Books · Poetry · Read in 2021 · Reviews

(Poetry) Book Thoughts: The Flowers of Evil (Charles Baudelaire)

Melancholy perfection

★★★★★★★

Title: The Flowers of Evil
Author: Charles Baudelaire
Translator: Anthony Mortimer
Genre:
 Poetry / Classic
First published: 1857
Edition: Paperback, dual language edition, published by Alma Classics in 2016

Judicially condemned in 1857 as offensive to public morality, The Flowers of Evil is now regarded as the most influential volume of poetry published in the nineteenth century. Torn between intense sensuality and profound spiritual yearning, racked by debt and disease, Baudelaire transformed his own experience of Parisian life into a work of universal significance. With his unflinching examination of the dark aspects and unconventional manifestations of sexuality, his pioneering portrayal of life in a great metropolis and his daring combination of the lyrical and the prosaic, Baudelaire inaugurated a new epoch in poetry and created a founding text of modernism.

***

I always find it hard to discuss poetry. I don’t know enough about poetry, technically speaking. I only know whether a poet’s work speaks to me or not. Well, I can confirm that Baudelaire’s poetry speaks loud and clearly. It speaks loud and clear in melancholy tones that I came to love.

The format of most of the poems is quite simple, but I can imagine how controversial the content of these poems must have been when they came out. For modern eyes they do not shock, but it was a different world back then. My modern eyes (and ears) much enjoyed reading this. His imagery is beautiful and the rhythm of his poems, mostly classical forms, just work so well.

The subject matter range from love to destruction and everything in between. There is deep sadness, despair, but also moments of admiration and yes, love. Considering his life (there was a helpful biography at the back), these poems make sense in that context. Yet, even before I knew anything about his life, his poems just clicked for me.

These poems are easy to read, but take a little bit more time to digest, just the way I like them. I will definitely be dipping in and out of this book, reading a poem here and there, in the future.

I don’t quite think this will be for everyone. The imagery can be a little crude and it does deal with sex and prostitutes rather a lot, but as a document of the time and as poetry, I thought this was exquisite.

I loved that this is a dual language edition, with the original French poem on one side and the English translation on the other. I did refer to the French versions every now and then and the rhythm felt much the same, so I can only surmise that this is a pretty good translation!

7 out of 7 stars

Books · Read in 2021 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: Listening to the Animals (Noel Fitzpatrick)

Emotional, but inspiring

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Listening to the Animals: Becoming The Supervet
Author/narrator: Noel Fitzpatrick
Genre: Non-Fiction / Memoir / Animals
First published: 2018
Edition: Audio/Hardback, published by Trapeze in 2018

We will travel with him through difficult school years and a very non-traditional career-path from farm animal practice in rural Ireland to the most advanced hospital for regenerative medicine anywhere in the veterinary world. We will hear in his own words the inspiration behind the inventions and techniques he has developed and the incredible lengths he has gone to in order to save the animals on his operating table, and we will begin to understand the emotional roots of his professional impetus. As heart-warming and life-affirming as the TV show with which he made his name, Noel’s memoir is a story of love, hope and compassion, and about rejoicing in the bond between humans and animals that can make us the very best we can be.

This was a book gifted to me and it took me a couple of years to decide to read it. I ended up going with the audio book, narrated by the author. I completely understand why my mother-in-law gave it to me. I love animals. I always have some around me. I wanted to be a vet when I was younger.

Yes, this book is about the journey the author went on from a young boy on a farm to being the ‘Supervet’ and having a state-of-the-art veterinary practice and a TV show, but it is about much more than that. Battling the odds is a major theme throughout the book, whether it is bullying or trying to make progress in medicine and science, making impossible things possible. This is clearly a man who has always worked very hard for what he believed in and his drive has brought him success, but also loss.

The author is clearly a very sensitive, beautiful person and his empathy shone through. However, there are times when I felt the book was a little too personal and emotional and that is unusual since I am a very emotional creature myself. Maybe it is because I am very sensitive myself that I felt uncomfortable at times, maybe it was too close to the bone. Maybe it was his emotional delivery on audio, which felt a little dramatic at times. I am not saying he should have done it differently, just that it did not always work for me.

