Image Map

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Recently Read: December & January

Not particularly recent, granted but here it is nonetheless. I actually read very little over Christmas due to general festive business and of course, work but I made up for it somewhat in January.
I read 72 books last year and completed a lot of personal reading challenges so I'll be doing something similar this year too, if and when I find the time!

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
I'm a big fan of Sarah Waters and was greatly anticipating the release of her latest historical fiction, The Paying Guests. The story focuses on spinster Frances and her mother, trying to maintain a large house after the death of the male members of the family in WW1. In order to make ends meet they do the unthinkable for women of their social standing and rent rooms in the house to lodgers, Leonard and Lillian Barber. The Barbers are not their "type" of people but Frances
ultimately falls into a dangerous intimacy with one of them that has terrible consequences. I did enjoy this book, as always it was well written with carefully developed characters that were realistic, with the flaws and idiosyncrasies we all have.
Parts of this were hard to read; when something untoward happened I could often find myself giving out to the characters for acting foolishly and I also found that the incredibly narrowed choices available to women at the time were described well in the book. A word of warning though if you're getting this on audio, there's a few explicit scenes throughout the book that left me a little red-faced whilst walking down the street! Otherwise, a good but somewhat drawn out read.

Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty
This was touted as one of the biggest thrillers of last year so I was eager to give it a try. Apple Tree Yard is about Yvonne, a very successful scientist, happily married with two grown up children. In spite of this and against her best judgement, Yvonne begins a passionate affair with a man she knows little about, other than a hint that he works for the secret service. It sounds implausible but as it's told from Yvonne's perspective it's more about her thoughts so makes sense somehow. It moves along fairly slowly until a major catalyst about halfway through the book that I was completely unprepared for and to be honest, found quite disturbing.
So, *SPOILER ALERT* but there is a graphic rape scene in this novel that I wish I'd known about beforehand as I may not have picked it up otherwise. From there on out I felt queasy reading the rest of the book, as it was about rape and it's aftermath, told by a rape victim, basically. And told very well at that; the reason why it was so hard to read was how believable it was. I completely empathised with her character and wanted her to get out of danger but it just kept getting worse.
This isn't a pleasant read and it's something I could have done without but having said that, it is undoubtedly well written and certainly a captivating thriller and it touches on aspects of feminism that I found interesting.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Right, cards on the table. I didn't actually finish this. I tried, God knows I tried but I've been through far too much at this stage of my life to put myself through anything else, willingly at least. I previously read and really enjoyed two of Rowell's YA books; Fangirl and Eleanor and Park so I was expecting good things from this non-YA novel. My first mistake was buying it on audio because somehow that made it far, far worse. Although, as it transpired, my first mistake was buying this at all. 
This is the story of Georgie and Neal, a somewhat unhappily married couple with two young children. Georgie works as a comedy writer for a popular sitcom while Neal does most of the child-rearing. Her job increasingly keeps her away from home until she misses Christmas with her family. Neal takes the kids away to his parents for the holidays and while they're away, Georgie discovers that she can contact the Neal she first met from ten years ago via the old telephone in her bedroom in her mother's house. Now, that concept I can get on board with. However, Georgie is an incredibly boring character. For a comedy writer, she's zero craic. Neal is similarly dull; he's sullen and irritating most times and for the life of me I can't see what anyone would see in him. The book is comprised of pointless conversations between the two of them that seem to add to the storyline in NO WAY WHATSOEVER. When she manages to remember that she has children and gives them a call on a normal phone, we're treated (repeatedly) to this conversation with one of her kids, who I should point out, is able to speak without any difficulty, just chooses to say "Miaow" on the phone:

Georgie: "Hi Numi (seriously)".
Numi: "Miaow, Mommy"
Georgie: "What kind of cereal are you eating?"
Numi: "Miaow Miaow, Mommy".

And not just once, oh no. That particular style of conversation is feckin' peppered throughout the book. It's as if her editor rang her up and was all "Rainbow, you're short about 200 words. Can you throw in some more mindless garbage to fill the space?" 
Sweet Suffering Jesus. I almost threw my phone into the canal more than once. 
Do not read this book. 
Save yisserselves.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
I got this in the kindle sale after Christmas and was delighted with myself as it's been on my to-read list for a while now. Laura Bates runs the Everyday Sexism site and has collated thousands of comments from women all over the world of the abuse, harassment, assault and everyday sexism they have faced as a direct result of their gender and reproduced them in this book. If it sounds like grim reading, then it is and I could only read this in 10% bursts at a time. That said, it is also an excellent read. The anecdotal evidence from women is mixed nicely with statistics and research so you get a full picture of the problem that many would rather ignore. The book is divided into chapters highlighting a particular issue; gender and politics, domestic violence, sexism and how it affects men, double discrimination (ethnicity, sexual orientation), eating disorders etc. I generally think I''m quite aware of how prevalent sexism is, based on everything I read about it on a daily basis, but I found myself slack-jawed at times reading some of these women's experiences and shaking my head sadly at some of the statistics. For the most part it is extremely depressing to think what an almost insurmountable obstacle lays ahead for feminists to overcome but the last chapter discusses inroads that have already been made and left me feeling a lot lighter, I have to admit. Well worth a read, especially for anyone who has ever exclaimed "but do we really need feminism anymore?". The answer is YES by the way, in case you were wondering. You big eejit.

A Nightingale Christmas Wish by Donna Douglas
Lookit, I know, these books are never going to win the Booker prize but they're fun and my brain can switch off when I'm reading them so I don't care. Ok?! This is the most recent of the Nightingale books and takes us up to the beginning of WW2. We meet new students and are reintroduced to old favourites and overall it's just a nice pleasant, retro read. It's also the least Christmassy book ever. Christmas and New Years probably cover about two chapters and that's it. I think the next one is out this year, which I'm already looking forward too, sad sap that I am. 

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 9, issues 1&2.
As I mentioned already, I was given this whole series plus the start of season 10 for Christmas so I've been getting stuck in since then. The first episode sees the gang coping with the after effects of Buffy ridding the world of magic (Willow in particular is suffering), which has altered how vampires become creatures of the night. Buffy is living in San Francisco, working in a coffee shop and trying to be normal with new flatmates while also still being a slayer. There is an excellent storyline where she faces  *SPOILER ALERT* a crisis pregnancy and has to weigh up her options that felt quite realistic in a very unrealistic world. The second episode carries on that storyline but takes it somewhere ridiculous that ruined it somewhat for me. I was all "FOR REAL?!" etc. Anyway, that aside so far I'm loving this season; wonderful drawings, great monsters, all the Buffy wit and SPIKE!! Huzzah!

What have you been reading lately?


  1. I haven't read a single one of these! I'm reading an uncomfortable book now so definitely won't be picking up Apple Tree Yard any time soon, I don't mind feeling uneasy when reading but I do think it's a different kind of feeling when it's an assault and you know it's coming but they don't :( Great selection x

    1. Yeah I agree. I don't shy away from books with serious content, but I try and avoid films/tv shows with graphic rape scenes and the same with books. Often times it's used in quite an exploitative way and I don't like that. I had no idea that it featured in this book as it was in none of the reviews or descriptions of the book so it came as quite a shock, especially as it was so graphic.

  2. I wish I'd read this before I put myself through Landline! I struggled on because it was all I had left on my Kindle. The Paying Guest is on my list too.

    Emma | Fluff and Fripperies