Blog

Uncategorized

April Reading Wrap-Up | Part 2 | Plays and Poetry

I am ashamed that this is so late! Most of my time at the moment is being taken up with studying as I have finals beginning soon and lots of essays to write.

I have discovered that while I usually struggle to focus on audiobooks, I love listening to plays. I am particularly enjoying the BBC radio adaptions of classics. I also had to read a couple of plays in April for university.

A Woman of No Importance and An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde ★★★★☆

Ok, so I kind of messed up here and put these in my fiction wrap-up which you can find here, but I have been working my way through all of Oscar Wildes plays as audiobooks and I am enjoying the experience. Having read all the plays it has been fun rediscovering the wit of Oscar Wilde and having it performed to me.

[Audible Link]

 Antigone by Sophocles and The Burial at Thebes by Seamus Heaney

I have included these two together because I read both of these parallel to each other while studying them for university. Antigone is one of three plays and it follows on from two other plays about the Theban civil war and starts with Antigone defying orders of Creon and burying her brothers’ body. The Burial at Thebes follows along the same sort of line as it is a retelling of the story. When I first read Antigone I was definitely surprised that the heroine – Antigone – has so little lines! You would think that a play named after her would allow her more lines, but Heaney does a good job of bringing more attention to her character. Sophocles play is heavier on the political drama, whereas Heaney explores more relationships, particularly the relationship between Antigone and her sister Isme; a lot of talk about how they feel about their brothers’ death and how they respond to authority. I enjoyed them and I would recommend reading them together.

Goodreads links: The Burial at Thebes
Antigone

I read some amazing poetry in April which I am super excited about! Poetry is a fairly new venture for me, most of what I’ve read has been either Poe of Dickenson but I am trying to explore contemporary poetry and in April I found a couple of really wonderful collections which I can see myself returning to many times.

Teaching My Mother To Give Birth by Warsan Shire ★★★★☆

This poetry collection surprised me. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I was blown about by this collection. Most of the poems are completely heartbreaking but incredibly powerful. There was one poem in particular which left me immobile for a long time. It’s so clever, so intricate, so profound, wrap-up with so many layers of meaning; and yet, it’s only one line long. To me it served as a perfect example of Shire’s talent.

[Goodreads Link]

Paper Wings by April Green ★★★★★

I don’t know how to express my feelings for this collection. I keep returning to it to reread parts and linger over beautiful prose that contain something profound. The collection is a mix of free verse and haiku, and also includes illustrations. Green writes about loss and hardship, and calls the reader to accept the painful things in life but to not let them dictate how you live your life and, importantly, how you feel about yourself; asking you to claim your identity. It’s so beautiful. I just wish I had some more cohesive thoughts on the collection. Maybe I will get there but reading poetry is still quite new for me so talking about poetry is going to be a bit of a learning curve for me.

[Goodreads Link]

Advertisements
Wrap-Ups

April Reading Wrap-up|Part 1|Fiction

This month I read a total of seventeen books so I am going to split my wrap-up into three parts.
Part one: Fiction
Part two: Plays and Poetry
Part three: Non-Fiction
Three of the books I have already discussed in my reading wrap-up for Dewey’s 24-hour readathon so I won’t talk about them here, but if you would like to see those you can read that post here.

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami ★★★★★

My second Murakami novel and I am quickly falling in love with his writing.
This is an obscure magical realism book that follows a man named Toru Okada. It opens with a mysterious phone call from a woman Okada doesn’t know. We then find out that his cat has disappeared, leaving his wife distressed. After his wife begins to make enquiries about the cat Okada’s life is turned upside down as he is taken on a bizarre journey in which he finds himself venturing into abandoned houses, hotels that may or may not exist, climbing down wells and encountering new and peculiar people.