I expected to love this book more than I did. I definitely thought it was interesting and inspiring, but for some reason I did not end up quite loving it. However, I did like this book and I would recommend it if you are interested in animals and their stories, as well as the life of a vet, or if you need that final push to persevere with something. You could just watch the TV show if you are more interested in the veterinary side rather than his personal story. Some of the animal stories in here were on the TV show.

This is not a book I would have necessarily bought for myself, but I am glad I read it.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Beach Read (Emily Henry)

Henry, Emily - Beach Read

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: Beach Read
Author: Emily Henry
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary Romance/Chick Lit
First published: 2020
Edition: Kindle e-book (Penguin)

January is a hopeless romantic who likes narrating her life as if she’s the heroine in a blockbuster movie.
Augustus is a serious literary type who thinks true love is a fairy-tale.
January and Augustus are not going to get on.
But they actually have more in common than you’d think:
They’re both broke.
They’ve got crippling writer’s block.
They need to write bestsellers before the end of the summer.

💞📔❤

I so wished I loved this as much as everyone else seems to. I really liked the sound of this, but for me the story fell a bit flat in places.

I liked our female lead January well enough, but male lead Gus left me completely cold. His actions too often baffled or annoyed me right up to the end. I just did not get him at all.

There are things I definitely liked, like the fact that both leads came with baggage and there was more to this story than simply the romance. The tension between our two leads was really well written in places, and I do love a bit of good tension!

Some of the side characters were really fun, but I felt they were a bit underutilized The overall writing was fine. I just felt that some things took too long to be wrapped up and then they were wrapped up in the blink of an eye.

So, yes, I have mixed feelings about this one. In the end it just left me a bit ‘meh’ and I doubt this is a romance that I will remember.

If you like the sound of this one, please do read it, because a lot of people absolutely love it. It just was not for me.

4 out of 7 stars

 

Books · WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesdays: 5 August 2020

As predicted, these past seven days have been much slower readingwise, but I am enjoying my reading and that is what counts!

***

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 are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Beach Read by Emily Henry (just like everyone else it seems!). I am almost halfway. It’s ok. I am not completely loving it, but I think it depends on where it goes from here. I am not really that into either of the main characters.

Henry, Emily - Beach Read   Kendi, Ibram X - How To Be An Antiracist

I am listening to How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi. I am so impressed with this book. I love how Kendi is taking his own experience and perspective and how he is the applying that to the world at large. I love how much passion is in his narration for the audio book. I am finding I am hanging on his every word in a way that I maybe would not have done if I had read the physical version. A very important book for sure and one I just know I will come out of wiser. I am about halfway into this one as well.

What did I recently finish reading?

I only finished two books since last week:

Rushdie, Salman - East,West    Marillier, Juliet - Tower of Thorns

Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier (Blackthorn & Grim, book 2): I adored this and I am reading the final book this month I hope! 6*/7

East,West by Salman Rushdie: This is a short story collection that was just ok for me. 4*/7

What do I think I will read next?

I want to read Nefertiti by Michelle Moran next. I have not read a book set in ancient Egypt for years and years and it used to be one of my favourite subjects. I am really looking forward to this one.


I also want to finish another fantasy series if I can. I am not sure whether I will go with the final book in the Blackthorn & Grim series (Den of Wolves) or Darkdawn (Nevernight trilogy by Jay Kristoff). I definitely feel in a fantasy mood.

If I can finish a few of my fantasy series this August, I will. I am keen to start some new ones!

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel)

Mantel, Hilary - Wolf Hall

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: Wolf Hall
Author: Hilary Mantel
Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction /
First published: 2009
Edition: Paperback published by Fourth Estate in 2010

Tudor England. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is charged with securing his divorce. Into this atmosphere of distrust comes Thomas Cromwell – a man as ruthlessly ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

***

I am so conflicted when it comes to this book. Whilst I recognised it’s incredible construction and the meticulous research that must have gone into it, it left me rather cold and I struggled to get through it.

The subject, Thomas Cromwell, is an interesting character, but somehow I felt I always stayed at arm’s length. I never quite felt that I was in his mind or that I knew what he was about. Maybe that was the intention, but it did not really work for me.

