Trigger Warnings and Sometimes We Just Need to Snort-Laugh in Public

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump. Looking at my Goodreads Challenge for 2016 (89 out of 100 so far. Not bad muthafu*&ers!), you would think this sentiment is utter bullshite, but I just feel a little bit over it all.

It might be that end of year feeling. It might be my regret at not taking some annual leave during this odd “After-Christmas-Before-New Year” period. Who knows?

I didn’t realise I felt this way until a colleague at work asked me during some down time before Christmas, “So what types of books do you like” and I literally said “Um… all of them?” in my annoying, shaky, high-pitched liar voice.

Even I wasn’t convinced.

Because the honest to Neil Gaiman truth is, I really don’t love any books out there at the moment. But I’m okay with that. Really, I am.

I’ve been going through a lot of random choices lately. In the past I have tried to read a lot more classics and literary fiction, however 2016 has seen my tastes venturing towards a hell of a lot more self-help books (hello, quarter-life crisis!) and what is usually termed “women’s fiction” (by the way, why the hell is that genre called that? These books can be read by men and women. They just happen to have female protagonists. Ugh!).

I’m a big believer in the right books finding you at the right time. After all, there’s no “right” way to approach reading.

So 2016 was a bit of a year about self-discovery and I read a few heavy books. A Little Life was probably the best book of them all. In saying that, I tend to not recommend this one when people ask me for recs, because I don’t want to be responsible for someone’s nervous breakdown triggered by the amount of self-harm and abuse portrayed in that novel. I’m considerate about my fellow man, and all that jazz.

On the other hand (and on a bit of a tangent) how do you feel about trigger warnings for books? Personally, as a psych undergrad, I think it’s responsible but as a reader I don’t think it has a place in art. In my humblest opinion, you’re meant to be open to feeling all of the emotions as part of the experience/consumption of the piece.

ANYWAYS….

After all of the heaviness, I thought I would end the year off with some light-er reading. Preferably something funny, set in England. I am an anglophile, afterall.

So I found out that Kindle Unlimited is now a thing on Amazon Australia and a couple of novels by Nick Spalding were in the Top 20 and recommended to me.

Usually, if I’m in a reading slump, picking something from the “recommended for you” list is not the best thing to do. I’m only going to end up with the same crap I’m trying to avoid, right?

Wrong. Thankfully, oh so wrong.

I read Nick Spalding’s novels Bricking It, Mad Love and Fat Chance (in that order) within the same week. They were such a hoot, I actually snort laughed on the train going into work. His novels gave me a much needed belly-laugh break from the boring books I’ve been borrowing, DNF-ing and returning to the library.

That last sentence was for the kids with alliteration fetishes.

Spalding’s books reminded me that there really is something for everyone and sometimes they are right under your nose. Or perfectly chosen for you by the Amazon recommendations algorithm.

So a few questions for you, my Dear Reader. What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read? Is there something you do in particular to pull yourself out of a reading slump? Have you found some great books from the “Recommended for you” sections in the possibly many book websites you peruse?

Trigger Warning: All caps incoming…

AND HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TRIGGER WARNINGS IN BOOKS/ART?

Would love to hear your thoughts, so grab a cuppa and let’s have a chat!

If you have enjoyed this post, please click “follow blog” so you don’t miss my next one.

According to Fiction, Swindon is the dullest place on Earth!(?)

I’ve never actually been to Swindon, Wiltshire in England BUT according to two novels I read in the last week, it may actually be the dullest place on Earth.

I’m almost begging readers out there to tell me I’m wrong… but i’m just getting the feeling that it’s a bit of a running joke that nothing really happens in Swindon and it’s just not, well, stimulating.

Here’s how I’ve come to this opinion via the two books I’ve read this week.

The first book I read this week was “The Eyre Affair “by Jasper Fforde:

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First of all, this book was a big hit with me because it was like the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch and the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett  merged together into this awesome book. I’ll definitely be reading the next in the series as I am a bit of a fan of the female protagonist, Thursday Next (yes, such a cool name!).

I really loved the urban fantasy/alternate history/sci-fi mixture that was at the heart of this book. I tried to read Inkheart by Cornelia Funke recently and I feel like Jasper Fforde was able to carry off that awesome concept of “characters coming out of the book” and into real life.

Now, the main character is a Special Ops officer in there LiteraTec department (dealing with crimes to do with literature) and moves from London to her home town of Swindon after a particularly nasty clash with a criminal mastermind.

The fact that this character comes home to Swindon to recuperate after getting injured in a battle and everyone is surprised that she’s “downgrading” from her job in London, to a lower one in Swindon, shows to me that Swindon is probably not the place to be if you want to get places in life. This is just what I’m getting from the book and no offence at all meant to the people who live in Swindon. Again, this is just what I’m getting from the books and I am genuinely curious to see what the real Swindon is like!

On the flip side, I also read “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon this week.