“Everything was intertwined, with the complexity of a three-dimensional puzzle – a puzzle in which truth was not necessarily fact and fact not necessarily truth.” (Excerpt from Ch. 27)

[Goodreads Link]

Utopia by Thomas Moore ★★☆☆☆

I had to read this for university and I can’t say I have any real enthusiasm for the book. This is an early example of the utopia/dystopia genre so within that context it’s interesting, but the novel itself was slow, rather dry and frankly quite boring. The main “plot” – if you want to call it that – is More questioning other men about the practicalities of Plato’s republic.

A Woman of No Importance and An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde ★★★★☆

I listened to both of these plays as audiobooks and I really enjoyed the experience. It’s been a long time since I read Oscar Wildes plays, I forgot just how funny they are.
If you have never read a play by Oscar Wilde I highly recommend picking one up – his most famous is The Importance of Being Ernest. Each play is a humourous and satirical comment on 19th-Centuary English society; particularly politics, social class and gender roles.

[A woman of No Importance Goodreads Link]
[An Ideal Husband Goodreads Link]

Hickory Dickory Dock by Agatha Christie ★★★★☆

I struggled for a while to rate this book. The book was too short for the complexity of the case being solved and so all the characters felt somewhat lacking; there was simply no time for character development. There was also a lot of racial stereotyping – though this is a common issue with literature from the time of imperial Britain.
However, the actual plot is a classic Agatha Christie mystery; imaginative and genius. She has such an incredible mind.
My favourite thing about this book is that Agatha Christie is beginning to develop her feminist opinions and express them through her writing. Poirot is less present in this book than other mysteries. This book is near the end of the series and it was shortly after this book Christie announced her discomfort with her iconic – male – detective, calling him ‘an egocentric creep.’ But perhaps my favourite expression of her feministic views was the criminals.

**Spoiler: Highlight to read** The murders were committed by a male character (who I have to say I feel is ‘an egocentric creep’) but he is in fact the ‘monkey’ in it all; the brains of the whole operation is a female. Not only that but the male is vein and hysterical – leading to the murders and eventually getting caught – while the female is calm and rational.

[Goodreads Link]

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt ★★★★☆

I was slightly disappointed by this book, though I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was that let me down. Perhaps I just have incredibly high expectations of Donna Tartt as I love her other two books; maybe it was the misleading blurb.
In the prolouge we meet the Cleve family on the day that the only son was found dead; hanging from a tree in the garden. In chapter one we are then taken 11 years into the future and follow the youngest daughter, Harriet, who is just beginning summer break when she decides to find out what happened to her brother all those years ago when she was just a baby. Along with her friend, Hely, she attempts to investigate and is led into dangerous situations. This book is marketed as a mystery but in reality it’s a coming-of-age novel. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had known that from the beginning.

[Goodreads Link]

The Arabian Nights ★★★★☆

I think most people will know what this book consists of. It is a series of tales as told by Shahrazed, wife to the king and facing death she tells stories to the king in order to save her life and this book is a collection of those stories – the most famous of which is Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. I haven’t read these stories since I was a child so I enjoyed the nostalgia of it all.

[Goodreads Link]

Swimming Home by Mary-Rose Maccoll ★★★☆☆

This book follows Louisa and her niece, Catherine. Set in the 1920’s, Louisa is a doctor who has previously protested the right for the vote for women, as well as attempting to advance abortion rights. After the death of her brother, Louisa finds herself suddenly the guardian of her fifteen-year-old niece.
I definitely felt let down by this book as many people rave about it, and I usually love reading novels that focus on the theme of feminism. I hated Louisa, she’s obnoxious, naive and self-centered. I liked Catherine a little more but there was something lacking in her. I struggled to connect with any of the characters. The first few chapters also had a clumsy structure and it’s hard to follow what’s going on, but that does seem to get better as the book goes on.

[Goodreads Link]

Silence by Shusaku Endo ★★★★★

This is by far my favourite fiction read of the month. I’m not going to talk too much about it as I am posting a full review soon.
Set in the 1640’s, we follow a Roman Catholic priest from Portugal, who travels as a missionary to Japan. As he meets Christian peasants along the way we get an insight into the violence and downright fear that Japanese Christians faced after Christianity was outlawed in Japan.
This book is challenging, full of biblical and literary symbolism, and deeply moving. I would recommend this book to everyone; no matter their personal beliefs. It’s harrowing but incredibly significant to reflect on these historical periods.

