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 · 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 · 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: 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

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW: What I’m Reading on 27 April 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?

***

It’s King’s Day here in The Netherlands, but it’s also my mum’s birthday, so we’re going avisiting. I don’t expect to notice much of the national festivities and that’s fine by me! We went out to see some live music last night (young Irish band Inhaler) and I am feeling a little tired.

Reading has been slow this past week – almost non-existent, but it’s been a very busy week with lots of appointments and live music in the evenings. It’s been a good week though. As for the reading, I am sure I will get back into the swing of normalcy soon.

So…

What am I currently reading?

I am still reading Spring, the first book in the Hyddenworld series by William Horwood. Now, this is a re-read and the first time I gave it the equivalent of 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads (about 5/7 stars in my own blog rating, but it was pre-blog!). The writing is really messy, as if it’s been edited badly, even if the story itself is good. I think it will end up with a lower rating. It’s not quite holding my attention either, but that may also have to do with the fact that I have so many other things to think about at the moment.

In the evening I have been reading When We Found Home by Susan Mallery. Since I am only reading this one ten minutes at a time, it’s been slow going. I am enjoying it though. This is one of the e-books on my 2022 TBR. I plan to go away for the night tomorrow with a friend – I may get a little time to read. I will take my Kindle anyway.

Finally, I have started listening to The Life of Olaudah Equiano on audio. This is a memoir of a slave originally published in the late 1700s. I think it will be a fascinating listen/read.

What did I finish reading?

I only finished my audio book, which was Horses Never Lie by Mark Rashid. I thoroughly enjoyed that one. It’s a horsemanship book and a bit of a memoir rolled into one. It was right up my horsey street.

What will I be reading next?

I am not sure yet, but one book I would like to read in May is The Hero of Ages, the final book the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. Whether I will start with it depends on how I finish this reading month. If my mind still feels scattered I would be better off starting with some shorter books.

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW: What I am reading on 20 April 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?

***

What did I finish reading this past week?

Since last Wednesday my reading has still be a little on the slow side. I did finish a few books, all of which I was reading at last week’s WWW. The first one is Hex by Jenni Fagan. It’s only short, and I struggled to get into it, but luckily I loved it in the end!

Then I finished Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith. There is nothing to say apart from that I love the way Patti writes her memoirs. This was wonderful on audio book.

Finally, I finished Upstream by Mary Oliver, which is a wonderful collection of essays that just worked for me.

What am I reading right now?

I am reading Spring, the first book in the Hyddenworld series by William Horwood. I am just over halfway. It’s a re-read so I can continue the series. The start of this book is so clumsy, but it does get better after about 100 pages, just as I remembered. Am I totally invested? No, but I am enjoying the re-read well enough and now reads away quite easily. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars six years ago. I am not sure it will quite get there this time, but it’s ok. I can’t remember how it ends, so…

I am listening to Horses Never Lie by Mark Rashid on audio. I have this one on paperback as well, but it was in the Audible sale, which was the perfect excuse to read it. It’s a book about horse training and since I have a couple of ponies, it’s interesting to me. I agree with a lot of his training methods, so it works for me. It’s kind of a memoir of his experiences with horses as well and why he ended up trainig the way he does. It’s very readable as a book.

That’s it for the moment.

What will I read next?

It’s about time to read a book from my 2022 TBR, so I will be reading one of those next. I may pick up some poetry soon as well.

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: Year of the Monkey (Patti Smith)

There is something so mundane and so poetic about Patti’s musings

★★★★★★☆

Title: Year of the Monkey
Author/Narrator: Patti Smith
Genre: Memoir
First published: 2019
Edition: Audio book & Paperback, published by Bloomsbury in 2020

Following a run of New Year’s concerts at San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore, Patti Smith finds herself tramping the coast of Santa Cruz, about to embark on a year of solitary wandering. Unfettered by logic or time, she draws us into her private wonderland with no design, yet heeding signs–including a talking sign that looms above her, prodding and sparring like the Cheshire Cat. In February, a surreal lunar year begins, bringing with it unexpected turns, heightened mischief, and inescapable sorrow. In a stranger’s words, “Anything is possible: after all, it’s the Year of the Monkey.” For Smith–inveterately curious, always exploring, tracking thoughts, writing–the year evolves as one of reckoning with the changes in life’s gyre: with loss, aging, and a dramatic shift in the political landscape of America.

***

This is one of those memoirs that is really not much about anything in particular. This is the third of Patti’s memoirs that I have read and it is the most insubstantial in a way.

I actually kind of enjoyed the fact that this was just a meandering journey through her year (2016) and her mind. It seems to be mostly a musing on life, with emphasis on aging and friendships. It is not always clear what events actually happened and which just played out in her mind. I loved that about it.

There is something poetic about Patti’s prose, and that is only emphasized when I listen to her reading it on audio. It feels very soothing and grounding, like a cozy blanket. I love her reading voice.

Still, though she experiences the loss of very close friends during the course of the memoir, I never found it depressing. Instead, there is an odd sort of hopefulness and a dreaminess about her tone. I love how she focuses on small things and the enjoyment of them. She seems to live life to the full.

