Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday: 16 September 2020

It has been a few weeks since I did one of these. My reading has been pretty slow!

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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?

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What am I currently reading?

I am reading Deeplight by Francis Hardinge at the moment. I am only about 40 pages in, but I should be starting to make some progress now I am feeling my reading mojo returning! So far I am liking it.

I have started listening a new audio book as well this morning. I have chosen The Templars by Dan Jones. I love medieval history and the Templars are a pretty fascinating subject.

What did I recently finish reading?

I just finished How Music Works by David Byrne, which was such an interesting read! If you are into music, you need to read this one.

I also finished my audio book a couple of days ago, which was Stephen Fry’s Mythos. I thoroughly enjoyed that one and I would highly recommend it if you’re interested in Greek myth. It’s a great starting point. As a result of listening that one I chose to read For The Love of Hades by Sasha Summer, which is a far better retelling/interpretation of the Hades/Persephone myth than the cover suggests!

What do I think I will be reading next?

I am tempted to pick up Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library next!

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: How Music Works (David Byrne)

★★★★★★☆

Title: How Music Works
Author: David Byrne
Genre: Non-Fiction/Culture/Biography/Music
First published: 2012
Edition: Paperback, published by CanonGate in 2013

Best known as a founding member and principal songwriter of the iconic band Talking Heads, David Byrne has received Grammy, Oscar, and Golden Globe awards and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the insightful How Music Works, Byrne offers his unique perspective on music – including how music is shaped by time, how recording technologies transform the listening experience, the evolution of the industry, and much more.

🎵🎵🎵🎸🎵🎵🎵🎷🎵🎵🎵🎹🎵🎵🎵

Wow, where to start with this book. This was such an expansive wave of information that I am not quite sure how to talk about it. Music for me is so important. It keeps me sane every day and listening to the right record at the right time can have a huge influence on my mental health.

David Byrne is best known for Talking Heads, but this book shows how much love he has for the simple subject of music. I say simple, but there is nothing simple about this book. Although he talks about some of his own experiences in the music business, from simply writing songs to selling music to the consumer, the book very much tries to look at music in general and how it came to be what it is today. What even is music?

Sometimes the book lacked a bit of focus and went off meandering, but I think I actually quite enjoyed that. It talked about music in ways I had not thought of before.However, it does also has some very focused chapters, like the one on contracts and ways of recording and distributing your music, which was very interesting (and honest!).

This is not a book you can read quickly. It takes a while for it to sink in, but I think it made me really think about what he was trying to say. It was interesting looking at my own relationship with music whilst reading this book. Music does not move everyone in the same way, which has always seemed fascinating to me. A song that makes me cry, may do nothing at all for someone else. And music that I don’t rate at all, could mean the world to someone else.

If you are interested in music, this will be a fascinating and enlightening read. If you are just ‘meh’ about music, this won’t be for you (but I also won’t understand you!).

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

(Audio) Book Thoughts: Mythos (Stephen Fry)

★★★★★★☆

Title: Mythos
Author/narrator: Stephen Fry
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Mythology/Retelling/Short Stories
First published: 2017
Edition: Audio book

In Stephen Fry’s vivid retelling we gaze in wonder as wise Athena is born from the cracking open of the great head of Zeus and follow doomed Persephone into the dark and lonely realm of the Underworld. We shiver when Pandora opens her jar of evil torments and watch with joy as the legendary love affair between Eros and Psyche unfolds.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable listen. Not only does Fry has a style of narrating stories that makes me happy, the way he tells these familiar Greek myths is very familiar and comforting.

Fry manages to wrestle these myths into bite size chunks without compromising on their essence. Of course he weaves in some of his wit and dry observations, but he does so without compromising on the stories. In fact, his modern observation serve to highlight how relevant these myths still are.

As an audio book this worked very well. I enjoyed having these myths told to me rather than reading them. I did read along at times and the pictures in the physical book were an extra bonus.

If you are interested in Greek myths, but do not know them that well, this is a great place to start. If you already very familiar with these myths, I am not sure this book will add anything major to your understanding of them.

