The Return

I’ve started posts like this many times, ‘hello again’, ‘it’s been so long’, ‘I’ve been so neglectful of my blog’ etc. But goddamn it THIS TIME I MEAN IT. This year started off pretty hectic for me, I was approaching the last year of my Open University English Literature & Language degree, as well as working full time, which meant I have had next to no time to read at all.

However, that chapter has closed, and I am NO LONGER A STUDENT. It feels odd, that after three years of solid study that I don’t have to feel guilty about wanting to read a book for pleasure rather than one of the often mundane course books I’ve been drowning in since September 2016. But I have tasted freedom, and I am very much ready for this new bookish chapter (I’m so sorry, that pun was in no way intended).

It is now truly time for me to fall back in love with reading, and chatting about books again on here as well as my Youtube channel . I’m going to start updating this here blog a lot more, and creating videos about the books I’m going to be reading, because I have ACTUALLY BEEN READING SOME THINGS THAT WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT.

I’m very much excited to burst out of the shackles of studenthood and be able to dive into all the hundreds of books I’ve been pining for over the last three years.

I haven’t updated this blog since January, so I’ll leave a quick list of the books I’ve read since then, and the ratings I gave them. Some of these are due to have full length posts of their once I’ve processed my feelings about them because I have read some incredible work already this month.

2017 so far..

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer – 3 Stars

Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saens – 5 Stars

Harry Potter & The Cursed Child by John Tiffany, J.K Rowling & Jack Thorne – 4 Stars

Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets (Illustrated Edition) by J.K Rowling – 4 Stars

Esio Trot by Roald Dahl – 2 Stars

The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl – 2 Stars

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan – 4 Stars

Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur – 5 Stars

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer – 3 Stars

The Pendle Witches by Walter Bennett – Unrated

All We Know by Donal Ryan – 2 Stars

Stranger, Baby by Emily Berry – Unrated

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – 5 Stars

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins – 3 Stars

The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket – 3 Stars

Through The Woods by Emily Caroll – 4 Stars

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – 5 Stars

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo – 5 Stars

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag – 5 Stars

 

As you can see I’ve had very much a mixed bag of luck with the books I’ve chosen this year, but since finishing uni (from A Little Life on wards) I have had tremendous book fortune and read some absolutely beautiful works of writing. I’m hoping to keep this momentum going, and I’m really really enjoying getting back into reading between February and May I barely read a thing, now in the past three days I’ve finished one novel and read two others. I’m now 20 books into my 50 book goal for the year (not that that matters at all because who needs that kind of pressure) but if I finish the month off with another five books I’m half way through at the half year mark which is bang on track.

I’ll leave it here for now, so just an update and the usual I’M BACK NOW I PROMISE post, but I am back (for now), and I feel really happy about it. I hope you’re all having wonderful reading days, and I look forward to seeing you much more.

Book Review – Aristotle & Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe

Image result for aristotle and dante

Right, let me start off by saying that I was quite skeptical about this book for a number of reasons.

  1. Because its YA and my experiences with YA haven’t been overly amazing and I do prefer adult novels
  2. Because this is a gay love story and in my opinion it is very very rare for a gay love story to be written in an original and beautiful way
  3. It has a lot of hype around it, and I didn’t want to be let down.

Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret, something I’m going to admit, that no one every really likes to admit but its healthy and you learn from it…I WAS COMPLETELY. UTTERLY. COULDN’T HAVE BEEN MORE. wrong.

This book is a super quick read, I read this whilst on my way to London for a couple of days with my boyfriend. But it made to five hour journey across the great north to south England divide absolutely enthralling.

I never dog ear pages, ever, but this book is SO DOG EARED. I just kept marking pages with beautiful quotes, and there are so many. Benjamin Alire Saenz has a way with words that I haven’t encountered too much in my reading life, which made me stop and re-read lines over and over again because there were so so wonderful.

Basically, this is a coming of age story of two boys, Aristotle and Dante. Both of Mexican heritage, with which to story explores the idea of racial identity and the way in which some people try to dilute their own race when maneuvering through the world. It explores families who have to deal with their children in prison. It explores anger, and suppression, and all the things teenagers go through in their high school years, and I don’t think there is anyone who could read this book without seeing themselves projecting in some way back to them from the page. It explores sexuality, and coming to terms with the fact you might not be the same as the people around you. It has so many themes and doesn’t fail with any of them at getting the theme across in a stunning way.