[Goodreads Link]

The next two parts will be coming soon.

My Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/42002696-rachael-matthews
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_literary_cave/

Readathons, Wrap-Ups

Dewey’s 24 Hour ReadAThon

Yesterday was the start of a 24 Readathon, created by Dewey. Details can be found here.

I, unfortunately, wasn’t at home for the start time but that didn’t stop me joining in.
I began at 1 pm with the audiobook of A Study in Pink, a Sherlock novel by Arthur Conan Doyle and read by Stephen Fry. I’m sure most of you will be familiar with this famous detective from London and his side-partner John Watson. A Study in Pink is our introduction to these characters and one of the most famous tales. I won’t get into the plot here but if you would like to know more you can click here.
I’ve read this story a few times in the past but listening to Stephen Fry read it brought a whole new element of excitement. I’m sure this was due to his own enthusiasm of Sherlock Holmes – Fry was once the youngest member of the Sherlock Society in London. I listened to this on and off throughout the 24 hours – basically, every time I began to get restless I would go do something else and listen to a few more chapters. I got through the whole novel within the 24 hours, but luckily for all of us, Fry has recorded every Sherlock Holmes tale by Conan Doyle so I am looking forward to listening to more.

I picked up a total of nine other books throughout the 24 hours and completed three of them. Lets begin with the completed books:

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

I won’t talk about this book too much as I am going to be doing a full review on here soon.
This is a re-telling of The Tempest by Shakespeare. It opens with a production of The Tempest that is suddenly brought to a halt as the lights disappear and voices shout out ‘Lockdown!’ We are then transported back several years to meet a director named Felix, who is famous for his extravagant and unorthodox Shakespeare productions. In the first chapter we find out that he loses his job and is then lost for what to do next. He eventually ends up teaching Shakespeare to inmates at a prison. Atwood has done an incredible job with this book. It’s fast paced, contains an unreliable narrator and is full of symbolism and references to the original play; I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read it!
[Goodreads Link]

Paper Wings by April Green

This is a collection of poetry, haikus, and art. It is deeply touching, simplistic, and profound. This will also have a follow-up review soon as I have so much to say about it. It’s incredibly beautiful and I did have to put it down a lot to compose myself a little.[Goodreads Link]

Loss by Victoria Hislop

This is a collection of short stories written by women over a century.  It features well-known classic authors such as Shirley Jackson, to contemporary authors such as Emma Donoghue. All the stories are on the theme of ‘Loss’ – whether that be material objects, a loved one, a life they once lived, or even their own life. It’s a good collection and certainly worth reading. As is often the case with wide collections such as this, some stories were wonderful and some not so great. Hislop has also put together two other similar collections entitled ‘love’ and ‘life’, to bring together a total of 100 women’s voices.
[Goodreads Link]

Now onto the books I didn’t complete.

Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops by Jen Campbell

I have read all of this books previously, however, last night it was nice to dip in and out of. I found, particularly, reading a couple of pages after April Greens poetry was humorous enough that I recovered from my grief but light enough that it didn’t stop me reflecting on the importing of the poetry.
The title of this book kind of says it all. Jen Campbell is a writer and YouTuber, as well as many other bookish related things. She is also an ex-bookseller (though my bank account would believe she was still a bookseller; it feels the effects of her recommendation videos) and this book contains a whole host of hilarious and idiotic customers have said in bookshops.
[Goodreads Link]

Doctor Who: Time Lord Fairy Tale

Again, a fairly self-explanatory title. This book is a must-have for any Dr Who fans. It is a series of fairy tale re-tellings with a Time Lord twist, with titles such as ‘The Three Little Sontarans’ and ‘Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday.’ I love having this book in my collection.
[Goodreads Link]

