Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: The Life of Olaudah Equiano

Definitely interesting, but did I love it?

★★★★★☆☆

Title: The Life of Olaudah Equiano
Author: Olaudah Equiano
Audio Narrator: Ben Bailey Smith
Genre: Non-Fiction / Classic
First published: 1789
Edition: Audible audio book & paperback, published by Dover Thrift Editions in 1999

A compelling account that has gripped and fascinated readers since its original London publication in 1789, the narrative describes Equiano’s formidable journey from captivity to freedom and literacy.

***

I am not entirely sure what I expected from this 18th century memoir and having read it I am still not sure whether it lived up to whatever subconscious expectations I may have had. I was not disappointed exactly, but I felt a bit surprised with where it lay the emphasis at times.

I listened to the audio book of this one and David Olusoga’s foreword was a compelling introduction to the actual narrative and definitely added something interesting. As for the narrative itself, it was definitely fascinating, but I am not sure it quite grabbed me. Maybe it is the 18th century language. Maybe it’s the narrative itself, but it had a bit of trouble at times holding my attention.

I definitely enjoyed the listen, but I had expected a little bit more maybe. There was an emphasis on religion that, although clearly important to the author, I was not that interested in. Surprising, as I am generally quite interested in the what, why and how of religion.

The author used to be slave and set himself free, but even as a freed slave, he explains you were never equal and life was not necessarily better. The bits of the memoir that spoke about the political and social aspects of slavery were the bits I found most interesting. Maybe because those were the bits I knew least about and I wanted to find out more. I felt it did not explore those quite enough. But then, this is one man’s memoir, and he wrote about what was important to him, what had an impact on him at a time when slavery was still relatively common.

Is it worth the read/listen? As an account of history, it’s definitely interesting and fascinating. Did I absolutely love it? No, for me the emphasis lay in the wrong places at times.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Exit West (Mohsin Hamid)

An intriguing novel that I wish had done a bit more

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Exit West
Author: Mohsin Hamid
Genre: Fiction / magical realism
First published: 2017
Edition: Kindle e-book

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, thrust into premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As violence and the threat of violence escalate, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through  . . .

***

I have been meaning to read this one for a good while. The idea of the story just sounded intriguing to me. I enjoyed this one, but the execution left me a little frustrated at times.

The commentary on migrants and using the doors to move people between countries and continents was so interesting. I really liked that angle. The writing however, though I respected it and found it easy to read, just felt a little distant. It felt rather clinical and it is not a style I prefer. That is not to say that I did not like the book. I definitely did. I just felt like I wanted to go a little deeper into the relationship between Nadia and Saeed and this version of our world they live in.

The world and society changed a lot in the background of this novel, but you never quite get an idea of how it changed or how it works. On one hand I kind of like that, because it focuses on two specific people and their very limited focus. However, there are other points of view sprinkled throughout that give a bit more information and I found it frustrating that they were not explored a bit more.

I did enjoy this one and I would definitely read more by this author, but I did find I may have wanted a bit more from a storyline I really liked.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Currently Reading · WWW Wednesday

WWW: What I am reading on 18 May 2022

WWW Wednesdays’ home is at Sam’s blog Taking On A World of Words. Check it out!

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?

***

Again, I have not been reading very much. I don’t feel slumpy – I have just been doing other things. We have been hanging out with friends a lot over the last week, so a lot less time for reading. It was a lovely week, but now I am back to the normal more antisocial animal that I am!

What did I finish reading?

Only one book! I read Gold Dust by Ibrahim al-Koni. It was a good read, but my mind was drifting a lot, which says more about my state of mind at the time of reading than the book itself. It’s definitely a book I will re-read in the future as I am not sure my reading it at this time did it justice.

What am I currently reading?

I made little progress in either my audio book (The Life of Olaudah Equiano) or my anthology (Spring, edited by Melissa Harrison) this week. I have started reading Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, which is on my 2022 TBR. I am just over halfway and I am intrigued. I am not quite sure whether I will end up loving it, but I am definitely interested in what I am reading.

What will I read next?

I am not sure. My spring TBR reads are not going well – I have been way too slow reading this month and I have three really big books on there! We’ll see. A lot can change. I may read tons in the next two weeks. Who knows?