This book is one which features later this year on the Banging Book Club’s reading list which I plan on joining with this year, so I won’t go into massive amounts of detail because I’ll be rereading it and I’m sure I’ll notice more things and have more ideas about the book but I’ll just end this little review with a couple of my favorite lines from the book.

My mother and father held hands. I wondered what that was like, to hold someone’s hand. I bet you could sometimes find all of the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand

______________________________________________________________

I wondered about the science of storms and how sometimes it seemed that a storm wanted to break the world, and how the world refused to break

And finally the author’s dedication is as wonderful as his writing;

To all the boys who’ve had to learn to play by different rules

This book is a thing of beauty, and I want to buy and million copies and scatter them across the earth.

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer | Book Review

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Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer is the 205 page non-fiction account of Christopher McCandless’ life and adventures throughout American, specifically focusing on his time in Alaska.

I watched Sean Penn’s adaptation of Into The Wild a number of years ago now, and it quickly became one of my favorite films of all time. The breath taking scenery and heart wrenching story sucked early 20’s me straight in, dragging me in by my naive wanderlust. Do I wish I had left it there, not having read the book behind the film? Do I wish I hadn’t delved deeper into this story I loved so much for years? I haven’t decided yet, but…probably.

**the remainder of this review will contain spoilers**

Christopher McCandless was a young man fresh out of college in America when he decided to just ditch his entire, more than a little privileged life and hitchhike his way up to a remote area of Alaska. He donated all the money in his bank account to OXFAM, a charity who focuses on famine and hunger, which is ironic really in hindsight, left for Alaska without telling a soul he was going, and never looked back.

Now here is where my problems begin with this book, I mean a beautiful film is a beautiful film, I also love Titanic, but if I stopped to think about the hundreds of lives lost in that real life situation I’d be completely shook, which is pretty much the situation I am in now that I’ve read this book. The movie, as do parts of Krakauer’s writing to be fair, deeply romanticise the fact that a young man, younger than me, decided to walk out of the lives of every single person he knew, and live in a wilderness he knew little, but not enough about, to satisfy his intense craving for adventure. We all have needs, we all desire to travel the world, and I guess the idea of waiting and saving for months to escape to a new part of the world for a 14 day holiday doesn’t appeal to all when one thinks of travelling, but McCandless took it to the extreme.

I fully understand why this book divides people into those who love it, and those who think Chris was a selfish, egotistical example of white privilege. Chris travels in and out of various communities on his way to Alaska, some times sticking around long enough to gain a job and get to know people. Some of these people are featured in the book, interviewed by Krakauer, and give their thoughts and opinions on him. The general feeling from those who met him on his journey seems to be similar in all instances, they are older people, some with children Chris’ age themselves, who cared about what happened to him, tried to help him, and ultimately cared for him even though he was basically a drifter.

I would love to travel America, I would adore to visit Alaska, maybe trek into the woods, camp out for a couple of nights maybe, but I don’t think I’d ever just vanish into the void of adventure. And after all Chris experienced, after all the wilderness he trekked through and survived,  he died in what he assumed was the middle of nowhere, just six miles away from civilization. He wasn’t as into the wild as he thought, and that is another reason why this book shattered the illusion that the movie produced. This story takes place in the early 1990s, we aren’t talking about an adventure in the 1800’s in which a man sets out to discover and map out the new world, the world was already mapped, but I don’t think Chris quite saw it that way, I think he wanted to experience the simplest life possible, in the most natural way possible, and discover a land untouched by man.

I gave this book three stars on GoodReads, this isn’t really down to the story and the fact I’m pissed the book shattered the movie magic for me, but because I feel like the author really stretched to flesh out the book. Krakauer originally wrote about McCandless in a magazine article, and that kind of shows up clearly in the way the book is structured. You start off with the origins of the story, getting to Alaska, the build up to it, and then Chris is abandoned and we move on to other explorers whose stories have some parallels to Chris’…not too annoying, because its interesting to hear that this isn’t an isolated incident, but then we get entire chapters about Krakauer’s own near-death climbing experiences and it basically turns into the writer thinking, ‘okay I’ve run out of his life story, lets chuck a bit of mine in there for dramatic effect, really show the reader I knew what McCandless was feeling/thinking’. Once you know the book was spun from an article, it is quite easy to see the author in the writing, fleshing out bits of other stories to try and produce a full book.