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This book reminded me of a lighter version of Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”. Set mostly in Swindon, this book is written by the main character Christopher Boone, a young boy of 15 whom we start to understand is likely on the Autism Spectrum. I thought it was charming and I really felt for Christopher as he uncovered certain things about his family and couldn’t quite understand them and process them as other people not on the Spectrum would.

Christopher actually says at one point in the book that he is happy that he lives in Swindon because it is a place that helps his brain stay quiet. This is directly contrasted with a couple of moments in the second half of the book when he tries to get to London by himself and stays there for some time. Again, that contrast with London and Swindon really makes me think that they are polar opposites! I mean, I acknowledge my own bias since I’ve spent some time in London (and love the place!) and have never been to Swindon, but come on two authors have painted this picture of Swindon as this place that is a haven for people mentally and physically broken and who need a time-out for London. I don’t know if that’s really a selling point. (But seriously, do people take vacations to Swindon or is this just a “i’m just passing through” place? Seriously, I’m really curious about this!)

I chose to read these two books from my To-Be-Read list because my local library happened to have copies of these books and they were also both put on my Goodreads TBR shelf one after the other about 5 years ago. As per my previous blog post, I’m trying to eliminate my TBR in a methodical (probably OCD-ish) way.

I absolutely did not know that both of them were set in London/Swindon but I’m really glad it just happened to be that I read both of these books in the same week.

Now my Dear Reader, let me know what your thoughts are on Swindon, Wiltshire, because I really am so curious about this place. I may even have to plan another trip to the UK for some… um… research.

 

Review: “The Night Watch” by Sarah Waters

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For some reason this book has been on my To-Be-Read list for 5 years (according to the trusty source that is Goodreads). I can’t even remember why I put it on my TBR list to begin with, since it’s more or less a romance novel set in England during World War 2.

I’ve tried to stay away from novels about World War 2 because it’s just too close for my likingMy grandparents were both from different sides of England and were serving respectively in the ATS and Royal Navy when they met and fell in love during World War 2. They just happened to be at the same pub in Liverpool (again, not where either of them were from) and the rest, as they say, is history. So growing up I had always heard things about World War 2 and as a reflex, my eyes would start rolling out of my head.

Now that I’m older and a lot more aware about the pretty shitty things going on in the world, I’ve begun to appreciate just how much the War meant to my grandparents and their generation. Now it makes perfect sense to me that they would constantly bring it up. It was a pretty big deal and “The Night Watch” really gave me a sense of the fear and uncertainty of that time.

I think that my recent trip to the UK (my second one ever) has also renewed my interest in the War. I spent a lot of time walking the streets randomly, just observing the different styles of architecture, and noticed how there were big scars running through sections of the city. I don’t mean that any part of London that I saw was ugly. I just noticed the bits where bombs had clearly dropped and new buildings were built or old buildings were repaired but not quite blended in with the original structure. For an architecture AND archaeological nerd like myself, I found it a great way to immerse myself in the city’s history.

Back to “The Night Watch”… I was actually quite surprised at the homosexual element of the story. I don’t actively look for novels with lesbians as the central characters and I guess it just surprised me because I’m so biased towards World War 2 novels set in England to begin with. When I think “English wartime novels”, I think of very stereotyped gender roles with perhaps some feminist undertones peeking through (but of course nothing to wild because, you know, they’re English) .Quite frankly, I assumed this would be a novel my grandmother would happily sit down and read on a Sunday afternoon… but I’m not too sure I would give this one to her. She may have a heart attack *touch wood*.

I’m glad I was surprised by this novel though. It’s probably the reason why I kept reading it. The only drawback about it was the structure. I didn’t quite understand why the 3 separate parts were in reverse chronological order and I really think the last bit could have been chopped out altogether. Also, I found myself skimming the parts relating to the only central male character named Duncan. I just didn’t find myself caring enough about him.

So Reader, have there been any novels you have found yourself really surprised by recently? Do you have certain topics/periods in history you just can’t bring yourself to read about? Let me know in the comments!

I hope this week has treated you well.

A x

 

 

So sorry it’s been so long…

Ugh, that thing called “life” happened again and dragged me away from writing things on the Internet. How inconvenient, right?

So it looks like it’s been about 5 months since my last post and I’ve had some thoughts about what I want this blog to BE. I feel like I’m going through this strange inner growth spurt (I’m sure that’s a thing) and certain habits and people just don’t go with this new person that I’m becoming.

And that’s okay.

So in terms of reading and reviewing books… it’s just not going to happen in that structured kind of way that I thought was working for me. Lately I’ve been finding that I’m finishing a lot more books than I’m actually starting.

I even looked at my bookshelves the other night and said to my fiancé, “I’m just so sick of having books. I need to get rid of them.”

He almost fell off the couch and he begged me to let him record me saying that, most likely to use it against me during another moment of weakness in a book shop.

But I think I was serious. I’m afraid this “phase” might be something that sticks.

And again, that’s okay.