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Gold Dust (Ibrahim al-Koni)

You have to in a certain frame of mind for this one

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Gold Dust
Author: Ibrahim al-Koni (Libya)
Translator:
Elliot Colla (from Arabic)
Genre: Literary Fiction
First published: 1990
Edition: Paperback, published by Hoopoe in 2020

Rejected by his tribe and hunted by the kin of the man he killed, Ukhayyad and his thoroughbred camel flee across the desolate Tuareg deserts of the Libyan Sahara. Between bloody wars against the Italians in the north and famine raging in the south, Ukhayyad rides for the remote rock caves of Jebel Hasawna. There, he says farewell to the mount who has been his companion through thirst, disease, lust, and loneliness. Alone in the desert, haunted by the prophetic cave paintings of ancient hunting scenes and the cries of jinn in the night, Ukhayyad awaits the arrival of his pursuers and their insatiable hunger for blood and gold.

🐪🐫🐪

This is exactly the kind of oddball book I expect to like, being about a man and his camel. And yes, I did like it, but I did not love it. I am not sure whether it was the book or just my current mood.

What I did love about this book was how natural the way the main character cared about his piebald camel came across. It felt authentic and I believed it. However, every now and then the story itself lost me and it would take a page or two to be pulled back into the narrative. I found myself a little too easily distracted, but that could well be due to me being a bit scatterbrained at the moment.

I do think this is a novel I will re-read at another time and that will grow on me on said future re-read.

I am not quite sure who to recommend this book to, but if you like the sound of a novel about a man hanging out in the desert with his camel and making bad decisions, this may well be for you!

5 out of 7 stars

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW: What I am reading on 11 May 2022

WWW Wednesdays’ home is at Sam’s blog Taking On A World of Words. Check it out!

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you will read next?

***

Well, it’s been a rough week. My week of seeing live music in audiences meant I picked up Covid somewhere along the way and I was pretty sick for a few days. Still, it was worth it! Mostly recovered now, though yesterday I did too much in the morning and felt like shit the rest of the day.

Anyway, I did get some reading done, so let’s talk about it!

What did I recently finish reading?

I finished When I Found Home by Susan Mallery. That one was just ok for me. It was on my 2022 TBR, but I don’t think I will remember much of it by the end of the year.

Luckily, I really loved The House with the Golden Door, the second book in the Wolf Den Trilogy by Elodie Harper. I requested it on NetGalley after finishing the first book and I am glad I got to read it already! Downside is, it will be a long wait till book three!

What am I currently reading?

I started the final seasonal anthology Spring, edited by Melissa Harrison, but I did not get far into it yet at all. I hope to give it some more time this coming week.

I am still listening to The Life of Olaudah Equiano, but I have not been doing many chores this week on account of being ill, so haven’t made much progress. Although it is interesting, it is not grabbing me at the moment.

Finally, I have just started Gold Dust by Ibrahim al-Koni yesterday. This one was first published in 1990 in Arabic. The author is from Libya. It’s a story about a man and his camel. Intriguing, right? I am only 20 pages, but I think it’s the kind of oddball book I will end up loving.

What will I read next?

I think next I will read either Exit West by Mohsin Hamid or The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson.

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The House with the Golden Door (Elodie Harper)

Just as good as the first one!

★★★★★★☆

Title: The House with the Golden Door (Wolf Den Trilogy #2)
Author: Elodie Harper (UK)
Genre: Fiction / Historical fiction
First published: 12 May 2022 by Head of Zeus
Edition: E-ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher

The life of a courtesan in Pompeii is glittering, yet precarious… Amara has escaped her life as a slave in the town’s most notorious brothel, but now her existence depends on the affections of her patron: a man she might not know as well as she once thought.

***

After having read (and loved) The Wolf Den last month, I was very eager to read this one. I am glad to say it did not disappoint. Maybe it was a touch less eventful than the first book, but it just worked for me.

I loved being back with Amara as she negotiates a tricky tightrope of love and life as the concubine of her rich patron. Of course things never go smoothly and it is harder to leave her life at The Wolf Den behind as she initially thought.