For me personally , it was a very good listen and it got me interested in reading about some of the myths in more detail.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

BOOK THOUGHTS: For The Love of Hades (Sasha Summers)

★★★★★★☆

Title: For The Love of Hades
Author: Sasha Summers
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Mythology/Romance
First published: 2013
Edition: Kindle e-book

Hades, the Lord of the Underworld, has no patience for living things or his Olympian brethren. His purpose is order, administering justice to those who enter his realm, and keeping the balance decreed by the Fates. Meeting Persephone sways his focus, her gentle sweetness threatening his control. But he will not be tempted.

*

After listening to an audio book on Greek myths that talked briefly about the myth of Hades and Persephone, I wanted to find a novel that focused on that story in particular. Someone recommended this particular book to me and I have to say I was skeptical, because of the rather terrible cover. I am glad to say I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

Although the book does not follow the myth as I have heard it before, it makes a good version of it and touches on some different Greek myths along the way. The book feels like it is set in antiquity and the way the author chooses to tell this story works very well.

Hades was portrayed very well as a reluctant hero and Persephone as the lively woman that pulls him out of his shell. I am pleased to say the tale is not overly romantic or erotic, which was not what I wanted here. Of course there is some romance – this is a love story after all, but it does not go overboard. There is enough conflict to keep it interesting, but never becomes overly dramatic.

I liked the writing and it was just long enough. I am sure I will go back to this author when I feel like another Greek myth retelling. This was well done.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: I Was Born For This (Alice Oseman)

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: I Was Born For This
Author: Alice Oseman
Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Contemporary
First published: 2018
Edition: Kindle e-book

For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world. Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

I went into this only really knowing it was a boyband/fandom type story and not much else. I did not read the synopsis! It was clear pretty quickly this was not written with adults in mind, but that is fine.

The story definitely reminded me of being young and having (unhealthy?) obsessions with stuff, whether it’s a boyband, a football team or anything of the sort. I liked that this novel looked at both sides of the story, from the point of view from both the band and the fan, and that both parties had a problematic view of themselves.

For me it read too much like fan fiction. I am not sure whether that is something that is avoidable when writing this type of story. I could not help feeling that the bits from The Ark’s point of view were how a fan imagined life in a boy band to be, rather than what it is actually like. It just did not ring true for me.

I think teenagers into fandoms will enjoy this one a lot, but it was clearly not aimed at me and I simply did not care enough. It was a quick easy read and it certainly was not bad, but it was not well enough written to really touch my emotions or be memorable.

This one was just fine for me.

4 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews · Taste Test

Taste Test: 3 adult romances – short contemporary

1. Damaged Goods (Talia Hibbert)  ★★★★★☆☆
published in 2018 – Kindle e-book (150 pages)

I quite enjoyed this. Laura, the main character, is pregnant and escaping an emotionally abusive marriage. She meets Samir, the first boy she loved at fifteen. I like the second-chance romance trope and it was executed pretty well here. Samir was very sweet, but I never quite felt I got to know him very well in this novel. Laura was much more in depth but even there I would have liked a bit more. This was only 150 pages and I wonder whether it would have been a stronger book if had been fleshed out a bit more. I did like the lovestory though and the ending was just perfect. I would like to read more by this author.

2. So Sweet (Rebekah Weatherspoon)  ★★★★☆☆☆
published in 2015 – Kindle e-book (100 pages)

There was nothing necessarily wrong with this. It was pretty much a feel-good story. It was kind of cute, despite the age gap – did I mention this is age gap romance? Well, I have now. There was little conflict and the relationship was pretty straight forward. These characters actually communicate, people! However, it needed a bit of extra oomph and I feel like there was just not enough here to make it compelling. The emotional relationship moved too quickly here! In the end, it was fine. I enjoyed it well enough.