If you are interested in reading Patti’s memoirs, I highly recommend the audio books. They elevate the experience. However, the physical book has a lot of her polaroid pictures in it, which are worth looking at. Also, this 2020 edition has an extra epilogue that in part documents the threat of the coronavirus outbreak, as she wrote that epilogue in February 2020. How the world changed…

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Hex (Jenni Fagan)

Sometimes it does not take 400 pages to tell a good story

★★★★★★☆

Title: Hex
Author: Jenni Fagan
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: 2022
Edition: Hardcover, published by Polygon in 2022

IT’S THE 4TH OF DECEMBER 1591.
On this, the last night of her life, in a prison cell several floors below Edinburgh’s High Street, convicted witch Geillis Duncan receives a mysterious visitor – Iris, who says she comes from a future where women are still persecuted for who they are and what they believe.
As the hours pass and dawn approaches, Geillis recounts the circumstances of her arrest, brutal torture, confession and trial, while Iris offers support, solace – and the tantalising prospect of escape.

***

At 101 pages, this is only a short novel, but it packs a good punch. It does so quietly with pose and melancholy.

The novel imagines the last night of the life of a maid accused of being a witch in 1591. The story takes a real person and a hanging that actually happened, and shows you the humanity of the girl accused and the inhumanity of those who put her there.

It actually took me about thirty pages to get into the story, but once I got into it I absolutely loved the way this was written. I felt my heart break for this poor girl, locked in a cell, degraded and tortured into admitting she and others were witches. My heart ached for her.

Using Iris as a means to tell her story was a nice touch. I did not always understand her part, especially in the beginning, but in the end it all made absolute sense to me.

Highly recommended as a short impactful read. This short read was part of Darkland Tales, a series of books in which Scottish authors reimagine stories from Scotland’s history and folklore.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2022 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: A Caribbean Mystery (Agatha Christie)

An reliable palate cleanser

★★★★★☆☆

Title: A Caribbean Mystery (Miss Marple)
Author: Agatha Christie – Narrator: Emilia Fox
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
First published: 1964
Edition: Audio book / Paperback, published by Fontana in 1983

As Jane Marple sat basking in the tropical sunshine she felt mildly discontented with life. True, the warmth eased her rheumatism, but here in paradise nothing ever happened. Then a question was put to her by a stranger: ‘Would you like to see a picture of a murderer?’ Before she has a chance to answer, the man vanishes, only to be found dead the next day. The mysteries abound: Where is the picture? Why is the hotelier prone to nightmares? Why doesn’t the most talked-about guest, a reclusive millionaire, ever leave his room? And why is Miss Marple herself fearful for her life?

***

I do like an Agatha Christie audio book to clear the fog from my brain sometimes. This one was no different and did the job adequately.

This is by no means my favourite Agatha Christie. I find Miss Marple a less interesting protagonist than Poirot, so there’s that. However, it did the job of entertaining and relaxing me. The story was engaging enough and though the mystery was not a shocker, the resolution was satisfactory enough.

This was written in the 1960s and there is some casual racism in the book. It did bother me a bit, and I had to remind myself that it is very much a product of its time. In this instance, it has not dated well, evn if it’s never mean spirited

I listened to the audio book narrated by Emilia Fox rather than the more popular version narrated by Joan Hickson. I listened to samples and preferred this one. Overall she did a pretty good job of reading the story, even if her occasional Caribbean accent was not great!

It did what it had to do and I enjoyed the listen for the most part.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesdays: 6 April 2022

Happy humpday!

The weather is miserable and after a lovely March, the weather is as grumpy as I am. Well, I think I’m grumpy because of the rainy windy weather.

***

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?

***

What am I currently reading?

My current main read is The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper. It’s a historical novel about prostitutes in Pompeii. I am enjoying it a lot.

On the side I am reading Upstream by Mary Oliver. It’s collection of essays centred around nature. I read one of Mary Oliver’s poetry collections before, but I think I am enjoying this more.

Finally, I am listening to A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie on audio. It’s a Miss Marple and I have to say, it’s not my favourite. It’s nice to listen to a mystery on audio though. I much prefer Agatha Christie in this format. Plus they are nice palette cleansers after a hefty non-fiction listen.

What did I recently finish reading?

I finished God: An Anatomy on audio. It was such a fascinating listen! Really enjoyed learning about the history of the God familiar from the Bible and I enjoyed the format the author chose to tell it in.

I also finished Book Two of The Masnavi by Rumi. I just appreciate the stories and this form of poetry. I think the translator made it very readable. There is a lot of explanation of the references in the back as well.

I read Galatea, a short story by Madeline Miller. I just really enjoy everything she writes and that one was a nice little book I could read in half an hour curled up on the sofa. Short reads are underrated!

Finally, I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. It was a good read, but I was surprised I did not end up loving it. Maybe my expectations were too high, or maybe Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing is just ok for me. I am not sure.

What will I reading next?

I have only a few books on my April TBR, but I think I will go with Spring, the first book of the Hyddenworld series by William Horwood. It will be a re-read, so I can finally get to the rest of the series. It’s not a well known one at all. What I remember from my first read of the book about six or seven years ago is that it starts pretty weak and gets stronger.It’s fantasy, but kind of contemporary. I’m looking forward to diving back into it. I am a little apprehensive, but I enjoyed it in the end last time, so I hope I will this time as well.