Monday, 1 February 2016

Things I Read In January

I said I'd do it and I'm doing it and here is the thing. Here are the things I read in January that I'm not going to write longer reviews for (the things that I am going to write longer reviews for are incoming too, just you wait!)

Song of Susannah- Stephen King
In the spirit of all Stephen King novels so far, Imma review this one properly. But in short: I've been thinking about it and it might just be my least favourite novel in The Dark Tower series, even though I didn't feel like that about it until I re-read it. But we'll discuss that later *nods conspiratorially*

Moominvalley in November- Tove Jansson
Believe it or not, I actually started reading Moominvalley in November in, you know, November. Considering the fact that it's a children's book and a whopping 158 pages long, I think you'll understand me when I say that I really haven't been setting aside actual time to read until this month. Anyway. I've been trying to read the moomin books because I feel bad just loving their physical form but not really knowing their tales, and this was a bad one to start with because it has no moomins, just their absence and what it means and how it feels for the other residents of moominvalley. Which, to be fair, was an interesting and growing experience for many of the characters in this book but I wanted slightly more of moomin being adventurous and slightly less of characters I didn't really know having learning experiences. Still, it's more philosophical than your average children's book, and worthy of being read in a shorter timescale than two months.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World Series- Bryan Lee O'Malley
Scott Pilgrim really deserves a full post considering how much I enjoyed the comic book series, but, you know, I'm a terrible human. That actually leads me in really well to these 6 volumes because Scott Pilgrim is kind of a terrible human, but actually also you root for him and want him to win always? I'm being really non-descriptive of the plot because I (almost definitely erroneously) believe that everyone has seen the movie (which I also kinda love) but essentially Scott Pilgrim, who is broke and totally unemployed, but in a band, falls in love with this girl, Ramona, and has to defeat her seven evil exes if he wants to be with her. THAT, though, I think, is really just a cover for a look at the aimlessness of life in ones early twenties these days and the struggle to figure out what anyone is doing, or supposed to be doing, and oh man can I relate. Nobody mention the fact that I'm in my mid-late twenties, ok? 

The point, anyway: It's a solid story, I really liked the art, the characters are so great (even if you kind of hate them) and I read all 6 books in about 3 days, even though I definitely had loads of other stuff I had to do. Special mention to Bex for lending them to me, be nice to her and maybe she'll lend you some books someday too!

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant- Anne Tyler
I only heard about Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant because it was on one of those lists of 'books that are amazing but kinda forgotten' (obviously the exact title) and, honestly, I'm pretty glad I found that list. It's not exactly an amazingly intricate plot or anything, but in the way of literary fiction the characters are so wonderful and human that I honestly felt that I was reading a real family chronicle (except I don't think anyone is that honest about their feelings) instead of fiction. In the way of truly excellent fiction, as well, it helped me understand things about myself that I didn't even know I felt, and whilst that's obviously a personal reaction to literature, it doesn't mean that it won't move you too, and even if it doesn't, you've still got a novel about a family trying to hold themselves together through everything, everything being life in a general sense. 

The Handmaid's Tale- Margaret Atwood
Reading The Handmaid's Tale was genuinely one of the reasons I started this blog, because I read a book that shook my core so dramatically, and I didn't really have anyone to talk to about it. Since I started this a couple of months after that, though, I never reviewed it here ever, and so now (or in a little bit) is the time for doing that, I think. In short form, though- this is one of my favourite books, one of my favourite dystopias, and should be required reading for everyone who doesn't think feminism is necessary anymore.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire- JK Rowling
My first, my last, my everything. Obviously as great as it has always been, still my favourite book of the series.

Station Eleven- Emily St John Mandel
I feel like I deceived you slightly by saying I was going to let the books from January go, because I definitely feel the need to write a full review of Station Eleven. I can't escape the love of dystopias, ok guys, and this one is truly spectacular. Just hold on for some more interesting thoughts, I promise they'll be good.

Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World- Haruki Murakami
I started off kind of hating this book, but in the end I'm almost at the point of calling it my favourite Murakami? Here's the deal- unlike other Murakamis, which start with normality (more or less) and slowly drop you into a sense of increasing weirdness, Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World drops you straight into the weirdness and it doesn't feel like it's going to let you go. I like to be eased rather than rocketed into my Murakamis so I wasn't pleased, but once I got through the first few chapters, the book evens out and becomes a meditation on the nature of the mind, with side helpings of criminal conspiracies, delicious sounding food, and musings about ears. It's Murakami as we love (and/or tolerate him) but as one of his earlier novels, I couldn't help feeling as though, in many ways, this was more of a complete story than some of his later works. Even though the circumstances are increasingly strange, the plot was one that was almost conventional- learning how to deal with the things you are going to lost and working out which things are the most valuable to you. 

But, don't get me wrong. It's still weird as fuck. 