I found the writing impressive overall, but a bit dense and a little confusing at times. This is such a grand book, filled with characters from history we already think we are familiar with, but it is angled at quite a different viewpoint than the one we are used to. I thought I would love it and I am disappointed that I simply did not. I did not quite enjoy the experience of reading it the way I thought I would. At times it felt like a bit of a slog.

I am, however, glad I finally read it. I just wonder whether I read it at the right time. I will keep this on my shelves as it is one of those books I may read again in the future to see whether it will sink in more than it did this time.

Would I recommend it? Yes, I think I would, but with the side note that this is a book that takes quite some reading and will definitely not be for everyone. It was a bit dry and dense at times, but I think the overall story and writing is impressive enough to deserve to be read.

4 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Dear Martin (Nic Stone)

Stone, Nic - Dear Martin

★★★★★★☆

Title: Dear Martin
Author: Nic Stone
Genre: Fiction/YA/Contemporary
First published: 2017
Edition: Kindle e-book

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

I read this novel in one day, very rare for me! I just needed to continue reading. It felt important and all too relevant.

This novel deals with topics that unfortunately are all too current; racial profiling, police brutality, injustice and white privilege. It does so with elegance and conviction. The main character Justyce is easy to like. He tries so hard and yet he is always confronted by the fact that no matter what he does, he is black and therefore people, white and black,  will be prejudiced.

I really enjoyed the way this was written. Some as letters that Justyce right to Rev. Martin Luther King diary style, some as scenes from a play and some as a normal novel, in present tense. It really worked well. I loved the friendships in this book and the slowly developing relationship. I was also impressed by the way race and racism was handled with a careful hand that (unfortunately) most likely spoke from experience.

I would whole-heartedly recommend giving this book to your teen sons/daughters, cousins, pupils to read to get a better understanding of what it is like to be a black teen in a white man’s world.

I only wish it was longer and I will definitely look into other books by this author.

6 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Among The Boat People (Nhi Manh Chung)

Chung, Nhi Manh - Among The Boat People

★★★★★★☆

Title: Among The Boat People
Author: Nhi Manh Chung
Genre: Non-Fiction / Memoir
First published: 2019
Edition: Paperback, published by Autonomedia, courtesy of the author

Nhi Manh Chung lost her mother Lieu, her brother Kwok Chieu, and her younger sister Bao to the ravaging dark sea while trying to escape Vietnam. Finally settling in New York, her hardships gradually ease as she works her way through college, marries and works as a bilingual teacher. Here she writes her own story, revisiting her past. 

When I was contacted regarding this book, I knew immediately I wanted to read it. There is something about first person experiences that I love to read about. In a way, I feel like every time I read a memoir like this, my world expands a little bit and I love that feeling.

This is only a short book, but it tells a rich story of a life ever evolving. Nhi tells us about growing up in post-war Vietnam, escaping the communist regime and losing close family members in the process, her arrival in New York and the life she built for herself there, teaching immigrant children. She does so in very much her own voice. This is not a particular eloquent polished memoir, but I think that is exactly what lends it its character and power. It is what I loved about this. It reads like you just met an incredible person and they are now relaying the story of their life to you. As in conversation, her memories flow from one into another. Recounting one experience will remind her of another and so she builds the picture of her life and those whose life touched hers and whose lives she touched herself.

This book highlights the plight of refugees and the perilous lengths a person would go to in order to find a better life. It also touches on the Amerasians, children born from US soldiers and Vietnamese women, that arrived in the US, ostracised in their own country, in the hope to find their home in the USA.

Is this a really well-written book? No, the author is not a natural writer, but she does not need to be. Had it been heavily edited, I think it would have lost something. I really enjoyed reading this book and I hope others will as well.

6 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Meet Me in the Bathroom (Lizzy Goodman)

Goodman, Lizzy - Meet Me In The Bathroom

★★★★★★☆

Title: Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011
Author: Lizzy Goodman
Genre: Non-Fiction/Music/Culture   Pages: 596 (+index)
First published: 2017
Edition: Paperback, published by Faber & Faber in 2017

New York, 2001. 9/11 plunges the US into a state of war and political volatility-and heralds the rebirth of the city’s rock scene. As the old-guard music industry crumbles, a group of iconoclastic bands suddenly become the voice of a generation desperately in need of an anthem.

