What I read in May (2020)

Another month in isolation brings another months worth of reading to an end! I have read a variety of things and pretty much loved everything. I’m starting to think maybe I need to be more critical…!? I found myself feeling drawn to non-fiction which isn’t the norm for me, but nonetheless, the month was still dominated by fiction.

The Library of the Lost and Found, Phaedra Patrick ★★★★

It feels like a life time ago that I read this but it was only at the start of the month! A lovely, heart warming story about a librarian who attempts to discover the truth about her family’s past. Uplifting and reviving in a time of need! And if you like books about books, stories and words, you’ll love this.

Re read: Normal People, Sally Rooney ★★★☆☆

The beginning (and most of May it seems) has been dominated by the hype around Normal People. I decided to re-read this in the hope of liking it more, again, I was left with the same feeling I got the first time round. Average story documenting a strange kind of relationship – something about it doesn’t sit with me well. A nice little coming of age novel, but one that doesn’t deserve the hype, nor the literary credibility.

The Bullet Journal Method, Ryder Carroll ★★★★

I enjoyed this very much. To coincide with my increasing habit of journalling during isolation, I decided to read the definitive bullet journal guide. I found it very informative, motivating and easy to read and would recommend it to anyone who is looking to learn more about the benefits of journalling to manage anxiety. It also contains useful diagrams and examples of how to lay out your journal.

The Bridge of Little Jeremy, Indrajit Garai ★★★★

I was kindly sent a copy of this and really feel in love with the story. It is one of the most beautifully written stories I have read and I feel in love with the language. It’s told through the perspective of a twelve year old boy living in Paris, trying to save his Mother from going into financial ruin. It really tugs at your heart strings, but in all the best places. Above all, it is a story about the love and appreciation for art and seeing the beauty in the everyday.

Frozen Butterflies, Simona Grossi ★★★★

This was weird story, it had such a lingering weirdness that I couldn’t bring myself to write a review about it on my blog. The characters were directionless, possessive and obsessive and I found the relationships that Susan (the protagonist) perused worrying and strange. However, I found myself addicted to the book and couldn’t stop reading it. The discovery of a stranger’s journal starts the whole thing off and gives the reader the hook they need to read the novel. Intriguing is one word to describe it for sure.

Hot Milk, Deborah Levy ★★★★★ 

Arguably the best book I have read this year, I loved everything about it – from the story, the protagonist, Sofia, and the general ‘feeling’ the book left me with. It’s descriptive prose made me notice even the small things in my day to day life, and I felt I could immediately read it again. Set in Spain, the story follows the journey of post-graduate, restless Sofia, as she takes her mother to Spain in the hope of curing her various ailments. It is essentially a coming of age novel, but told with such sincerity and depth that it kind of blew me away.

In the Dark, Soft Earth, Frank Watson (ARC, due to be published July 2020) ★★★★

I was kindly sent this from the Plum White Press. This collection of poems explores many elements, from love, relationships, desire, to an appreciation of nature and our place in the world, but essentially draws upon the idea that everything we experience has an ancient history. The language is simple, but charged with pivotal imagery and sentiment. The images created are beautiful, and a hypnotic ode to the human experience.

Airhead: The Imperfect Art of Making News, Emily Maitlis ★★★☆☆

I found this book enjoyable, interesting and funny at times. As someone who is interested in journalism and admires Emily Maitlis for her wit and manner when interviewing, I was excited to read it. However, I felt it lacked depth. It reads as a snapshot diary documenting various interviews, but offering little in depth insight into the philosophies behind news-making and journalism. Maybe I expected to much from it, but I felt she could have gone deeper as she certainly has the capabilities to do so. However, still an interesting read.

Reading stats

Average rating – 3.8

Books read – 8

Pages read – 2, 276

What I’m currently reading

I’m currently still reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists but I’m so close to finishing! I’ve been reading it in-between the sixteen or so other books I have read for the past couple of months, hence why it seems like I’ve been a bit slow. I have to read it in small chunks as I’m trying to really take it in. I am actually writing a piece on it for another publication so I want to read thoroughly. I must admit, there were a few sections in the middle that dragged somewhat, but I’m currently on a bit that’s really good! I think it will be a book that ends up having a significant impact on me and the way I think.

