And welcome back to a brand new Reading List instalment. It’s time for things to get pretty bookish around here as I review what I read last month, and suggest some new titles for us to read together.
Whew! January was a MONTH, wasn’t it? The overwhelm of having to start afresh, begin new challenges and generally become a better person in just one month was a bit mad. But one great thing that came from it was that I noticed SO many of us are making reading a priority in 2019.
My Goodreads friends list has never looked so good. (Add me here!)
From this month onwards, I’m only going to be suggesting two titles for you, in a bid not to overwhelm or scatter the community too much. Simply pick one or both, read in the month and then pop back to discuss the novel! I’d like to eventually theme the Reading Lists but at the moment I’m enjoying selecting titles at random, one a little tougher and one an easier read.
Put it this way: I didn’t finish my own Reading List this month. I’m awful.
Let’s kick-start the List with last month’s reads…
The Memory Shop by Ella Griffin
I was not a huge fan of The Memory Shop and it became a bit of a struggle to get through it. Our heroine Nora has had her heart broken and flees London for Dublin, where she inherits her late grandmother’s home and all of her worldly belongings. Overwhelmed at the amount of things in her possession (no, she does not KonMari the house!), Nora decides to set up shop and rehome each of the items, giving them each a new lease of life.
The Memory Shop is incredibly clichéd and is a classic love-story-gone-wrong tale whereby the heroine drags her feet around for a bit and rises an empowered goddess of sorts. I found myself SO bored by the storyline, guessing almost the entire plot and simultaneously cringing at the cheesy narrative woven throughout.
What can I say?! I’ve just outgrown this genre.
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill
In contrast, I was utterly beguiled by the magical, desperately heartbreaking and charismatic story of two orphaned children. Delving into The Lonely Hearts Hotel, I had no idea what to expect and was pretty surprised to find much of it NSFW almost from the get-go.
Once I’d moved past that, I was mesmerised. The Lonely Hearts Hotel is dark, harrowing, disturbing and enchanting all at once. There’s a wonderful detached quality woven throughout that kept me feverishly turning the pages, even through passages that were difficult to read for its dark subject matter.
Be warned that there are themes of prostitution, rape, drug addiction and loss throughout, captured in a winning tale full of dancers, performers, clowns and two utterly lovable main characters. I honestly have no words to describe this novel, just that it instantly made it to my ‘Favourites’ list.
The Diary of A Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
Another of my spur-of-the-moment library loans, The Diary of A Bookseller is a non-fiction that chronicles one year in the life of a secondhand bookseller and shop owner.
I found it both hilariously informative and super slow at the same time. It took me a few reading sessions to get into the swing of the book, but once there Bythell sets us up with several points of reference that build a ‘story’.
However from around October (the diary begins in February), I found it super tough to get through as it is ultimately fairly repetitive and just more of the same. The characters are all beautifully portrayed and I definitely want to visit Wigtown, but moreover I’m more convinced than ever to avoid bloody Amazon.
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This month I also finally read This Side of Paradise after having it in my stocks for years. I’m not sure why I never got round to reading it to be honest because it has definitely left a lasting impression on me.
The book is hailed as a partially autobiographical novel of Fitzgerald’s youth. It tells the story of a young Amory Blaine, alarmingly intelligent and quick-witted with a certain aura about him. I was not convinced in slightest for the majority of the first half of this book — it’s divided into two — but the second part enamoured me and cemented its place in my literary heart. I’m a big quote noter-down when reading and I have so many from the second half of this book.
It beautifully captures the social dialogue and emotion at a crucial, post-war period. Totally recommend.
The February Reading List
Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo
“Deep in the Niger Delta, officer Chike Ameobi deserts the army and sets out on the road to Lagos. He is soon joined by a wayward private, a naive militant, a vulnerable young woman and a runaway middle-class wife. The shared goals of this unlikely group: freedom and new life.
As they strive to find their places in the city, they become embroiled in a political scandal. Ahmed Bakare, editor of the failing Nigerian Journal, is determined to report the truth. Yet government minister Chief Sandayo will do anything to maintain his position. Trapped between the two, they are forced to make a life-changing decision.
Full of shimmering detail, Welcome to Lagos is a stunning portrayal of an extraordinary city, and of seven lives that intersect in a breathless story of courage and survival.”
Across The Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn
(A.k.a. my favourite ever childhood book!)
“In his black-walled fortress at Inuyama, the warlord Iida Sadamu surveys his famous nightingale floor. Constructed with exquisite skill, it sings at the tread of each human foot. No assassin can cross it unheard.
The youth Takeo has been brought up in a remote mountain village among the Hidden, a reclusive and spiritual people who have taught him only the ways of peace. But unbeknownst to him, his father was a celebrated assassin and a member of the Tribe, an ancient network of families with extraordinary, preternatural skills. When Takeo’s village is pillaged, he is rescued and adopted by the mysterious Lord Otori Shigeru. Under the tutelage of Shigeru, he learns that he too possesses the skills of the Tribe. And, with this knowledge, he embarks on a journey that will lead him across the famed nightingale floor—and to his own unimaginable destiny…”