BOOM January, you've been great. Let's see what February has in store, shall we?


  1. I started The Dark Tower series at the end of last year. I wasn't quite sure of The Gunslinger; it took me a while to figure out what was going on and especially the setting. Old West? Post-apocalyptic future? Another world which is somehow influenced by our own? Or is "Hey Jude" just universal in every reality, like "All Along the Watchtower" in Battlestar Galactica? Don't tell me - I haven't quite figured it out yet. Anyway, you and also another friend told me the series gets better and to stick with it, and I've read just enough spoilers to make me really intrigued without actually being major spoilers.

    Yay Moomins! Comet in Moominland is my favourite book in the series, while my Dad favours Moominland Midwinter. He's a musician and even recorded a CD inspired by it, although he just called it "Winter." I haven't read the later books since I was a kid, though. I need to put that right.

    I like the film of Scott Pilgrim, although I've never read the books. Scott Pilgrim's kind of a dick though, isn't he? But I completely agree about the directionlessness of the twenties - at 30 I don't feel any different, so I'm full of awe and disbelief at anyone who knows what they want and are on their way to achieving it in their twenties (sickening people!)

    Ooh, I studied The Handmaid's Tale in sixth form, and I think it must have been that which made me decide I wanted to continue with English Literature. I was planning to drop it after A/S, can you imagine?! I can't believe it myself now. Great book.

    1. I would still fully defend The Dark Tower series against all criticism ever (although I still can't really tell you what The Gunslinger is about haha) and I definitely think Song of Susannah is better enjoyed as part of the series than when you're reading books from it like a year apart. I kind of ruined it for myself this time around.

      MOOMINS! Also your dad sounds awesome! This one didn't make me want to stop reading them at all, I just wanted MOAR MOOMIN!

      Scott Pilgrim is kiiiind of a dick, but mostly I think he's just clueless? Like sometimes he has no clue at all about what's going on. And that can make him a dick sometimes. OMG Katie when will we know what we want to do? *has a mini-crisis* *again*

      DUDE. Never drop the English (literally my motto haha- I went from 11 GCSEs, to 3 A Levels, 2 undergrad subjects until FINALLY just doing a MA in English. I've only just realised it so it seemed worth spelling out haha) But anyway. I feel like we didn't get to read anything fun (or, ok, recent) in English A Level so you're super lucky. Also I would study THE CRAP out of The Handmaid's Tale, like seriously.

  2. One question: why didn't I wait until the end of January to post MY mini reviews? Why did I just post six in the middle somewhere? WHY? Because I only read one novella since then so I could have just done them ALL AT ONCE. Though to be fair, I probably would have finished a couple more but the next two were both DNFs and I have about eight on the go, so... never mind. *crawls away*
    P.S. I still haven't read The Handmaid's Tale and that kinda sucks. I have it, I just haven't READ IT. Story of my liiiiiiiife.

    1. Who can say, Ellie. It's probably because you're a special little snowflake and goddammit why should you follow the damn rules! :D

      p.s. Dude. I mean, me too, but seriously. You need to get on this Atwood business PRONTO. The Handmaid's Tale is one of my favourite ever thingsssss.

  3. That's an amazing amount that you read! I love so many of these books. barry white sums up my feelings for HP, too, as you well know, but I also totally LOVED Station Eleven.

    I didn't know that Handmaid's Tale was the reason you started blogging. I haven't read that book since high school, but Atwood is my roommate's favorite author and I've long thought that I should revisit that one. SO good. It blew me away when I was a teenager, but at that time I wasn't a reader who paid attention to, you know, good writing and stuff.

    1. I know right?! Really finding my flow (or something. Also I didn't have much to do on weekends this January sooooo... Yeah haha)

      You should definitely revisit The Handmaid's Tale! So terrifying and relevant and so feminist it hurts. In a good way. I don't always love Atwood but she rocks a dystopia and this one is especially pressing. And ugh, yes, the writing. THE WRITING.

  4. 1) Scott Pilgrim! Yeah, a disappointing lack of people in my social circle have actually seen that movie. I love the comics more though- more depth! More queerness! More focus on secondary characters (ssh, I kind of love Knives and Wallace. And Stephen Stills.)

    2) I read The Handmaid's Tale in, like, 2011. I REALLY need to re-read it.

    3) Station Eleven is on my 'read soon' pile and I've heard mostly good things but also a couple of terrible things? So I'm glad you liked it. I'm looking forward to it even more now :)

    1. 1) WTF you know people who haven't seen the movie? Get them onto it, immediately! (I looooove Knives. And Kim! So many great characters)

      2) You sooooo do. So scary and amazing and the best thing in the world ever ever!

      3) Terrible things?! Lies and treachery! I mean, no, I guess people might not like Station Eleven because sometimes people are stupid? But I am really really very enthusiastic about it :D