Hello dear readers, you may have notice that there have not been any new posts here for a while – and I must apologise for that. Getting married took over my life, and I have just returned from our two-week honeymoon – and life hasn’t got any less busy! I am still reading away, and making notes for reviews, but I just haven’t organised myself in the last few weeks to post reviews. BUT there are some in the works and I plan to return to posting next week. Upcoming reviews include:
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Labyrinths by Catrine Clay (a biography of Emma Jung)
Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh (brand new second novel from an author I love, out in July)
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart
I’m still reading all your lovely blogs, and am still over on Twitter @lizzi_risch (my new name!), and I will back to reviewing next week.
I’m sure you have now heard about WWW Wednesday (even I know about it), but to recap, this is what it entails – you must post about three books:
What you most recently finished reading
What you are currently reading
What you will read next
Here are mine!
What I recently finished reading: Young and Damned and Fair: The Life and Tragedy of Catherine Howard at the Court of Henry VIII by Gareth Russell
This was the second biography of Catherine Howard that I have read this year, and it really was excellent. I am currently planning a blog about this and the other biography (by Josephine Wilkinson).
What I am currently reading: The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown
This was sent to me by Penguin for review, and I’d wanted to read it for a while. It’s an interesting take on a well-known story and historical figure (Matthew Hopkins) and so far it is very engaging. Review to come!
What I will read next: Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym
Another review copy from Penguin, which also looks intriguing. I love a bit of narrative non-fiction and this looks like the sort of unusual memoir that I will enjoy.
I am pleased to say I have finally finished reading Gareth Russell’s wonderful book about Catherine Howard, Young and Damned and Fair. It took me about a month to read, which is a long time for me, but it was so worth it. I am now planning a blog post about it in conjunction with Josephine Wilkinson’s book on Catherine that I finished in January. They are two very different books about the same woman and I think it will be really interesting to do a bit of a contrast and compare.
I also have two other books to review that I have read this year: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, and Labyrinths by Catrine Clay, which is a biography of Emma Jung, wife of Carl. These were two of the most interesting books that I have read recently, and reviews of them will soon be up!
Another review that will soon be up – it’s currently in drafts! – is See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt. This book has been creating rather a lot of buzz, and is out in early May. [Update: this review is now up here.]
As for books I am about to read, there are far too many of course, but these are the ones I am most looking forward to:
These are books that I actually have copies of, so they are all I am going to include for now (the first four were kindly sent to me by Penguin, and the last three were purchases). There are way more on my GoodReads TBR that I am desperate to read, but until I actually have copies of them it feels too immaterial (literally) to commit to saying I will read them soon!
So there you have it – these are the books you can look forward to hearing about here on the blog and on my Twitter feed.
I’ve only participated in WWW Wednesday once before, and that was ages ago, so I felt like giving it another try. The idea is to post three things:
What you most recently finished reading
What you are currently reading
What you will read next
Hence ‘WWW’! So here goes:
What I recently finished reading: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I read this last month after having meant to read it for years, and I’m glad I finally did. I was spurred on by the upcoming TV adaptation, and also by the fact that this mad dystopia seems oddly relevant these days, especially in the States… my review is here.
What I am currently reading: Labyrinths: Emma Jung, her Marriage to Carl, and the Early Years of Psychoanalysis by Catrine Clay
I am almost at the end of this book and have loved it so far. I knew nothing about Emma Jung before I read it, and she has turned out to be an engaging and fascinating character. I would recommend this to anyone interested in the field and period. You can see the book on GoodReads here.
What I’m going to read next: The Good People by Hannah Kent
I loved Hannah Kent’s first novel, Burial Rites, and so when I heard she had a new book coming out I just knew I had to read it. This one has a similarly beautiful cover, and I think it will be just as fascinating and wonderful as its predecessor. You can read more about it on GoodReads here.
So there you have it! What are you WWW Wednesday books?
I am pleased to announce that I am now part of the affiliate programme for Blackwell’s!
Blackwell’s are one of my favourite bookshops and the Oxford branch (just up the road from me) is an institution. The downstairs section, know as the Norrington Room, is the largest single room selling books in the world (!) and is also often the venue for their amazing in store events. They also organise events that are held around the city. Two of the best I have been to were ‘An Evening With’ type things with two of my favourite authors – Sarah Waters and Donna Tartt. Both events were held in the beautiful Divinity School, which is next to the Bodleian LIbrary, and is part of Oxford University.
