Posted in Book Club, Book Reviews

October Book Chat

It’s late. I know. But this is fine, because I’ve been busy! These are the books that I read in October and what I thought about them. I’d really like it if we could all have a little chat in the comments, let me know if you’ve read any of these, what you thought about them, if you want to read them. Lemme know!

If this is published before my November post, I’ll be reading the following books in November, so if you want to read them too and then come back and have a chat about them when the November post is published, have at it!

  • Never Let Me Go– Kazuo Ishiguro
  • A Visit From The Goon Squad– Katherine Egan
  • Burning Your Boats- Angela Carter

Swing Time- Zadie Smith

There’s just something about Zadie that makes her writing so enjoyable. I’m never drawn to her books in a concrete sense, always a sort of ephemeral way. The subject matter does not interest me. I don’t want to read a book about two Image result for swing time bookgirls from London who wanted to be dancers when they grew up but it didn’t quite work out. It’s not something that really interests me. But here I am, having finished the book, having enjoyed the book. I think, after much consideration that it must be the writing that I like. I’m not that bothered about the subject, or the characters, so it must be the writing.

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Hot Tea with Alys

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It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Sorry about that, I’ve been busy. This last week was reading week at uni, which essentially is a week without lectures so that you can get some reading done and catch up/ get ahead before essays are set and deadline season begins. I didn’t do as well as I wanted on that front, but I did get a chunk of reading done, so it wasn’t too bad. On the other side of things, Alex came for a visit this last week and it has been really nice. He came up at the weekend and then we went out for Halloween! This year we had drinks at my place beforehand because hey, we don’t live together any more! It was quite weird, but it was nice too. My place is quite small, but it was nice to actually have the room full of people and music and Halloween decorations. I was an evil pixie/demon/devil thing this year. (Essentially, I wore a black dress with some red wings from Poundland with lots of red eyeshadow as countour all over my face.) It was a good night. I’m getting older though, the hangovers are getting a bit more disruptive these days, I may have to reassess what my alcohol limit is!

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Hazelnut Mocha with Alys

Image result for dallas buyers club

I watched Dallas Buyers Club for the first time. I cried. I don’t think you understand. I cried A LOT. Do you remember when I watched RENT for the first time? I cried that much. And this time I was in a public cinema, not even in my bedroom watching a film with my partner. I literally had tears spilling off my face and by the end of the film my entire face was wet, also the sleeves of my jumper. It was really really good. The screening was part of a film festival that my university does every year that is about education of mental health issues. (we’ll talk more about that later) and was followed by a short discussion about the topics and the film in general. It was a very good thing. I wouldn’t say that it was a good experience, or rewarding or any of those sorts of things, they don’t seem like appropriate words. It was enlightening, I suppose is a more appropriate word. The film is about a man in America who contracts HIV. It follows his life from slightly before his diagnosis and then afterwards. The story is ostensibly about the struggles of Americans to find and fund the medications that they need in order to recover, and simply live with HIV. It shows how the FDA and big pharma only look out for themselves and their businesses, rather than caring about the patients that they are selling the drugs to. This film is set in the past, but things have not changed much today. These things are companies, they are looking to make a profit and they will charge as much as they think that they can for the life-saving drugs that people need. If a person has something like HIV, a condition that can only be managed, not cured (as of yet) they can charge whatever they want. I did learn that today, in the UK, people who are diagnosed will have a normal life expectancy, but those people who contracted HIV in the past have a much lower life expectancy because of the number of drugs they have, effectively, been testing over the years. The long term effects of those medications are not yet known about as even now we are still learning what happens to long-time survivors. That aspect of the film makes me angry. HIV sufferers need these drugs and they’re dying every day from lack of access because of healthcare systems and the commercialisation and privatisation of them. They literally cannot afford to stay alive.

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Strawberry Mirinda with Alys.