All in all, I did enjoy this book, I found it interesting, factual, and it gave me a new, albeit conflicted insight into the life and times of Christopher McCandless. I still love the film, I think I’ll always love the film, but now after reading the book, I no longer feel the romanticized pull towards the actions of a man who left everyone he knew and that loved him, to die of starvation (maybe) a three hour walk away from civilisation.

Book Review – Undying (A Love Story) by Michel Faber

GoodReads Rating: 5 Stars

This devastating book of grief and loss, death and heartache, has seeped its way into my very soul. This is the first Michel Faber book I have read, and as bizarre as it may sound, I think he instantly became one of my favorite writers after reading this collection, if not, one of my favorite poets of all time (although this is only the second poetry collection I have ever read for pleasure and not for education, so my experiences with poetry are extremely limited). His words, his emotion, everything about every single poem in this collection drew me in so hard, and catapulted me back out feeling like the poem itself had absorbed a small part of me, and I of it.

Undying is a collection of poems written by Michel based on his experiences with losing his wife to cancer, Eva died in 2014 of cancer of the bone marrow. The book is split up into two parts, the first an adventure in waiting for death, and second in dealing with the aftermath. The reader is taken on a most personal insight into the life of a man who is forced to watch the most important person in the world to him die, powerless to intervene.

Having never had to deal directly with cancer, being one of the very lucky people who have yet to lose someone to this most horrific disease, I was hugely effected by this collection. The themes of grief, of loss, love, hopelessness, sadness, and anger, all spoke to me in a way that poetry never really has before. If someone is looking to get into poetry, then this would be an ideal (but heartbreaking) first collection. These poems don’t just make you think about yourself and your situations in life, but because you know that Michel is speaking from his own, horrendously sad experiences, it hits you as hard as it would if this story of loss were a documentary. You can see his pain, can see the candid ways in which he would carry on his own life after the death of his wife, Eva. His poems give you an insight into the logistics of losing someone, which can just solidifify the loss in your mind.

‘The helpline man

refuses to help

because I am not you.

He needs – by letter – proof

that you are dead, he needs

to see your name and your disease

and the date your suffering ended’ 

from Account Holder by Michel Faber

Michel Faber’s story of the loss of Eva has touched me in the very deep and personal way. I still think about the words, they linger with me as I go about my day. They make me want to reach out to him and help, to reach out to anyone going through anything like that and try to help them through it. I wish Michel all the happiness in the world, because nothing is as devastating as the loss of human life, and I applaud him for channeling those feelings into the most touching piece of literature I have ever read.

Undying deals with illness and death in a way that society should learn to do more often. We often sweep death under the rug, we donate and fundraise for all these cancer charities, without ever stopping to think properly about what it takes to go through that, what the person suffering, and their loved ones actually feel. More people need to stand up to tell their stories like Michel, from the domestic duties of care, to the process of trying to live in a world without the most important person you’ve ever known by your side.

Undying is available now, published by Canon Gate books.

BookTube & Blogging | My Future (Semi) Plan

Hello guys!

First of all, as always, I will start by saying how sorry I am to have been so neglectful of my blog recently, but I have a semi-justification/excuse, I recently started my own YouTube channel based around my reading and lots of bookish things. Now, that is not to say that I am abandoning ship on the blogging front, quite the opposite. Let me talk you through what my plans are and what you can expect from both my blog and my channel in the future.

(Check out my channel here – AWALKIN2THEWILD)

BLOG POSTS –

I adore having this blog, I love that I have an outlet to write and review and post whatever the hell I want and that I have you wonderful people here to read my random ramblings, and I loved reading your comments and checking everyone else’s blogs out. For the past few months, with exam season at university, and the beginning of my channel on YouTube, I have become very neglectful of it, and posted very little in the way of content. This is hopefully about to change. I love having a YouTube channel, and devoting my content to literature, but I am by no means a ‘YouTuber’, I have no skills in the ways of editing, set dressing, lighting etc, I am just a bloke in a bedroom, but I am what I am. These videos are fun for me to watch, but I don’t think that reviewing books on camera is something I want to do, at least not full length reviews, which is why I am going to be dedicating this blog and most of its posts to full length reviews of the books I read. I want to post a review of EVERYTHING I read, because I was to chronicle my thoughts and feelings of each book not only for people to read but for myself to look back on and remind myself of. So my blog posts from now (until I change my mind) will largely be based on book reviews. Any of the future haul posts etc that I have done in the past may continue, but on the whole this blog will mostly be a blog of reviews. I hope that’s okay! That being said, I plan on changing the way in which I write my reviews, not completely, but I feel that my reviews in the past haven’t really said everything I wanted to say, or been as brutally honest as they could have been, so I will be a ruthless book bitch probably quite a lot.