I’ve added the Blacwell’s logo to the right hand side of the site (just scroll down a bit) so you can click through and browse some lovely books! I’ll also add a link to buy books at Blackwell’s at the end of reviews, along with Wordery and Foyles.
This is another overdue blog post, but one that I’ve really been looking forward to writing. I read 31 books in 2016, of varying quality, but overall it was a good reading year. I tried to branch out, accepting a total of eight review copies from publishers – which is a lot for me these days. Of these the highlights for me were (links go to my reviews):
The last of these is not out until May 2017, so my review will come a little closer to the time. It was offered to me by Georgina Moore at Tinder Press and I am very glad I accepted. It is a wonderful blend of crime fiction and historical fiction based on real events, coupled with multiple narrators (all unreliable) and some really beautiful writing. In case you didn’t know, it’s about Lizzie Borden, and I loved it. You can read more here. And just look at that beautiful cover!
I read a lot of history books in 2016, both fiction and non-fiction. One other historical novel I must highlight is The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell. I’d been intimidated by its length (over 900 pages) but finally gave it a go earlier in the year – and I was not disappointed. It is a fictional autobiography of a former Nazi officer which the author spent five years researching, and it is one of the best novels I have ever read. Not only is it brilliantly written but it is deeply philosophical and challenging, and I greatly admire Littell for somehow managing to write it.
I read a handful of other books about the Second World War and three of the best were written by and about women, real women of the War who faced huge challenges and trials but who remained strong and determined throughout. The first of these was Gone to Ground by Marie Jalowicz Simon. The book is a compilation of her stories (recorded on tape and put together by her son) from her time living in Berlin during the War as a Jewish woman. She lived ‘underground’, in hiding, using an alias and constantly moving. It is one of the most remarkable books I have ever read. Similarly, I also read A Woman in Berlin. It is an anonymous account of the last few months of the War by a German woman living in Berlin. She is not persecuted as Jalowicz Simon was, but her whole life is destroyed and she suffers immensely. It is a harrowing but necessary book and shows the cost of the War on ordinary German people that often gets overlooked. I read these two books close together and wrote about them in one blog post (linked above) and they have really stuck with me. I think they are vital reading for anyone considering the experience of women in Europe during the Second World War.
Another book that fits into that category is If This is a Woman by Sarah Helm. It’s a massive book so I waited until it was out in paperback before I read it, the delay making my expectations quite high – and they were all met. It is the first book dedicated to the story of Ravensbrück, the only Nazi concentration camp built specifically for women, and it was one of the most incredible books I have ever come across. I had read If This is a Man by Primo Levi so I had some idea of what to expect; but of course each story is unique, and these women all had incredible stories. Sarah Helm is to be hugely admired and respected for telling these stories, for doing the research and making sure each name is mentioned, each life is honoured in some way. I will not soon forget this book. I should note that in America the title is simply Ravensbrück.
Towards the end of the year I wanted to branch out from history, and so I read The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson, which was just brilliant. I was already a fan of Jackson’s writing but I’d never actually read any of her short stories. Some of these are still quite fresh in my mind (least of all the title story) and I am desperate to read more. Luckily I was given two more volumes of her short stories for Christmas, so I have those to look forward to. These were Let Me Tell You and Dark Tales.
The other highlights of my reading year, which I don’t have space to write more about here, were:
I have enjoyed reading other ‘best of 2016’ posts – it was a good year for books – and I look forward to a great 2017 filled with marvellous things to read. I am on my second book of the year at the moment and frankly I am dying to get back to it, so I shall finish here. Happy 2017!
I try to read a mixture of old and new books, and often find myself reading ‘new’ books some time after they come out, purely because I always have so many books I want to read that I rarely get to read things when they are really new. Often I just get to look at other reviews and wish I didn’t have so many books to read! There are several books that I am really excited about reading in the next few months – some new and some not-so-new. Here are the ones I’m most looking forward to…
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
I loved Room but somehow didn’t feel the need to pick up Frog Music; but now Emma Donoghue’s new novel The Wonder really appeals to me. I know from reading Room that she is a wonderful writer, and this story is not like anything I have read before. Kim Forrester wrote a brilliant review of it here. Fingers crossed I’ll get to read it before Christmas!
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
This is coming out in May 2017 from Tinder Press, and I am really looking forward to it. It is a fictional take on the story of Lizzie Borden and the murder of her father and stepmother. She was acquitted of their murder but of course suspicion remains, and the story is fascinating. This looks like a really interesting and modern interpretation of the story, and I cannot wait to read it.