This was such a fun ride. It basically tells a story of a specific group of people in a specific time in a specific city and the music that came from that. It takes us through the stories of bands like The Strokes, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Sound System and Vampire Weekend, as well as some lesser known (to me) bands.

The book is told via quotes and stories told by various people, including the bands themselves. To learn more about their stories through their own words and through those of people that were part of that scene, sometimes with conflicting memories, was something I really enjoyed. It really a snapshot of a moment in time.  It took a while for me to get into, but this way of story telling brought so much energy, which seems synonymous with the music that was being made at the time.

This book is full of excess, debauchery and of course egos, but it also tells a story of people who share a passion for music and  in the end it is the beating heart of the City that is at the centre of this book.

Apart from Vampire Weekend, these are not bands that I listen to a lot these days, but I loved this book. Simply because there is so much passion in it and it is a story well told.  It is the story of the beginning of a scene and a little bit of the end, but I feel it still simmers.

If you have no affinity at all with these scene or these bands, I doubt you would find it very interesting, but to me, who was a scene girl of sorts in my teens and early twenties, this was a lot of fun.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts; This Savage Song ( V E Schwab)

Schwab, V E - Monster of Verity 1 This Savage Song

★★★★★☆☆

Title: This Savage Song
Author: V E Schwab
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Dystopian
First published: 2016
Edition: Paperback, published by Titan in 2016

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city, a grisly metropolis where the violence has begun to create real and deadly monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets monsters roam free and makes the inhabitants pay for his protection. August just wants to be human, as good-hearted as his own father – but his curse is to be what the humans fear. 

*

I enjoyed this one. It took me a while to read it, but that was not the book’s fauly.

I was engaged from the beginning and I liked both Kate and August, the main characters,  well enough. I really liked the way this world was set up and the mechanics of it. The concept certainly felt pretty original and different. However, I felt it could have been a bit more fleshed out.

I think that is how I felt about this book as a whole. I really enjoyed it, but despite it’s distinctive world, it simply felt a bit predictable and at times I felt like it was simply going through the motions a little bit. I am not quite sure why I feel that way, as I enjoyed what I was reading, but nothing felt surprising or particularly sticks out now I have finished it.

Overall, I really did like the writing itself. I will definitely be reading the second book in this duology and I am sure I will try another on of this author’s series in the future.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: High Fidelity (Nick Hornby)

Hornby, Nick - High Fidelity

★★★★★☆☆

Title: High Fidelity
Author: Nick Hornby – Narrator: Russell Tovey
Genre: Fiction/contemporary
First published: 1995
Edition: Audio book

Do you know your desert-island, all-time, top five most memorable split-ups? Rob does. He keeps a list, in fact. But Laura isn’t on it – even though she’s just become his latest ex. He’s got his life back, you see. He can just do what he wants when he wants: like listen to whatever music he likes, look up the girls that are on his list, and generally behave as if Laura never mattered. But Rob finds he can’t move on. He’s stuck in a really deep groove – and it’s called Laura. Soon, he’s asking himself some big questions: about love, about life – and about why we choose to share ours with the people we do.

*

I listened to this on a whim as an Instagram ‘book club’ I love was reading this. It is one of those books that had been on my radar for years, but I just never really felt like actually reading. I knew I had watched the movie in the 90s, but could not really remember it at all.

It was an interesting trip reading this book. It is kind good and bad at the same time, which is a curious thing to achieve! The book is mostly about relationship and emotional attachment and is told from the point of view of a guy, who is a bit of an arse really.

I like my music, so I loved how much the main character, Rob,  loves music and the fact that he owns a record shop, but apart from that…. He needed a good slap. To be honest, so did his (ex?) girlfriend Laura, also a bit of an arse. I got way too annoyed with all the characters at one point or another, but kind of rooted for Rob at the same time.

I do like this type of oddball book, which is sort of about nothing, but simply looks at human nature and the world from a rather ordinary perspective.

Russell Tovey’s narration was fine for the most part. His tone was a bit off sometimes, especially when doing the ladies’ voices, but overall I liked it.

When I finished it me and my husband sat down to watch the movie for the first time in 20 years.

The book feels very British and I kind of enjoyed that about it. The movie adaptation (with John Cusack) sort of misses that Britishness (obviously being American it would!).

5 out of 7 stars