Final thoughts

I’m actually feeling very happy with myself in terms of reading. For three years whilst I was at university, I just didn’t find the time to read for pleasure and I am so pleased that this is something I am able to do. COVID has helped obviously, but I think I would be reading just as much anyway. This month I reached 30 books read so far this year which is crazy! I sent myself a target of 50 at the start of the year and thought that was ambitious!

I’ve had a couple of really great comments and feedback recently on my reviews – saying they are really in depth and thought out which is wonderful to hear. However, it has got me thinking, am I perhaps writing reviews which are too in depth? Would it be better to adopt more of a chatty, informal style or still stick to the ‘rigorous’ type approach. I’ve tried doing the short and snappy style which I enjoy, but sometimes it doesn’t feel right for certain books. If you have any thoughts on this, please let me know!

Happy reading and best wishes as always,

Violet xxx

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Book Review: The Library of Lost and Found

Title: The Library of Lost and Found

Author: Phaedra Patrick

Genre: Fiction

My rating: ★★★★

Synopsis

One day Martha, a librarian, discovers a mystery package on her door step which changes her life forever. In the package is a book of short stories, featuring a dedication from her Grandmother, Zelda, who died years earlier. This becomes a puzzle to Martha and she sets out to get to the bottom of it.

Martha is always helping other people and spends her life putting people before herself, however, with the arrival of this package, she is forced to face past family secrets that have entrapped her forever. Join her, as she goes on her own journey of self discovery.

This is a heartwarming and uplifting story set in a small, English seaside town, that will take you on Martha’s journey as she discovers more about her family. It is fundamentally, a story about the joy of storytelling and the power of the written word and imagination, but also the value of family, friendships and love.

Review

  • I immediately loved the feel of this book as it is a book about books! The main protagonist, Martha, is a librarian who appreciates the joy of books and used to write stories when she was a young girl, naturally I was invested in the book and Martha as a character.
  • Martha is instantly likable as she leads a life helping others and the reader is left wanting to know if she herself, gets a happy ending. All her life she has put her needs last and it is starting to take its toll on her. The arrival of this mystery package comes at the right time.
  • The element of mystery introduced by the package and the can of worms it opens within Martha’s family, is intriguing and made me want to read on. I wanted to find out what had happened within the family many years ago. I wanted to know where the book came from and why etc.
  • The book flips between different narrators, events and time periods, to give background on the family setting and what happened between Martha’s parents and her Grandmother, Zelda. I thought this was clever in the way it related to the present and connected the dots.
  • The story on the whole was very well told, intriguing and gripping, but for a story about stories, I was left feeling slightly unfulfilled by the plot and its ending. I felt there were more avenues it could have explored to give it more depth, however, maybe it’s being left for a sequel…?
  • The story ends with Martha just starting to gain more control over her life and putting her happiness first, however, we never know exactly how this ends which is disappointing.
  • I loved the setting of this book, as I have always been attracted to small, English coastal towns. I like the idea of Martha’s family living in the same place for generations and the amount of history and sentiment the place holds for her.
  • It definitely has elements of sadness which I kind of expected – but these were explored with a great amount of poignancy which makes you realise the importance of family, and how we are all constrained by time.
  • Martha as a character frustrated me at times but I guess that was the point – as readers we feel invested as we want her to have the good ending that she deserves.

Final thoughts

I would recommend this to anyone who likes stories about stories, books and writing. And also anyone who loves a slight mystery tinged with romance and intrigue. This book covers all of these elements and is told in such a heartfelt, uplifting way, that I would’t hesitate to suggest it to anyone.

It was a joy to read and I devoured it over the course of a few days. But I was left feeling slightly unsatisfied by the ending, hence, I haven’t given it a five star rating. Nonetheless, it is a story full of great characters that oozes warmth and the value of family and friends – which we could all take a dose of in this difficult time.

The past was in the past, and she had to accept it and lay it to rest, so she could look to the future.”