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August Book Chat.

I’m starting this new thing where I actually do what I started this blog to do! I’m going to write each month about the books that I’ve been reading so that we can start to talk about books again on here. I’ll still post my ‘Assorted Beverages with Alys’ posts, but these are coming too.

If you’ve read any of these books don’t be afraid to comment your thoughts on them below and we can have a chat.

So here goes! August was a good month for reading, I got a lot of words in my head!

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings- Maya Angelou Image result for i know why the caged bird sings

My Aunt Miranda brought this around for me when she came to visit and it’s been on my reading list for a very long time so I was very happy to receive it as a gift.

I loved this book. Which feels weird to say because it’s at times an horrendous tale of a real person’s life. It is an autobiography and it’s quite difficult to read sometimes because it’s hard to read the events that happened to someone, a real someone, that actually exists. These events actually happened. It’s interesting to see how things have progressed in our society, and also how they haven’t. It’s painful to read, it’s heart-rending to read, and it’s very much a human story. I could say so much about this book, I have SO many notes written on post-its stuck on almost every page of it, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin. (Also, I may be using it next year at university, so I don’t really want to write in too much depth in case I accidentally plagiarise myself if I use it in an essay)

Read this book. It is important.

Tuesdays with Morrie- Mitch Albom 

Image result for tuesdays with morrieI love this book. I read it last summer when I was Alex’s house on the recommendation of his dad Dave, and on the back of my love for ‘The Five People You Meet in Heaven.’ I read it again this year while I was there again. I think it’s just something that I should read every time I’m in that house! It’s a lovely book about the relationship between Mitch Albom and his old university lecturer Morrie. It’s told over the course of a period of time after Morrie finds out that he has ALS and his health begins to decline. As Mitch visits him on Tuesdays we see how although Morrie’s health deteriorates and his independence is stolen by his condition, we also see how his personality and the beauty of his outlook shine through. The two men settle into their old patterns and have lessons each week, Morrie re-assuming the role of tutor and Mitch that of the student. As the book, and Morrie’s illness progress, we learn about what is actually important in life.

It’s a very uplifting and bittersweet book to read because you are always aware that this lovely kind man is dying, and that the end of the book will come when that has happened. We know that this sweet, raw relationship between two real people is going to come to a conclusion at the end of the book and we will never be able to thank Morrie for the lessons that he has taught us. He is living on through his words as written by his good friend, but it’s always in the past tense. It’s beautiful and poignant and I definitely need to buy my own copy of it because if I keep borrowing Dave’s I will eventually destroy it!

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin- Louis de Bernières Image result for captain corelli's mandolin book

This is one of my all time favourite books. It’s beautiful and sad and nuanced and it will be on my bookshelf for the rest of my life. The book is set during the first world war, on the Greek island of Cephallonia. The main storyiline, arguably, is the love story between Pelagia and Captain Corelli, but that actually isn’t the most interesting part of it for me. I love the relationship between Pelagia and her father, and I love the relationship between Carlo and the reader. Carlo is probably my favourite character. I thought that there was too much of Mandras, not enough of Drosoula and Pelagia, and although I didn’t like him as a character I thought there should be more of the German soldier Günter Weber because of the potential to explore how Nazi soldiers were also just people. One of the main events in the book is how the Italian soldiers interacted with the German soldiers and were friends, and then when the politics of the war caused the Italians and Germans to be on separate sides, how that friendship changed into animosity. There’s almost too much to write about this book and it’s difficult to organise my thoughts on it.

I liked that we heard the story from multiple perspectives and from all sides of the war. We heard from Italian, German, and English soldiers and we also heard a lot from the Cephallonians whose home has been occupied by these people that were interrupting their way of life and frequently having atrocities committed upon them. It’s a very well written book with beautiful intricacies in the characters and their relationships with each other and it’s just a wonderful book that I think that everybody should read because of what it teaches us about the common humanity that we all share and having empathy for other people, whether we agree with them or not.

24441639The Bees- Laline Paull

I cull my books every year and this one was on the pile of possible rejects, but I thought I would read it just one more time to be sure if I wanted to send it to the charity shop, or to keep it on my shelves. It is still on my shelves. It;s a fantastic book about motherhood and about resilience when faced with restrictions.