There is something very human about the way the author writes Amara’s story as she goes through to day to day life. You feel her anxiety, her hopelessness AND her hope. You feel like you are in Pompeii, like you understand the lives these slaves and she-wolves lead. How trapped they are. I even felt like I understood Felix in one way or another, the way his vileness was created in his past.

As it is supposed to, the love story in this one is heartbreaking and it is hard to see a happy outcome. Yet you hope along with Amara that there will be one day.

If you have not yet started this series, what are you waiting for?!

6 out of 7 stars

You can find my rather rambly reading diary whilst I was reading this one here.

Books · Reading Diary

Weekend (Some) Reading Diary: 6-9 May 2022

Reading just one book, sharing some music and my Kindle woes

Friday, 6 May 2022

21.20 – I meant to start this earlier, but I just did not get around to it! I have read a bit today. I got stuck into The House with the Golden Door by Elodie Harper. This is the follow-up to The Wolf Den, which I read and loved last month. When I saw this one on NetGalley, I just needed to read it! It’s out next week. I am only about 19% in. Partly because my Kindle battery has suddenly decided to be on its last legs and only holds its charge for a day! I will order a new battery for it. My husband is technically gifted enough to replace it (which I am not!). I have had it five years or so. I could buy a new one, but if a new battery does the trick, why not do so. It’s still fine otherwise!

After two years of managing to avoid it, I have been sick with Covid this past week, so after a couple of slow reading weeks, this one was not much better – cause well, fever and stuff. However, I am feeling much better and I feel like could be back in the swing! Hence a weekend bloggy blog. Though it’s my daughter’s birthday on Sunday and I am not sure how much reading I will get done then. OOPS!

Saturday, 7 May 2022

09.40 – Great start to the morning. I broke a bit off my back molar… again! It just got fixed a month ago! Ah well, it’s not hurting, so it can wait. They don’t want to see me right now anyway with my Covid! I wasn’t even eating anything hard or crunchy!

Anyway, I got 25% into The House With The Golden Door yesterday before falling asleep. I will try and read a chunk today.

I did want to share a song I have been loving so much this past week. This guy is a Belgian musician and singer, with a mixed Belgian/ Egyptian/ Lebanese background. I love the way his music mixes elements from his heritage and the tone of his voice is just mesmerizing. On an interesting side note, Colin Greenwood of Radiohead plays bass on this song. I presume he will be playing bass on the whole new album (which I hope will be announced soon!). Anyway, not enough people know about this artist and they should because he writes incredible songs. The music, the lyrics, the stories he tells – I just think he’s an extraordinary young artist. Check the video out if you have a moment.

Back to books now! I will read a bit and hope my Kindle wants to hold its charge.

23.47 – Well, this day flew by! I did not read an awful lot, but I am about to go to bed and will read a bit more. I am at 37% at the moment. I had hoped to get to 50% at least, but nevermind. I am still enjoying it a lot. I am curious where the story will go in this book. I think it’s supposed to be a trilogy.

Unfortunately I still tested vaguely positive for Covid and we have had to cancel by daughter’s birthday. I feel so sorry for her. She had been looking forward to it. We will celebrating bit by bit over the next week or two, as no one can make it on the same day.

Well, we will it make the best that we can with just the three of us. I think my parents are popping around anyway to give her her presents and will just keep their distance. I will still be baking a cake in the morning, as whatever happens, it’s still her birthday and cake needs to be consumed!

Sunday, 8 May 2022

21.55 – As expected, today was about being a family. My daughter’s birthday was a success despite the lack of guests. It was just a nice day to spend together. We baked a cake with marshmallows on it. She had a few presents and the sun was out. In the early evening we watched a movie together.

People are visiting for her birthday later in the week when the danger of Covid infection has passed.

I got to almost 60% of The House With The Golden Door. It’s been a bitty day, as expected, but I managed to get some reading in! Tomorrow is going to be a nice sunny day and I don’t have anything on, so I will add another day of diary, as it’s a bit sparse!

