Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Cozy Book Tag

It feels like donkeys years since I last did a tag, and this one is Autumn themed, so let's get cracking! The first two pictures are from GoodReads, again because of bad lighting when I get home from work!

1) Crunchy Leaves - a book with orange and red hues.

I literally picked up the first orange and red book I saw, which happened to be Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times. This was a book I assigned at university but I never read as much of it as I should have - hopefully that will change soon!

2) Cozy Sweater - a book that makes you warm and fuzzy.

A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman is an adorable, if slightly sad, story about pensioner Ove. This was one of my Booktober books, and I adored it! Full review to follow.

3) Autumn Storm - the genre you read on a rainy day.

Dystopia or classic literature, when the weather is grey these genres seems to match the mood perfectly. I'm currently racing through The Maze Runner series, perfect rainy autumn reading, but I've been known to pick up Austen to bide my time during a dull patch.

4) Cool and Crisp Air - a character you'd like to switch places with.

This is really hard, especially as a lot of my favourite characters find themselves in situations I'd never want to be in! Sam from Perks of Being A Wallflower is effortlessly cool, though, and I'd love to stand in her shoes for a while. Frankie, from The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is another strong female character I'd love to be for a day or two!

5) Coats, Scarves and Mittens - a book with a cover you want to hide.

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer. You'll know if you read my review that I loved this book, but the cover just doesn't do it justice. It's not an ugly cover at all, but it's far too innocent for the content of the book. If I could change it to something darker and grittier I would.

6) Hot Apple Cider - a book that's been under-hyped.

I'd never heard of I'll Give You The Sun before I read it, and I completely loved it! It really surprised me considering how good it was that I hadn't heard of it before.

7) Pumpkin Spice - favourite comfort book. (The original question says comfort food, but since it's a book tag I've made it bookish!)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. I think this one is pretty obvious, but the first sentence of this book alone can make me feel settled and calm.

What are your answers? Do the tag and let me know on twitter or leave a comment below!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

#reviewsdaytuesday: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Today is an exciting day (for me, at least). Writing my post about reading slumps really kicked me into gear, and I've finished the first book of my Booktober challenge!

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie checks off two of my Booktober goals: A book written by a non-white author, and a book written by a woman.

And what a book.

When I read Americanah earlier in the year I loved it, so I picked up Half of a Yellow Sun with much excitement. It didn't disappoint.

Being entirely ignorant of much of African history, let alone Nigerian, I found this book fascinating. Set in 1960's Nigeria, it moves through the decade, covering the build-up, the climax, and the end of the civil war. It focuses on the life of one family, jumping between three key characters with each chapter. The changing perspectives, whilst initially jarring, flowed together seamlessly and provided a wonderful 360 look on events.

The movement through time worked wonderfully. The story is in four parts, the early and late 1960's split evenly between them. I really appreciated the even split as it gave just as much gravitas to the events before the war as the events within the war - this made the story very personal, even relatable. Adichie held back just the right amount of information when she made her moves. Nothing felt unfinished, and the moments in part two when Ugwu is talking about an unknown event gave enough information that I didn't feel left out, whilst not giving away so much as to remove the delicate tension.

This novel is a novel about tension, in many ways. The tension between lovers, families, races, and the self. All these strings are held taut, if one were to be loosened the others would slacken too. Adichie has full control over them, and pulls them this way and that, to weave a beautiful creation.

Beautiful is the only way to describe this novel. The language is exquisite yet realistic and not once did I doubt that it was the characters who were speaking. In other hands much of this book could sound overdone and false - beauty for beauty's sake. Yet this novel demands beauty to shield from the horror. The novel, being about war, has triggers for rape, violence and gore. Yet the beauty makes them simultaneously more bearable and more horrific in its contrast.

I loved this book, and can't wait to read more from Adichie. Have you read it? Share your thoughts on twitter or in the comments below.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Booktober: Reading Slumps

It's somewhat apt that this post is going up late (if you follow my instagram or twitter then you'll know that I've been all over the country this week) considering its about a lack of motivation. 

I started Booktober because I was in a reading slump and I wanted to get out of it. The problem is, I started it thinking that the need to write a blog post about books every week would be enough to motivate me, rather than considering the actual reason behind my lack of desire to read. Blogging, it turns out, is not motivation enough, and I've been able to get by on reviews of books I've already read.

After a week of not reading, and not stressing out about not reading because I've been far too busy to think of anything other than the job in hand, I think I've finally cracked it. It all comes down to time (as usual) and how I like to read.

I'm not a picky reader. I don't enjoy sitting down, reading 10 pages, then standing up again. I don't like going for a couple of days without reading a book I'm enjoying. I don't really know how people can read like that, reading a book over the course of a month or more, bit by bit.

I'm an indulgent reader. I like to have time set aside to read, at least half an hour at a go. If I'm enjoying a book I like to run with it, read it in gulps rather than sips. 

The problem is this: with a full time job, a part time job, and a job hunt all going on I feel guilty each time I pick up a book because I know I'm going to 'waste' half an hour reading. Instead I play on my phone, or watch a YouTube video, or read a blog post. I'm still wasting that half hour, but because I'm doing bitty things it feels less like half an hour wasted.

This is always the problem I have when I'm in a reading slump. I don't view reading as procrastination, so I don't do it!

So, two weeks into October with less than one book read (although two started), I'm kicking it up a notch. I know as soon as I get into a book I'll be fine, so it's just a matter of picking up a book rather than my phone. Starting tomorrow, I'm going to have a 'read whenever' attitude. If I have ten minutes spare I'll read a chapter. On my lunch break at work I'll leave my phone in my bag.

I want to read at least 4 of the books I set out to by the end of the month. I've almost finished one and I'm halfway through another, so by mid week I should be back on track.

Wish me luck, and let me know if you have any tips to get out of a reading slump!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

#reviewsdaytuesday: The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present by Douglas Coupland, Shumon Basar and Hans Ulrich Obrist

The first official #reviewsdaytuesday of BookTober! Welcome!

I thought it only fitting that the first review of the month (leaving last weeks teaser aside) be from the most unique book I've read this year. 

The Age of Earthquakes is one of the most interactive books I've read this year. It is sat on the boarder between fiction and non-fiction (I'd probably describe it as creative non-fiction), and between graphic novel and illustrated essay. The fluidity of the text reflects the feeling of reading it. It bends the mind and submerges the body into the present day truths about climate change, the financial world, and social media. In fact, it's hard to think of a contemporary topic the book doesn't cover.

Mostly visual with sparse words scattered across the pages, sometimes densely packed in a way that jars the eyes, this book is a quick read. However this doesn't mean it's an easy read. It takes time to work through the pages, your mind rests on ideas and floats through them till you can find your own understanding. On mulitple occassions I closed the book, closed my eyes, and just thought about what I had just read. Whether it's deconstructing the 2008 financial crash or asking deep philosophical questions about the nature of the self, this book works hard to find an access point into the mind (and often suceeds).

It is a book that bears re-reading.

As you can tell, I love this book and highly reccommend it. Thanks so much to @leenanorms for gushing about it on her YouTube channel. Without her I would never have found this little nugget of wonder.

Have you read this book? I'd love to hear your thoughts, either in the comments below or on twitter. You can find me @VickiMaitland pretty much everywhere.