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 · 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 · 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

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 · Read in 2022 · Reviews

(audio) Book Thoughts: Horses Never Lie (Mark Rashid)

A horsemanship book that doubles as a really good read!

★★★★★★☆

Title: Horses Never Lie
Author: Mark Rashid (Narrator: Dan Lawson)
Genre: Non-Fiction / Horsemanship / Memoir
First published: 2000
Edition: Audio book & Paperback, published by Skyhorse in 2015

With this sensitive, thoughtful approach, Rashid challenges the conventional wisdom of “alpha leadership” and teaches the reader to become a “passive leader”—a human counterpart to the kind of horse other members of a herd choose to associate with and to follow. Applying Rashid’s principles and techniques helps cultivate horse personalities that are responsive and dependable regardless of the rider. Reliving Rashid’s experiences with him, you will come to feel the same sort of compassion and appreciation for your horses that you do for the people in your life.

🐴🐎🐴

Now, I understand that this book should only be interesting to someone who is interested in horses (which I am – I own three ponies), but I actually feel it is worth writing about. Because this is a book for a very specific audience, I will keep this short, but it was interesting and helpful to me, so I wanted to touch on it anyway.

Because the way it is written and the way it looks at both equine and human behaviour, this is far from just a simple training guide, I think the audience could be a bit broader than just people looking for horsemanship books. Parts of it read as a memoir, and the author does a great job taking the reader through his own experiences and observations with excellent storytelling skills.

This book makes its point of ‘passive leadership’ through a number of examples that the author has come across, either with horses he himself worked with or clients who came to him with horses that had certain issues. He looks at the way the ‘problem horses’ behave and links it back to the way the people trying to train it project themselves and how that links back to the horse’s preceived problems.

I enjoyed this both as an inspiration to try and build a better partnership with my own beloved equines and as a book and reading experience. I enjoyed the audio book, but I also love the little illustrations in the paperback. If you own or work with horses, or even if you are just interested, I would highly recommend this one.

6 out of 7 stars