As for the second book in the Wolf Den Trilogy, I am enjoying it quite a bit. I am feeling a bit anxious for Amara. Something bad is about to happen I’m sure! I love Amara. There’s something so human about her. It’s interesting to see a couple of her old friends/colleagues in new places and how they are coping. I am especially curious to see where side character Britannica is going. Her fighting skills must come in handy at some point! I am still waiting for some revelations about the love interests.

And of course, there’s the silent presence of Vesuvius. When is that coming into play? There was a mention of earlier earthquakes somewhere. Ominous!

Monday, 9 May 2022

09.28 – I will make this my final day of this rather bitty blog. I will try and get a chunk read this morning. It’s supposed to be 23C today, which is nice! Hopefully I will get a chance to just sit outside and read for a bit later. Our Airbnb guests are leaving today and new ones are not arriving until later in the week, so we have a bit of breathing space.

Thought I’d share another bit of music I am enjoying at the moment. Although Arcade Fire’s new album WE is yet to grow on me, I enjoyed their SNL performance!

13.20 – I managed to read a bit this morning. Time to do some chores and then hopefully I will be able to sit outside and enjoy the spring sunshine whilst reading.

17.15 – Well, for once things went according to plan and I finished the The House with the Golden Door! And I enjoyed is just as much as The Wolf Den! Even if it is a bit less eventful. It’s another 6* read for me. Actually, it was the perfect book for me to stretch out in the sun with and just enjoyed the reading experience today.

I will leave this blog here. I will write up my review in a bit. All I know that right now, I have the book fuzzies and that’s a great feeling!

Now, what to read next?

PS My Kindle is suddenly behaving itself!

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: When We Found Home (Susan Mallery)

Not quite for me.

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: When We Found Home
Author: Susan Mallery
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Women’s Fiction
First published: 2018
Edition: Kindle e-book

Life is meant to be savored, but that’s not easy with no family, limited prospects and a past you’d rather not talk about. Still, Callie Smith doesn’t know how to feel when she discovers she has a brother and a sister–Malcolm, who grew up with affection, wealth and privilege, and Keira, a streetwise twelve-year-old. Callie doesn’t love being alone, but at least it’s safe. Despite her trepidation, she moves into the grand family home with her siblings and grandfather on the shores of Lake Washington, hoping just maybe this will be the start of a whole new life.

***

When I started this one I was in the mood for a more complicated, intricate contemporary, maybe a bit of romance. And I guess that was kind of what this was, but at the same time for me it missed the plank a bit with both the romances and the family situation.

This was a 400+ book and yet I did not really feel I was given enough time to connect with any of the characters, which felt kind of strange. The romances were pretty fast and obvious and there was just no subtlety to them. That kind of annoyed me. I guess I just prefer more of a slowburn? Insta-love I get, but insta-relationship territory I find a bit harder to digest for some reason. There are two romances in this and they will kind of samey, even if the (slight) issues are a bit different. The sex scenes (which there were only a couple of thankfully), were not that great, but that tends to be an issue for me. I just need more romance and chemistry! Set the scene, please!

The author did do a good job looking at various people, their life experiences and their expectations going forward. There were definitely aspects of this book that I did enjoy, like the development of the sibling relationship. I would not say this was a bad book, but overall it just was not for me.

4 out of 7 stars

Balancing My Books · Books · Monthly Reading Wrap-Up

Balancing My Books #16: April 2022

April was patchy as heck! Readingwise: a strong start, and a bit of a wet fart of a second half. On the flipside, lifewise it was pretty good. Lots of live music and being out with friends in the final week and a half, which was really nice. So good to be amongst a good crowd again! I can honestly say I did not spare a thought for Covid whilst standing in a 2000 strong audience. It felt so good!

I did buy some book at the start of the moment – maybe too many, but sobeit.

PHYSICAL TBR:

Start 2022: 300
1 April: 313 (ooops!)
Acquired: 10
Read: 10
Balance: 313

DIGITAL TBR:

Start 2022: 177
1 April: 172
Acquired: 1 (NetGalley)
Read: 1
Balance: 172

So basically nothing changed in April… What’s the point? 😂

APRIL READING REVIEW

I read 11 books in April, but mid-month it felt like it would be a lot more. However, life got hectic (mostly in a good way) and reading fell by the wayside. I read a lot of shorter works as well, so 11 books sounds like more than it actually was. I read 3 audio books, all of which I owned in physical format, 1 e-book and the rest were book books! I had planned to read a lot of 2022 purchases, but I only read four, which is a bit disappointing!