The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura

This book is a no-brainer for me. It includes two of my great loves in life; Tea and Japanese culture. I got four chapters read in total of this book from the little black penguin classics editions. It discusses the relationship between tea and the Japanese culture of Zen; the way in which the simple act of embracing the tea ceremony has helped shaped their views on meditation, art, etc. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this book.
[Goodreads Link]

The Applause of Heaven by Max Lucado

This is another reread for me. I read it several years ago and this morning decided to return to it, using chapter one to prompt my morning devos. Max Lucado’s main goal in this book is to help us realise that life is probably going to be shit at times, that we are likely to suffer in this world, by despite all of that there is an underlying sense of joy and hope for Christians who are actively seeking to bring His kingdom into this world.
[Goodreads Link]

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche

Unfortunately, I couldn’t take the whole 24 hours off from studying. However, in this instance, I am incredibly excited to study. For those of you who don’t know I am doing a double degree in Philosophy and Religion. Buddhism fascinates me and I find it hard to find any criticisms of this religion – except of course the absence of Jesus. This book is aimed at a Western audience; through anecdotes and clear instruction, Sogyal Rinpoche sets out the basic principles of Buddhism. He includes teaching from the Buddha and other significant religious leaders to bring a sense of understanding and depth to what he has written. He is incredibly humble and respectful. For anyone wanting to understand Buddhism I highly recommend this book.
[Goodreads Link]

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

I won’t talk too much about this book as I have a feeling I will be doing a full review once I have finished the book.
It follows three main characters, whose lives all interconnect with each other during 1960s Nigeria. Ugwu is a young houseboy from a poor, rural background. We also follow his master’s partner Olanna, a rich Nigerian. And finally Richard, who is partner to Olanna’s sister. It’s a complex storyline but more than that, it is an important piece of literature commenting on the civil war in Nigeria at that time. I felt I had a decent understanding of African history but I am now realising I am completely ignorant so I find myself stopping often to think about what’s going on and sometimes looking up certain aspects of the civil war to try and understand more. It will probably take me a while to finish this book as I really don’t want to rush through it.
The book is incredibly well-written, beautiful use of language, complex character, and riveting suspense. I can’t wait to carry on with this book.
[Goodreads Link]

This was all of the books I read during Dewey’s 24-hour readathon. I stayed up the whole time and managed to read for most of it. I loved the experience! Next one is in October so be sure to join in if you can!
Let me know if you have read any of these books and what you thought of them. I shall be back with my April wrap-up, which is coming in two parts, over the next few days.

My Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/42002696-rachael-matthews
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_literary_cave/

Uncategorized

Welcome

Welcome to my new book blog. I’m Rachael and I love to read; obviously, or I wouldn’t be here.

What is this blog for?

This blog is to give me a chance to talk about the books I’m reading, review books, have a chance to discuss particular authors and publishers I am a fan of, and hopefully discuss other topics that play an important role in my literary life.
I may also venture into incorporating some of the groups I am a part of on Goodreads.
Most importantly though, I would love to interact with people and open up discussions with people. I am not surrounded by many people that read and, while the act of reading is often solitary, discussing books can help you grow as a reader and even as a person as you explore the themes of books.

What sort of books do I read? 

In general I don’t limit myself to particular genres, though I do tend to edge more towards literary fiction. I don’t read purely romance novels, though if a book also contains other themes I am interested in I wouldn’t rule out a book with romance in it.
I read a lot of translated literature, particularly Japanese fiction; though I am trying to branch out more. I love reading books with a fairytale element as well as books that explore feminism, gender, identity, and mental health. I also enjoy fantasy and thrillers/horrors, though I definitely read these less often now and need to get back into these.
Currently, I am doing a double degree in Philosophy and Religion so both of these play an important role in my reading – whether that’s in fiction or non-fiction.

I will try to create some posts in the near future talking about some of my favourite books and authors so you can get a better idea of what I read as the list above is far from an exhaustive one.

If you have any questions or comments you would like to make feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can use the contact form (link in the banner above). My next post will be in a couple of days with my April wrap-up.

In case you are interested here is a link to my Goodreads account [opens in a new page].