duffy.  My friend was much braver than me and she did all the talking, but Ms Duffy was friendly and gracious towards the two of us – and we even ended up with an address to write to her if we had any more questions.  I kept the scrap of paper it was written on for years – although I’ve lost it now – and have never forgotten my brush with the now Poet Laureate.

*Not all of the others were!

 

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: August 21 – August 28

Ok, so I’ve actually read more this week than this list suggests – as I did another round of 50 pages and out (see Book Pile post) and got another half dozen books or so off the pile.

Read:

The Venetian Venture by Suzette A Hill

The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander

Ready to Were by Robyn Peterman

The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders

A Leader in the Chalet School by Elinor M Brent Dyer

Herring in the Library by L C Tyler

The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy

Started:

A Kim Jong-Il Production by Paul Fischer

Crazy for You by Jennifer Crusie

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

Still reading:

n/a

I bought a stack of second hand Chalet School books while I was in York visiting my little sister – and the new (well newly rereleased) Trisha Ashley book.  But other than that I was very good.  Honest.  Apart from 3 books in the charity shop.  Oops.  But that was before the second phase of the cull.  I’ll be better now…

books, The pile

Book pile rationalisation

A Bank Holiday weekend bonus post for you – on my recent “rationalisation” of the to-be-read pile.  When I was little, when mum wanted us to have a tidy up and clear out of our rooms, she would call it a rationalisation.  I think this was mostly because Little Sister and I were extremely loath to throw anything away, so if we thought that we’d have to we’d kick up a stink.  But a rationalisation was different (or so my mum said) we were just looking to make sure we had what we needed – no duplication etc.  She’s cunning my mum.  Thus a clear out for me is always called a rationalisation.  It sounds less scary, less final – more productive.

So my to-read pile has got a little out of hand – even for me, so on a recent Saturday night, after I’d finished the book that I was reading I had a round of the 50 pages and out reading challenge to help get the to-read bookshelf down.  The challenge is fairly self-explanatory – you give a book 50 pages – and if you’re not hooked or don’t care by that point you can give it up and put it on the charity shop pile.  Some of the books didn’t need 50 pages.  This doesn’t mean that they’re bad books, it just means they’re not for me.  Often it means they come under the “Verity tries to kid herself that she’ll read literary fiction” banner.  Because we all know that if given a choice, I’ll go for romance, or crime, or historical fiction, or comic fiction over award winning books.  You’ve seen my Week in Books posts, you know the score.

A pile of books
Some of the 50-pages and out victims – nothing wrong with them, just not for me.

Then I took to the piles behind the sofa.  I did this while The Boy was at work, so he couldn’t see how bad it had got.  I have a magpie’s eye for books.  I’m always picking up more and I have various different sources for them – many are second hand, or review copies – so I often haven’t paid anywhere near jacket price for them.*  I yank them all out, inspect what’s there, hope there aren’t any duplicates in the pile (it has happened) and then have a weed.  What literary fiction have I picked up thinking “I’ll read that some day” and then ignored in favour of pretty much everything else?  Which books are in there by an author that I’ve got fed up of or have overdosed on?  Which ones would I take on holiday with me to read, and then end up ignoring them in favour of the Kindle all week?*** Which are later books in series that I could read if only I pulled my finger out and read the earlier ones?  Which have been sitting in that pile for ages, not getting moved onto the to-read bookshelf because there’s always something I fancy more?  Which, if I’m being really very honest with myself, am I never going to get around to?

I’m not good at this part.  But I don’t have time to give all of these 50 pages.  I keep make a new pile of candidates for the 50-pages and out challenge – the ones where there is a realistic chance that I’ll like them enough to keep reading –  and give that a prime spot near the front of the sofa arm..  But some, after careful consideration, I move straight to the charity shop bag.   Then I reform the piles – trying to move some of the older stuff to the top, to sort it into genres and sizes and hide it all behind the sofa again.

A bag of books in front of a bookshelf
One bag of books in front of the to read shelf after the sofa pile cull. The photos meant to be arty…

I hate admitting that I won’t read some of these books, that my eyes are too big for my stomach in book terms.  But having a rationalisation does usually put the brakes on my aquisitions a little bit because I feel so guilty about the big stack of stuff that’s still waiting to be read.  I could – in a very real sense – keep myself stocked up for books for months without having to buy any more, but we all know I don’t have that will power.  So I sort, I give the excess to one of a series of charity shops I like around town, and then I make an effort to try and read from the pile for a few weeks.  Or that’s the idea at any rate…

 

*Which is obviously a good thing or I’d be wasting money hand over fist,** which wouldn’t be good.

**I do sometimes wonder if the to-read pile would be any better if I did have to pay for all my books, and then I remember that when I moved to Essex I took 7 books with me, and when I moved back to Northamptonshire 3 years later I brought nearly 80 back with me – and that was after having held a cull before moving and having got rid of some as I went a long.  So having to pay full price doesn’t stop the book acquisition – even when (as I was at that point) I have a *very* tight budget.

*** It happens.  I take something literary fiction-y on holiday with me to force myself to read it, and then I end up ignoring it in favour of the kindle – reading backlog or buying more books in series – and then bring it home, unread, but well travelled.

Book of the Week

Book of the Week: American Housewife

I know. I know. This is a day late. And I’m sorry. It’s been one of those weeks. Work has been quietly bonkers, I’ve been exhausted and time got away from me. Rather than rush something out to keep to schedule, I thought I’d take the extra time and do it properly.