I’ve been borrowing heaps of books from my local library and I highly doubt that I will run out of reading material any time soon.

During my hiatus from the blog I’ve also been working on my Goodreads TBR list. I’ve decided to abandon my quest to read the 1000 Books To Read Before You Die and work on my TBR list in a chronological order. I’ve gone back to the first books I put on my Goodreads TBR list waaaayyy back in 2011 and I’m working on reading through what I can borrow from the library (if I don’t own a copy already) and eliminating the books I have no interest in anymore.

This new quest has made me realise that my taste literature has definitely changed over the last 5 years (again, this is okay and only natural of course).

So I’m thinking that I’ll take a different route with this blog and make it more of a relaxed record of what I’ve been reading and scratching off my long arse list.

It will definitely be more aimless than ever.

Heck, I might surprise myself and get rid of the “book” side to this blog completely and just waffle on about random things in my life.

I’m really curious to see how whether other readers out there have these slumps and “inner growth spurts”. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever gone through a bookshelf cull and eliminated masses from your TBR list. What sparked it and how did you feel afterwards?

 

 

 

The Bookish Week in Review (10/04/2016)

Here are some of the interesting bookish news pieces I’ve read this week. I would love to see what everyone else has found interesting this week, so leave a link in the comments below!

1. Mysterious author Elena Ferrante has received for her first international prize nomination for the The Booker International

2. Let this be a warning to all of you – don’t upset the adult Harry Potter fans by organizing another under 18’s only event. A Perth event had to be postponed because of the outrage from the adult Harry Potter community. I guess some wizards were just excited at the prospect of spending an evening outside of their Cupboard Under The Stairs.

3. One adult Harry Potter fan (I’m assuming, because what kind of child has this kind of money?) is now the lucky owner of the chair J. K. Rowling used while she wrote the first two books.

4. Remember when you couldn’t go into an op-shop or second hand book shop without finding at least one shelf committed to the Twilight series? Well now all of those second hand copies of Fifty Shades of Grey are becoming quite the burden. One shop even made a sex dungeon fort out of their donated copies.

5. I’ve spoken about jumping on the adult colouring book bandwagon on this blog before – apparently the whole world is jumping on and now there’s a shortage of colouring pencils.

6. Imagine having one of Shakespeare’s First Folio’s just casually sitting in your private library? Another rare find has been discovered on the Scottish Island of Bute.

7. I’m saddened everytime I hear about any library closing. It’s great that the big authors are trying to help out the wonderful people at Carnegie Library.

8. The world needs more Lena Dunham’s in it – she’s just landed her own imprint “Lenny” at Random House.

 

Have a great week ahead and happy reading!

I know I’ve been AWOL lately…

Just wanted to give a quick update on any readers of this blog still sticking around! I’m still here, still alive and (most importantly) still reading.

I’ve had to get used to a new job this year and haven’t had the time or inspiration to sit down and write like I did last year. I’m feeling more settled now, so no doubt the blog posts should come a lot easier soon.

I’ve been smashing my reading goal for 2016 – I’m currently on 31 books so far, Goodreads tells me I’m 6 books ahead of schedule. It feels like I’ve read more than 31 books though! I’m starting to read a lot more books but finding that I’m really picky and abandoning a lot of them. Maybe I just know what I like and have less patience for crappy books these days. But in all seriousness, life is too short to read a bad book (or even just a mediocre one), so I’m not feeling bad about my Did-Not-Finish pile.

What’s everyone else reading? How’s the first quarter of the year treated you all so far?

Review: “Heart and Brain: An Awkward Yeti Collection” by The Awkward Yeti, Nick Seluk

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From Goodreads:

From paying taxes and getting up for work to dancing with kittens and starting a band, readers everywhere will relate to the ongoing struggle between Heart and Brain.

Heart and Brain: An Awkward Yeti Collection illustrates the relationship between the sensible Brain and its emotionally driven counterpart, the Heart.

Boasting more than one million pageviews per month, TheAwkwardYeti.com has become a webcomic staple since its creation in 2012.

This has to be one of the best things I’ve read all year. You know those books – the ones that as you’re reading it, you think of so many people that you know that will also find it a great read too. I think I made a list of about 5 people that would love this while I was still in the first 30 pages. So that means a good part of my Christmas shopping has been completed!

I’m pretty sure that there are most scenarios depicted in this book that adults have run into when the heart and brain just wanted different things. Probably the most resonating for me was anything to do with exercise – my brain says “you need to do it” and me heart says “But reading is just so much more fun and easier…”. My heart and my brain were not fighting each other though when I sat down to read this book – it was one of those books that I easily read in one sitting and laughed like a mad person while my partner (most likely) saw this and seriously thought about taking up this “reading” thing himself.

If you’re not sure if you (or the person you’re buying this book for) will enjoy this book – check out the Awkward Yeti webcomic for yourself right now. If one out of every 2 panels makes you smile and feel good, then I think that’s a good indicator that you will get your money’s worth out of this book.

Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!