Labyrinths: Emma Jung, Her Marriage to Carl, and the Early Years of Psychoanalysis by Catrine Clay
I’ve always had a vague interest in psychology and psychoanalysis and the fact that this book focuses on Emma rather than Carl Jung really appeals to me. It just seems like another way of looking at a familiar story, and I hope it’ll be as interesting as it looks! It’s always a pleasure to read about wonderful women from history.
The Good People by Hannah Kent
Like many other readers, I loved Hannah Kent’s first novel Burial Rites. It really stuck with me and as soon as I heard she had written a second novel I knew I had to read it. The premise really interests me and I think it will be a great multi-layered book.
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin
I have read three of Jackson’s novels and have The Lottery and Other Stories on my shelf waiting to be read, so I just have to read this new biography of her. New PMC editions mean that Shirley Jackson is again popular, and I am so glad she is – her writing is some of the most beautiful and beguiling I have read in years. Luckily she also seems to have been a brilliant and intriguing person, so I’m really looking forward to this one.
I’d love to hear about books that you are looking forward to – there are always too many to read!
I’m focusing purely on reading at the moment, and I know it’ll be a week or so until my next review – so in the meantime I thought I’d share a ‘preview’ of what’s coming up, both in my reading and here on the blog.
I am about to finish reading the third book in the Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan – TheVoyage of the Basilisk. It’s just a wonderful as the previous two and goes even deeper into the dragon science as well as Lady Trent’s life and personality. As I’ve blogged about the two previous books separately, I plan to wait until I’ve read book four (In the Labyrinth ofDrakes) and then blog about that with The Voyage of the Basilisk in one post.
Two other books I will be combining into one post are Gone to Ground by Marie Jalowicz Simon and A Woman in Berlin. As you probably know these are both memoirs of being a woman, alone, in Berlin during the Second World War. They are both excellent books that made a deep impression on me – so much that I read them both a couple of months ago but still haven’t worked out how to write about them. But I am determined to do this in July.
As I mentioned recently, I have organised my TBR into reading lists arranged by topic/type of book. This has helped me to narrow down the list and focus on what I really want to read rather than what I might one day want to read, at some point.
To this end I have purchased two books from my new reading lists, and these will be my next reads: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O’Toole. These are two books that I’ve wanted to read for quite a while, and the news that The Glass Castle is being adapted into a film (starring the excellent Brie Larson) moved that one to the top of the list.
Beyond that, I will be dipping into The Madwoman in the Attic and reading it where I can – it’s so huge that I think I could be overwhelmed by it if I read it cover to cover with no breaks! Once I’ve read the Walls and O’Toole I’ll be choosing my next book from my new reading lists – at the moment I’m leaning towards Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew. I loved her as Captain Janeway in Voyager and am now watching Orange is the New Black, and this reminded me that I have wanted to read her memoir for a while. Or I might choose something from my Mental Health list…
You can see my reading lists here – plenty to choose from!
My post about Gone to Ground and A Woman in Berlin will be up by the end of this week.
I do indeed. Specifically for my feminism/women reading list. I have recently compiled reading lists of the books I most want to read out of the huge list I have on GoodReads, and realised that I actually don’t have that many on feminism/women/gender. This is an area that I find fascinating and I feel like I haven’t read enough on it.
Here is the list I have so far:
Animal by Sara Pascoe
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
I Call Myself a Feminist by Victoria Pepe
Girls Will be Girls by Emer O’Toole
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill
The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar (own a copy)
Gilbert and Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic after Thirty Years by Annette R. Federico and Sandra M. Gilbert (own a copy)
The Second Sex by Simone du Beauvoir (own a copy)
As you can see I’ve got a mix of classics and more modern stuff. Honestly I’d rather read more modern stuff (say, since 1980) so recommendations in that bracket would be very much appreciated!
Also I must ask that no one recommend Caitlin Moran to me – I have read two of her books and didn’t really get along with them… sorry.
I look forward to hearing about some amazing books!
Just a quick note to say I am now an affiliate for the amazing Wordery! I shop there quite a bit as I don’t always have time to get to Waterstone’s or Blackwell’s and I refuse to buy books from Amazon – and Wordery are just as efficient, have a wide selection of books, and excellent prices. You can create a wishlist to save future purchases, as well as post reviews of books you’ve read. The website is very easy to use, and the staff are very helpful if you need any support. Plus the books arrive quickly and in minimal but very protective packaging. Winner!
I will post a link at the end of blog posts that will lead you to the book page on Wordery. I am still an affiliate for Foyles, so now you have two amazing places online to buy your books from. Enjoy!