YouTube –

I have only had my channel on YouTube for three weeks, but already I’ve met so many incredible, like-minded people who I respect and love their content. YouTube, much like this blog, is such a wonderful way to make reading and books a social and friendly thing. I love the way it allows us to develop discussion and thought provoking content. I have always been a fan of YouTube, ‘BookTube’ more recently, about the same time I started this blog, and I enjoy it so much. My channel is very much still in its early stages, like I said, my videos aren’t edited yet, the lighting makes me resemble Caspar the Friendly Ghost, and you can see from the few videos I have that my thumbnail creating skills are still very much in development. That being said, I am very excited for the future of my channel. I want my channel to become an extension of my blog, with my blog having in-depth reviews, and my videos being a fun accompaniment, in which people can watch me stumble through hauling the videos I’ll be reviewing soon, or have a little fun with some tag videos. I have already met a couple of people via YouTube who I am so excited to do read-a-longs and fun things with in the future, and although small for a YouTube channel, my subscribers have delighted me with comments and kind words, I never even expected anyone to watch a video, like when I started this blog, I expected to just be rambling into the ether.

So those are my semi-plans for my blog and my channel. If you have any questions, or any video/blog post suggestions, please do let me know in the comments below, or just say hi, I love a friendly face and would like to check out many more of your blogs. Until next time (which WILL NOT BE TOO FAR IN THE FUTURE), happy reading 🙂

 

Book Review: Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

GoodReads Rating – 4 Stars

Stone Mattress is a collection of nine short stories by the no-introduction-needed author Margaret Atwood. These stories are described on the cover of the book as being ‘nine wicked tales’ which indeed they are, including a murder carried out with a 1.9 billion-year-old weapon, fanatic arsonists, and bodies frozen in storage lockers, just to highlight a few.

This was my first Atwood book, I have been meaning to read some of her work for years, and I am glad that I started with this collection. It gave me short, sharp bursts of her exquisite writing style. Each story contained lines of metaphor and  dialogue that took by breath away. Atwood truly knows her craft, with the ingenious was of making me feel on edge, when I don’t know why I’m on the edge at all.

My favorite stories within the collection were the first three, Alphinland, Revenant, and Dark Lady. These three stories were beautifully and subtly intertwined, giving the reader a story that have been an entire novel in itself in three short bursts of narrative. These stories follow a fantasy author, her ex lover, and her ex lover’s past conquests.

The theme of aging and coming to the end seems to be quite prevalent throughout the stories. You encounter fragile old characters doing extraordinary things (such as committing elaborate murder) and see the aging process through their perspective, as they draw closer and closer to the end of their time.

All in all, I thought this collection was a wonderful introduction to Atwood’s work, and I very much look forward to reading some of her novels in the not too distant future. I recommend this collection to anyone who is interested in Atwood, or just a lover of short stories,, as I feel there is something for everyone in this collection, be it crime, horror, or mysterious tiny dancing people.

Book Review – Love Poems by Carol Ann Duffy

GoodReads Rating: Unrated

Let me start off by explain why I didn’t rate this book on Good Reads. This is the first poetry collection I have ever read, I could not be further from an expert on the genre, and therefore I don’t believe it would make sense for me to rate a book that was the starting point in me trying to read poetry for the first time for pleasure, as I have nothing but poems I was/am forced to read by educational institutions to compare these poems to.

I have to admit that some of these poems went straight over my head, but some of them were beautiful, thought provoking, and really shone through as favorites for me. I adored some of the poetry in this collection, If I Was Dead, Tea and Correspondents were a few that stuck out for me and I feel that some of these poems will be ones I go back to again and again.


Or when you’re away, or at work,
I like to think of your cupped hands as you sip,
as you sip, of the faint half-smile of your lips.

I like the questions – sugar? – milk? –
and the answers I don’t know by heart, yet,
for I see your soul in your eyes, and I forget.

– from Tea by Carol Ann Duffy

Some of the poems left like short stories, I was captivated by Duffy’s language and power with words, and I could truly envision the worlds and the people she was creating. I loved the way she haunted me with her words, or made me appreciate the love I have in my own life.

This was a perfect introduction to poetry for me, and I will definitely be looking at reading more collections in the future, especially more of Duffy’s work. She is an outstanding force with words, and I look forward to seeing what effect her other works have on me.