3. From Scratch (Katrina Jackson)  ★★☆☆☆☆☆
published in 2017 – Kindle e-book (122 pages)

This had elements of a good story, but it failed to really build on those for me. It definitely just felt like a rather rushed story about a polyamorous relationship, which mainly revolved around sex. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problems with polyamoury in books when it is done well, but I just did not find the relationships believable enough and even in smutty books I need to actually feel some chemistry! I rolled my eyes a few times, which is never a good sign.

A bonus point for diverse characters, but for me this really was smut without depth, which apparently is not my thing.

*

CONCLUSION

I am not sure short romance/sexy stories are for me. I find I simply need a bit of depth in my books, even smutty ones! It is hard for a novella to provide that. I may have a couple more hiding on my Kindle somewhere, but I think for now I will be staying away from these types of short romance stories.

Having said that, I am likely to read more by Talia Hibbert in the future. There was just something there I did like.

Oh, and on a side note, words to add to the unsexy list: pumping, humping, ramming… 😂😂

Books · Monthly Reading Wrap-Up

August 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

This month was the opposite of last month. After a strong reading week at the start, I kind of got lost in other interests and did not read nearly as much as I thought I would.

The last few weeks I have had trouble concentrating on anything and that includes reading! Basically, that meant I chose a lot of lighter reads and read more romance than normal. It made a nice change and it may be that I will read a bit more romance going into September.

I had hoped to read the books that were left on my 20 Books of Summer TBR, but I only read one of those. I hope to read the rest in September. We’ll see.

In the end I finished 12 books in August, which sounds impressive, but one I read mostly in August and a few were under 250 pages.

Only 5 were physical books, there were 2 audio books and 5 e-books, of which 1 was a NetGalley ARC.

I read four romance books, a historical fiction novel, two fantasy novels, two short story collections and three non-fiction books.

Rating-wise it was an ok month with three 6-star books, six 5-star books and three 4-star books. No books I hated, but no new favourites either.

THE BOOKS

  1. Tower of Thorns (Juliet Marillier) ★★★★★★☆
  2. East, West: stories (Salman Rushdie) ★★★★☆☆☆
  3. Beach Read (Emily Henry) ★★★★☆☆☆
  4. Nefertiti (Michelle Moran) ★★★★★★☆
  5. How To Be An Antiracist (Ibram X Kendi) ★★★★★☆☆ (audio)
  6. A Scot To Remember (Angeline Fortin) ★★★★★★☆
  7. Feathers (Thor Hanson) ★★★★★☆☆
  8. Damaged Goods (Talia Hibbert) ★★★★★☆☆
  9. Just Around Midnight (Jack Hamilton) ★★★★★☆☆ (audio)
  10. So Sweet (Rebekah Weatherspoon) ★★★★☆☆☆
  11. Den of Wolves (Juliet Marillier) ★★★★★☆☆
  12. Broadwater (Jac Shreeves-Lee) ★★★★★☆☆

BOOK OF THE MONTH

I had a few I really enjoyed, but I think I will have to go for the second book in the Blackthorn & Grim series by Juliet Marillier, which is Tower of Thorns. There was something really quite magical about that book. I finished the series with the third book, but the second book was my favourite.

Honorary mention to A Scot To Remember, which was definitely the biggest surprise. That one turned out to be a time travel historical romance and it was quite the fun ride.

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Broadwater (Jac Shreeves-Lee)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Broadwater
Author: Jac Shreeves-Lee
Genre: Fiction/Short Stories
First published: to be published 3 September 2020 by Fairlight Books
Edition:  e-ARC, courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher

Welcome to Broadwater Farm, one of the most well-known housing estates in Britain. A place where post-war dreams of concrete utopia ended in riots, violence and sub-standard housing.

In this collection, Tottenham-born Jac Shreeves-Lee gives voice to the people of Broadwater Farm. With evocative language and raw storytelling, she compassionately portrays their shared sense of community. A community with a rich cultural heritage, comprising over forty nationalities, generations old.

I like this type of short story collection, where the stories are loosely connected. The main character of one story may be a side character in another, showing you a fleeting glimpse of an outside perspective.