So the BotW is Helen Ellis’s short story collection, American Housewife. These a a series of deliciously dark and funny bite-sized  tales, which I mostly read before bed. I’m not a massive short story reader, but they do make good bedtime reading because they have good obviously stopping places. And while these blackly humorous, there’s nothing here that’s going to give you nightmares. That said, Ellis doesn’t give you all the answers, some stories have distinctly ambiguous endings. Or even ambiguous middles.

Copy of American Housewife
I love the cover design – so simple and striking but appropriate for the book

I think my favourite story was the email war between two New York neighbours over their shared hallway. Or maybe the instructions on how to be a patron of the arts. Or the very unusual book club. Basically, there’s a lot of good stories here and I’m spoilt for choice.

If you fancy dipping your toe in the short story pond, this would be a very good place to start. And if you’re a short story fan, this should definitely be on your list. In fact I’d be surprised if it isn’t already. It is a hardback at the moment – and you’ll probably need to look in a proper bookshop for this (ie not the supermarket) or you can order it from Amazon, Waterstones and Foyles. It’s also available on Kindle and Kobo – at the much friendlier price of £2.99 at time of writing.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: August 15 – August 21

So I had a bit of a rationalisation this week.  A couple of books are gone from the long serving list because I decided I didn’t want to finish them.  A few more are gone from the pile and not mentioned on here at all because I started them and didn’t like them.  I still have more to do to get the pile under control, but I’m working on it.

Read:

Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich

A Mint Condition Corpse by Duncan MacMaster

Death of Liar by MC Beaton

Thursday’s Children by Rumer Godden

Dead White Female by Lauren Henderson

American Housewife by Helen Ellis

The Man on Top of the World by Vanessa Clark

Started:

The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders

The Venetian Venture by Suzette A Hill

Still reading:

n/a

In the spirit of dealing with the pile, I’ve been very restrained this week – I didn’t buy any new paperbacks at all – and my kindle acquisition was a freebie.  I’m working on being better…

Book of the Week, children's books, Young Adult

Book of the Week: Carry On

I know it isn’t that long since I had Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl as BotW, but I loved this so much I couldn’t not pick Carry On – the book about the characters that Cath was writing about in Fangirl.  But you don’t need to have read Fangirl to understand Carry On as they’re separate entities – and there’s no cross over (or at least I didn’t notice any) between the story of this and the fan-fiction that Cath wrote in Fangirl (Rowell has said that this is Canon not fan fic).

So good that I read it on the train at 4.30 in the morning.
Paperback copy of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

So, Simon Snow is returning to Watford School of Magicks for his final year.  But his girlfriend has broken up with him, his mentor wants to move him to safety away from the school and his roommate-cum-arch-nemesis hasn’t turned up – which Simon would be loving except that he’s a bit worried about him.  Then there’s the ghosts that keep turning up and the fact that the Evil Magic that’s trying to destroy the world (and particularly Simon) is still out there.

Now if this sounds a bit familiar to you, in Fangirl the Simon Snow series had a similar sort of world impact that the Harry Potter series did/does – so yes, it’s about a school for Wizards, and a Chosen One and his friends.  But it’s also not the same.  Magic works differently, the Baddie is different and the general dynamic is different and it’s not going to all work out the same (I don’t think that’s a spoiler).  As I was reading this I was reminded of how much I loved the Harry Potter series when it first came out, and how much fun there is to be had from a YA series about a Chosen One and which doesn’t feature a dystopian future world where everything has gone to pot.  And its been hard to find books like this – or at least I’ve found it hard.

I raced through this – reading pretty much 400 pages of it in practically one sitting (I stopped for dinner and Olympics) because I wanted to know what happened.  I suspect Harry fans may have a love/hate relationship with it – I wouldn’t describe myself as a super passionate fan* but I really liked it.  In fact I wish there were more books about Simon and Baz and their time at the school.  It did what I want an adventure-y thriller-y book for children/youngadults to do – it has a strong core group of characters with strengths and weaknesses (who compliment each other but also don’t always agree), who have challenges to overcome.  There is peril and adults are around but some of them are the problem and the rest might not be able to fix it.

I can’t guarantee that if you like Harry Potter you’ll like this, but equally I don’t think you have to like Harry to give this a try – if you like chosen one stories, quest stories, adventure stories then this one may well be for you.  And it should be everywhere.  My copy came from Tesco, but it’s also on Amazon, Kindle, Waterstones, Foyles, and Kobo.

*I own all the books (some in German and French as well), I reread Azkhaban fairly regularly and the other early books to a lesser extent, but don’t reread the end ones as much.  I’ve seen most of the films (but not the last one), I haven’t bought the script for Cursed Child, but I have tried to buy tickets to see it and I haven’t been to any Harry theme parks or attractions.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: August 8 – August 14

Romance, crime and magic appear to be the themes of last week’s reading – and I didn’t even realise that I was doing it!  Some of the stories below were not full length novels, so I didn’t quite read as much as the list might suggest – although at over 500 pages Carry On might make up for that a bit!

Read:

What I Did For A Duke by Julie Anne Long

Rivers of London: Night Witch 3 by Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel

Police at the Funeral by Margery Allingham

A Right Honorable Gentleman by Courtney Milan

So Sweet by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Play With Me by Alisha Rai

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Started:

American Housewife by Helen Ellis

Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich

Still reading:

The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink

The Man on Top of the World by Vanessa Clark

I bought two books at the charity shop – for 75p altogether – they’re American editions of Old School Romances and you don’t see them very often so I had to have them!