Flora is a bee and it is forbidden for her to move outside of her caste. She is a sanitary worker in the hive, but she was born with the ability to speak. The novel spans the entirety of Flora’s life and tells her story through the ups and downs and her changes of career in her life. The Hive is an environment operating under strict rules and regulations and the story of Flora’s life is the story of what happens when someone who is not expected to be intelligent goes against those rules and regulations and changes an entire society. It’s a great book. I’m not sure how much longer it will be on my shelves, I tend to love it when I’m reading it and then the love and the intensity of that fades after I’ve read it, so I know it will be on the ‘maybe’ pile again next year, but it may stay on the shelves again, who knows?! Maybe I just have to keep reading it every year to keep it on my shelves!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone- J.K.Rowling Image result for harry potter hufflepuff edition

What can I really say about this? You already know it all. It’s a brilliant book for kids that has nostalgia on every page and some pretty good life lessons that are easily digestible for children. This was the first time I’ve read it in years as my original copies all got given away to my cousins by my mum, so this time I read my own copy that I bought for myself. The 20th anniversary brought out new editions of the books that I obviously had to buy, especially because I no longer had any copies, so I got myself a Hufflepuff edition. (Hufflepuff pride) I loved all of the extra bits that came with the new edition, although now I want to read all the stuff in the other House versions so that I can see what they say. I’d be interested to see what the Slytherin one says.

24331386The View From The Cheap Seats- Neil Gaiman

I’m not sure how I felt about this book. A lot of it was extremely interesting, but I think that the mistake I made with it was trying to read it from cover to cover. It’s a collection of Gaiman’s non-fiction, essays and speeches, and doesn’t really work that way. I think that if I had read this over a much longer period of time I would have enjoyed it more, and I will definitely pick it up to do just that at some point in the future, but on this first reading it was a bit of a mixed bag. There were points that I felt incredibly inspired after reading, and other times felt that I couldn’t finish a piece quickly enough. I think I just got a little fatigued with reading piece after piece of non-fiction. I did read this at the same time as another book, but I was very preoccupied with trying to get it finished and I think that scuppered my ability to enjoy it and take in what it was saying fully. Perhaps next time I read this I will have more to say about it’s actual content and how I feel about it.

Norse Mythology- Neil Gaiman 33290550

I love Norse myths, I think they’re hilarious and they’re great because the gods are flawed and I just really like stories with flawed characters. I really enjoyed reading Neil Gaiman’s version of them because I like his narrative style and it was interesting to see how it differed from Joanne Harris’ ‘Gospel of Loki’ in both style and certain translations. I liked both, but I think I preferred Gaiman’s- although I’m not sure whether that is an unconscious bias because I love so much of his work. (I also like Joanne Harris’ work, but it is written in a different way to the other books that I have read by her)

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Vanilla Caramel Tea With Alys

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Since I last wrote, a lot has happened.

I spent a lovely day in Manchester with Ash and Tom. It had been a little while since we were all together and so it was really nice to get out of the house and see them. It was just quite a nice day.

Then my aunt visited for a few hours and we talked a lot about books and feminism and fox hunting and psychology. It was really interesting and nice to see her. We don’t see each other very often at all, usually only a few times a year, because we all have our own lives and just get on with it. But it was lovely. She brought me a book aswell, which is great because we quite often have similar tastes in books, but also seem to know different books. She’s always good to get book recommendations from! She brought me a copy of Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’, which has been on my reading list for a very long time. I’ve read it and loved it and made notes, but I’ll talk about my thoughts on it later. It was lovely to see her and I’m looking forward to seeing how her book club gets on!

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Water from a Teapot with Alys. (Book chat)

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The Park by my old house in Preston.

For the last couple of weeks I have been organising my bedroom at my parents house. Trying to cram all my new stuff into my childhood bedroom that already had all of my childhood belongings in, not to mention the majority of my books, was quite the feat of effort. And it’s still not finished yet. I didn’t realise how much STUFF I had held onto over the years. I have letters, and teddies, and school reports from thirteen years ago. These things hold no meaning in my life anymore, so I’m getting rid of them, which is easy enough, but it just takes so much TIME. And I keep finding little deposits of these things in strange little places in my room where some previous version of me had squirrelled them away. Previous Alys doesn’t seem to have had any rhyme or reason to where she stored her things. But maybe that’s because she didn’t actually care about those things herself. And now I have to deal with her hoarding tendencies and get rid of all of the crap that she’s kept for the last twenty three years. Either way, that’s what I’ve been up to. When I’m not reading, because of course as soon as I actually had something to do I procrastinated like nobody’s business and read a lot.

So I finished reading The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins finally. I didn’t enjoy it. I wasn’t a fan right from the start, but it’s been on my list to read for about six years, so I persevered and then just kept going until I finished. I don’t really know what to say about it. It was paced slowly and I kept looking at the progress bar at the bottom of my kindle to see how far away from the end I was because it almost came to the climax of the story about three times. But then it just kept going! I think it’s safe to say that I’m glad that Kindle books are free if they’re out of print.

