The Girl in the Tower

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden 

It was roughly this time last year that I read the first instalment in Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy, The Bear and the Nightingale. I mentioned in my review that it was one of my favourite reads of the year and it made my top five fiction reads in my 2017 round-up. I had been looking forward to reading The Girl in the Tower since its release earlier this year, but hadn’t been able to get it until a few weeks ago. However, I was not expecting just how invested I would become in this instalment of the Petrovich family’s journey, racing through The Girl in the Tower because I couldn’t put it down. The Bear and the Nightingale was one of my favourite reads last year, but The Girl in the Tower has definitely pushed the Winternight Trilogy into one of my favourite book series in general.   Read more

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Extracting the Stone of Madness

Extracting the Stone of Madness by Alejandra Pizarnik, translated by Yvette Siegert

I will admit that I had never heard of Alejandra Pizarnik before a few months ago: delving through some recommendation lists, I kept seeing her name coming up with strong recommendations. Although she was only writing for a short period of time, she has clearly had a large impact on Spanish language writers, and so I was excited to read this English translation of her poetry by Yvette Siegert. I usually read through poetry collections fairly quickly, and then continue to re-read them many times after; with Extracting the Stone of Madness, however, I felt that I would benefit most from taking my time reading through these poems and I enjoyed that change of pace.  Read more

The Poetry Shelf: Crossing from Guangdong

The Poetry Shelf: ‘Crossing from Guangdong’ by Sarah Howe

I first read Sarah Howe’s collection of poetry, Loop of Jade, last year and I came back to it many times in the subsequent months. It has quickly become one of my favourite collections of poetry and I’m sure I will keep reading and re-reading it for many years to come. I fell in love with the second poem of the collection, ‘Crossing from Guangdong’, the first time that I read it but over the past year it has come to mean much more to me than I ever expected. Through all the ups and downs of life, the first line of this poem has been in my mind, being quietly mulled over until it came to mean something more personal to me than simply the first line of a poem I like. As I thought about which poetical work to look at next in my series The Poetry Shelf, it didn’t take me long to decide on ‘Crossing from Guangdong’. Read more

First Fox

First Fox by Leanne Radojkovich 

It was my birthday recently, and one of the presents I was excited to receive from a good friend of mine was First Fox from independent publisher The Emma Press. My friend knows me well, and I could see from the blurb that this short story collection would be right up my street: a series of short stories depicting real life with the atmosphere of fairy tales. It did not take me long to read through this short collection and I very much enjoyed spending the weekend after my birthday doing so.   Read more

Summer Requiem

Summer Requiem by Vikram Seth

Although Vikram Seth was a familiar name to me, I had never read any of his writing. Really, the only book of his I was aware of was A Suitable Boy, which has been on my to-read list for a while but seems one of those books that it might take me a very long time to get round to reading. I had no idea that, before A Suitable Boy, Seth was most well-known for his poetry, so I was excited to find some of his collections as I browsed a bookshop the other day; the wonderful, end-of-summer design on the cover very quickly convinced me to treat myself to Summer Requiem (especially since we are having an early summer here in the UK). A summer evening spent babysitting seemed the perfect time to get stuck into these atmospheric poems. Read more

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I had seen a lot of buzz around Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and had mentally added it to my TBR list, so I was very excited when my housemate came back from town one day saying that she had bought it. I was proud of myself for showing restraint and not reading it while she was reading it (you can ask Ruth for more details on how annoying I can be with that) but I finally got a chance to sit down and read it over the recent bank holiday weekend. Despite dealing with some difficult issues, it was a good bank holiday book: easy to read and engaging. Read more

Visitation

Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky

Working with international students, one of my favourite questions to ask is ‘what literature from your country would you recommend I read?’ I’ve had many great conversations off the back of this question in which I have discovered more about the student’s life, understood a little more of their culture, and ended up with several books to track down. However, a few years ago, I asked a German student what German literature she would recommend and she replied that she never read any German literature because it wasn’t as good as English literature. I was taken aback by this response, both because I knew that it could not be true and because I was very sad that she felt that way. The whole way through reading Jenny Erpenbeck’s Visitation, I kept being reminded of that conversation and I wish that I was still in contact with that student so that I could recommend it to her. Not only is it an engaging read, it is a fascinating insight into a particular aspect of German history that I was not too familiar with: the complications of property in East Germany during the 20th Century. Read more

Best Fairy Tales (Hans Christian Andersen)

Best Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Jean Hersholt

My sister brought me this book for Christmas, based almost entirely on how nice it looks; I know they say never to judge a book by its cover, so I will just mention in passing that this is a very aesthetically pleasing copy. A few years ago, I had started to read through a kindle copy of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, but for some reason, I found it much easier to read these fairy tales in a physical copy, collated chronologically rather than alphabetically. Reading this collection on holiday, I really enjoyed diving into the fairy tales, familiar and unfamiliar, that Andersen will always be remembered for. Read more

Beren and Lúthien

Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

Those who know me in person will know that I love The Lord of the Rings and the world of Middle Earth. I may not be as immersed in these books as I was as a teenager, but I was still very excited about the publication of Beren and Lúthien and glad to have received it for Christmas. I finally had some time to sit down and make the most of reading it whilst I was away and I enjoyed stepping back into the world of Tolkien for a time. Beren and Lúthien was definitely not what I was expecting when I opened the book, but I was surprised in the best way by the opportunity to see a glimpse into how the story of Beren and Lúthien developed in Tolkien’s mind and writing over the course of his lifetime. Read more

Kinder Than Solitude

Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li

If you have been following my blog over the past year, you will have noticed that I have been very much enjoying the writing of Yiyun Li recently. I first encountered her through her memoir, Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in Your Life, which I absolutely loved and which lead me to seek out more of her work. I then happened across a collection of her short stories, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, which in turn prompted me to keep looking for more of her writing. I downloaded Kinder Than Solitude, one of Li’s novels, to take with me on holiday and, having started it on the ferry, I had finished it by the evening of our arrival. Whilst this didn’t provoke quite the same reaction from me that the previous two books had, this was still a compelling and engaging novel, with intriguing characters and fantastic writing. Read more