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The last couple of weeks have been nice. It’s been nice to take some time to really settle in and figure out some new routines. I’ve been drinking lots of water and eating a lot of fruit. I’ve got used to the sound of loud trains going past in the middle of the night. I’ve left the flat almost every single day and that’s been tiring, but really good. If you didn’t already know, the outside is good for you. It feels like it’s properly Autumn now, it’s been cold and rainy with the occasional sunshiney day and it’s wonderful. It would be even better if I had a proper coat rather than just jackets here with me, but I’ll go home soon and get them. Ash gave me some fairy lights that she wasn’t using, so my room is lovely and cosy now. I’ve cracked out the autumn candles too because they smell like coffee and caramel and my kitchen is in my bedroom. It’s good to get rid of cooking smells. (And to replace them with more food smells…)

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Posted in Book Club

September Book Chat

This month I didn’t read as much as I would have liked, but as I moved house and started university again I think it’s excusable. I also hit my Goodreads challenge this month! I only set it for 30 books because I wasn’t sure how much time I would have to read, but I knew that was probably conservative seeing as I study English, so I knew I would read more than that. I’ve upped it to 40 now, so if you’re interested come be friends with me on Goodreads to see how I’m getting on!

And now on to the books… Let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you thought of them!

A Game of Thrones- George R.R. MartinImage result for a game of thrones book

I’m going to just say it outright. I’m a fan. I love these books. I got them a few years ago and read them all. I haven’t re-read them all yet, this was the first time re-reading the first book. Obviously it stands up to a second reading, but I feel like I maybe rushed through it a bit too fast. I didn’t miss a lot because I’d already read it, but I probably would have enjoyed it more had I slowed down.

I felt like I didn’t really have the time to read it properly because I’m starting back at university soon and wanted to get a head start on some of my reading. That’s also the reason that I haven’t read the others yet. Usually I would read them all in order one after an other, but I just don’t have the time at the moment.

The God of Small Things- Arundhati Roy

Image result for the god of small thingsThis was a slow read, but a beautiful and tragic one. It’s hard to describe this book. It’s heartbreaking and hopeful. It’s the story of how a family is affected by the death of a young child. Every single member of the family is affected. The story is told mainly through the eyes of a pair of twins that never thought of themselves as separate people before the death of their cousin, when the boy, Estha, was sent away. Years later they both return and Rahel, the girl twin, relates the story of what happened before he was sent away.

If you’ve read this book, please leave a comment helping me out with a description of it! It’s really hard to summarise everything that happens.

The narrative is non-linear, showing the events and their long-term effects of the death of Sophie-Mol, the twins English cousin. There’s a lot going on in this book as it spans a lifetime almost. In the present day Rahel has become her mother, Estha has become an elective mute and their aunt is a constant, unchanging presence throughout both of the timelines. There are a lot of elements to the story. The relationship between Rahel and Esta, the relationship between the twins and their mother, the relationship between their family and Sophie Mol. It’s a book all about humanity, and the God of Small Things. The God of Small Things is the God that watches over families and the small things that happen in their lives that change them forever.

It’s beautifully written.

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Tea in a Pumpkin Mug With Alys

moving house, emma bridgewater, succulents, mug, pumpkin, halloween

These past two weeks have been very busy.

I have moved house, finally! I moved into a studio flat in student accommodation and it’s actually really lovely. I have my own little kitchen and my own little bathroom and it’s really nice to have this space to myself without having to share it in the slightest. It is nice to have my own self-contained little place that I can make my own for the next year. Ashleigh is just across the road and on my second night here I popped over for a brew, which was nice because I didn’t have a kettle until my third day. As I write this, my boxes are strewn around me after a visit from my parents and all I did was stop to get my kettle and my mugs unpacked. I have a lovely cup of tea.

I’m not looking forward to going back to uni and lectures over much, but I suppose that’s what I’m here for and I only have one year left. I’ve already started on all of my reading and making notes on some of the books, I started over the summer so that I could get at least a little bit of a head start. Being on a dual honours English course makes for a lot of reading each week, so I’m glad that I did that for future me. I’m sure that she’ll be grateful. I know her pretty well, and I think she’ll be pretty grateful at any rate. (If you want to know what books I’ve been reading this month and what I thought about them, come back on Friday for the monthly book chat)

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Posted in Book Club

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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