Then I went shopping with my mum and of course we went into Waterstones. I picked up Nod by Adrian Barnes and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

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Yorkshire Tea With Alys

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These last couple of weeks have been a really nice holiday. I went to the Lake District with Alex’s family and then stayed with them for a week in York. It was really nice to just have a break from everything. I even took a break from the internet while I was in the Lake district! (It wasn’t optional, there was no internet, but it didn’t bother me) It was so nice and simple to just be able to spend time with people and talk to them and spend time walking and reading and playing with the dogs. I enjoyed it a lot. Obviously living in a tent for a week isn’t always plain sailing, but other than some damp clothes and the occasional grumbly tumbly (and a sore ankle after climbing Stickle Tarn) it was wonderful.

I’ve always liked camping, or, I have good memories of liking camping- maybe I wasn’t actually so keen as a child, you’d have to ask my parents. Either way it was a really nice trip. We went walking, we were surrounded by beauty, and there was a really nice pub up the road from the campsite!

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Blue Smoothie With Alys.

plant, succulent, moving house, university, packing, friends

This week has been a week of reading and watching netflix. Tom moved house this week. Not properly, just he got his keys and we’ve all been over there to have a good look. It’s a really nice place, he has a lovely little room, with an ensuite and it’s going to look really cool when it’s all done and he’s all moved in. It’s made me excited for my new place. I know that I have to move back to my parent’s house first, but I can’t wait to get in there and start making it my own. I want to bring all of my plants and put up fairy lights and just have my things there. It’s going to be lovely and cosy.

I will actually be moving at the start of next week. Back home, and there will be a book cull. I have SO many books at my parent’s house, and I have to give them a good cull. I know there are some book people that keep every book they own forever, but I can’t do that. I have this idea that the way that I will die is being buried to death by an avalanche of books. Probably after they’ve been pushed over by my cat. Because I’m exactly that kind of person. But I won’t let that happen. My bookcases will be properly secured to the wall and my books will be limited to a manageable number. I can’t do much about the cat, cats will do what cats will do. If you follow me on Instagram you might see some of the process, I have a LOT of books to get through, as well as organising my entire bedroom again now that I’m moving back home, so that might be interesting. (Or at least amusing, when you see the state of my shelves)

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Ice Water with Alys- Summer and Moving House.

minimalism, yin yang, moving house, summer

I normally post these on Friday, but last Friday I was packing everything I owned into boxes and bags and sending it home to my parent’s house. So I didn’t really have much time. Moving house is a weird thing. It’s almost humbling to see your whole life in boxes, and when you’re packing it all up and you have to fit it into one car (and one small trailer) you have to decide what stays and what goes. Do you really need that dress that looks almost identical to that other dress? Do you really need all of these books? What is important to you?

It brings to mind all that stuff about minimalism again. I’m very aware that I wouldn’t be considered as a minimalist because of the sheer amount of stuff that I own, but it is interesting to think about which items that I own are bringing me enough joy to keep carting them around the country, and which ones don’t make the cut. It’s interesting to learn about yourself that way. I learned that I don’t need all of my books; the ones that I haven’t read, or will not read. I have learned that I can make do with a lot less clothes than I currently own. I have learned that I cannot do without my plants and the books that I do read/will read again. I have learned that I refuse to go without my nice skin cream that I use for my skin condition. I could use a cheaper cream, but I don’t want to. The cream that I use has a touch of luxury about it, it has a nice scent, it is not tested on animals, and I buy it from a company that I don’t mind giving my money too. My morals are something that mean something to me, and so I will continue to buy that cream that is a little on the expensive side, and instead save the money from all the clothes that I don’t need to buy.

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Peppermint Tea with Alys. (Voting and Reading)

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So I’m still a student. I got the email the other day saying that I’m able to re-sit my third year so I’m just taking some time to let that piece of information settle in and find its place in my brain. i bought some books to celebrate. Cheap ones from The Book Depository, but good ones nonetheless. Or at least I hope that they will be good! I have high hopes. The first one arrived today and it’s a sort of sequel to the one I’m reading right now, so it’ll be good to be able to start reading it as soon as I finish what I’m reading. Which is what I have been doing this entire week. I have been reading Homo Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and The View From The Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman. Both are non-fiction and I’m enjoying them immensely. The first is a history of humankind; a biological, anthropological, sociological view of humans throughout the life of our species. The second is a collection of speeches and essays that Neil Gaiman has written on a variety of subjects, mainly pertaining to fictions that he and other people have written. I have really enjoyed reading them alongside each other because the Gaiman book illustrates rather nicely a lot of the ideas in the Harari book. Harari discusses the ‘Thing’ that separates humans from other animals, and concludes that it is our capability to imagine.

To create fictions is inherently human (on this planet). It has been argued that language is the answer to what separates us from other animals, but scientists have proved that other animals use language. It has been theorised that it could be currency, but aside from the fact that other animals trade items, money is something that emerged from our root ability to imagine. I can’t explain it as well as in the book, so it’s something that I recommend you all to read. Fiction and imagining things extends from telling stories around the fire, to the imagining of big corporations as entities separate from the people that work for them. It’s a big business, this imagining thing.

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