I think the author did a good job of showing a diverse range of people living in or connected to Broadwater in some way. Some stories touched me in some way and others didn’t, as is often the case with short stories. A few of them were a bit too bleak for my tastes. There was a lot of sadness and longing for a better life. However, there were also some stories I really enjoyed, especially the closing story. That one leaves the collection on an interesting note, which I appreciated.

Overall, I enjoyed this collection and it provided me with a slice of life of a random bunch of fictional people inthe Tottenham area. It sometimes left me wanting a bit more, but I guess that is what short stories do!

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Den of Wolves (Juliet Marillier)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Den of Wolves (Blackthorn & Grim #3)
Author:  Juliet Marillier
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
First published: 2016
Edition: Mass Market Paperback, published in 2017 by Ace

Despite her personal struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help take care of a troubled young girl who has recently been brought to court, while Grim is sent to the girl’s home at Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task–repairing a broken-down house deep in the woods. It doesn’t take Grim long to realize that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems–the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies. . . .

It took me a while to read this one. I did not quite find it as engaging as the middle book of the series, but I did like story and in the end I quite enjoyed it. I read the last 100 pages pretty quickly, but I struggled a bit through the first three quarters.

This book is told from four different perspectives. Two in first person, Blackthorn and Grim, and two in third person perspective, which were new characters in this final book and whose story was the plot device. I liked this way of telling the story, because it always makes it clear that Blackthorn and Grim our main characters, but we still get the full picture.

The best thing about these books is the friendship between Blackthorn and Grim. It simply warmed my heart and all through the book I was rooting for them, as it was so clear how these two people felt about each other. Their (very) slow burn romance is such a delight.

As a conclusion to a series this one definitely had a satisfying ending and everything was tied up in a neat little bow, which worked for me with this type of book. I just wish it had pulled me in a bit more.

I do really like Marillier’s writing and I am sure I will read more of her books in the future.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

(Audio) Book Thoughts: Just Around Midnight (Jack Hamilton)

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination
Author:  Jack Hamilton – Narrator: Ron Butler
Genre: Non-Fiction / Culture / Music
First published: 2016
Edition: Audio Book

By the time Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, the idea of a black man playing lead guitar in a rock band seemed exotic. Yet a mere ten years earlier, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley had stood among the most influential rock and roll performers. Why did rock and roll become “white”?

I am not sure what I expected from this book and I am not sure what I got from it was as enlightening as I had hoped, but it was interesting for sure. This book was particularly interesting to me as I do tend to listen to a lot of rock music.

I thought the subject was endlessly fascinating. The fact that rock and roll was made popular by mostly black artists such as Chuck Berry, but is now an almost entirely white affair is a peculiar shift.

As far as books on culture and music go, this one leans towards the academic side. In fact, at times it reads like a long research paper. It basically looks at the rock and roll music of the 1960s and juxtaposes black and white artists active at the same time. For example it looks at Bob Dylan in relation to Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin to Dusty Springfield and Janis Joplin.

The author talks a lot about authenticity and how authenticity for white artists is different from what it means for black artists. The author claims that for a white artist authenticity is writing your own songs and being original as an individual. For a black artist authenticity means being true to your roots, so to their race and not an individual. I thought this was such an interesting point, because it does ring true to this day.

However, I felt like the book told me a lot without actually making real inroads into what it was trying to say. I felt just taking the 60s was not quite enough to really make the point properly. I understand that during time this shift was most prominent, but there is so much to say on this subject and I felt the author may have made a better point if he had included a longer time period. I also felt like the author could have expanded on race in relation to gender much more and I was disappointed that the book did not go into that more.

So, in short, I did enjoy this book. It made some interesting points and I learned a lot about black and white musical culture at that time, but I felt so much was left unexplored that I simply wanted it do more. I definitely want to read more on this subject, as I feel there is so much left to talk about, but I am happy to have read this book.

I would encourage you to read this book if it sounds interesting to you. It is definitely worth reading, but it is not the definitive book on the subject.

5 out of 7 stars