Quality wise it was pretty good, with one new favourite (7*), but actually all of the 6* books were pretty strong 6* books. The rest were all 5* with a single 4*. Not bad at all!

  1. The Masnavi: Book Two (Rumi) 6* PB
  2. Galatea (Madeline Miller) 6* HB
  3. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Taylor Jenkins Reid) 5* E
  4. The Wolf Den (Elodie Harper) 6* PB
  5. A Caribbean Mystery (Agatha Christie) 5* AU/PB
  6. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Becky Chambers) 5* PB
  7. Hex (Jenni Fagan) 6* HB
  8. Year of the Monkey (Patti Smith) 6* AU/PB
  9. Upstream (Mary Oliver) 7* PB
  10. Horses Never Lie (Mark Rashid) 6* AU/PB
  11. Spring (William Horwood) 4* HB

BOOK OF THE MONTH

It would have to be Upstream by Mary Oliver. This is a series of essays and the subject matter varied from nature to people who have inspired her. It was just right up my street!

May Reading Plans

I am currently reading When We Found Home by Susan Mallery on my Kindle and classic non-fiction The Life of Olaudah Equiano on audio. So those are two books that I should finish soon. I also want to finish reading the Mistborn Trilogy with The Hero of Ages. Plus I have a couple of NetGalley books (shock!horror!) I ought to get to, one of them being The House With The Golden Door, the sequel to The Wolf Den, which is out on 12 May. The other one (A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari) is out early June, so I should get a move on with that one as well. There’s another e-book in my plans, which is Exit West by Hamid Mohsin. Fingers crossed my reading will be picking up, so I can get to all these books quite easily.

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Spring (William Horwood)

A mess of a book with interesting characters that I still enjoyed!

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: Spring (Hyddenworld #1)
Author: William Horwood
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
First published: 2010
Edition: Hardcover, published by Macmillan in 2010

It has lain lost and forgotten for fifteen hundred years in the ancient heartland of England – a scrap of glass and metal melded by fierce fire. It is the lost core of a flawless Sphere made by the greatest of the Anglo-Saxon CraeftLords in memory of the one he loved. Her name was Spring and contained in the very heart of this work is a spark from the Fires of Creation. But while humans have lost their belief in such things, the Hydden – little people existing on the borders of our world – have not. Breaking the silence of centuries they send one of their own, a young boy, Jack, to live among humans in the hope that he may one day find what has been lost for so long. His journey leads him to Katherine, a girl he rescues from a tragic accident – it’s a meeting that will change everything.

***

I have very mixed feeling about this one. This was a re-read and unfortunately I don’t think it got any better on re-read. However, I find saying whether this is a good or a bad book a very complicated matter.

Here’s the deal: the story itself is really quite interesting, but the execution is not great. This is probably a combination of the author and the editor not doing a good enough job (in my opinion). Sometimes it feels very bitty with abrupt scene changes that are confusing. Also, some bits are drawn out and others are a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of affairs. I just found it very patchy.

However, the picture it paints of the Hyddenworld and its characters is well done. Inbetween the lines, I liked this story quite a bit. Though at the end I did not enjoy the execution that much, I am still curious to see where it is going, so I will definitely read on in the series. The idea of a world living in tandem with the real world has been done before, but I still enjoyed this idea of these peoples Horwood describes in this book. I loved how he integrated the Henges, etc, and some English folklore. I just wish everything was bit more explained.

It kind of feels that this book was written by an experienced writer, who forgot about the audience he was writing for, and a publisher that did not put enough effort in to point out this fact. To me it basically felt like a first draft that should have been fleshed out here and there, that needed the kinks ironing out still. Sometimes it felt like an adult book, sometimes like a Middle Grade. It’s like it just did not know what it wanted to be.

I guess despite my criticisms I still enjoyed it and since I am still keen to continue the series, it was good enough.

4 out of 7 stars