November Round Up

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November has been a terrible reading month for me. I only finished one book and I am halfway through the second; this means I have read roughly 600 pages in November and that really isn’t very much. I feel I have been putting aside time to read as well so I am not sure what has happened. November has been busy in the fact that I moved flats, so admittedly a lot of my free time has been spent packing, unpacking and organising the new flat. Things at work have also been hectic, as they always are at this time of the year and an old uni friend came to visit this weekend so I have spent my time gossiping and laughing at how ridiculous we used to be, even though we actually only left uni five years ago.

In November I read:

Down Under by Bill Bryson, which I read as part of Australia Reading Month and to get me in the mood for some planning for my own trip to Australia next year.

I started Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks, which is the last book on my TBR Pile 2014 and it is this book that I am currently reading. Hopefully I might finish it by this time next week.

Due to the limited reading, I haven’t made much progress with any of my challenges, but never mind, I’m quite happy with how they are progressing at the moment.

Overall November has been a crazy month and one that went by far too quickly. I am beginning to feel slightly Chrsitmasy now, but I don’t think that will truly kick in for a few more weeks.

Down Under by Bill Bryson

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Last month I decided to take part in Australian Reading Month for November (original post). I was feeling optimistic because my friend had kindly bought me some Australian based books for my birthday and I had booked a trip for next July, so I was keen to start reading. What I failed to anticipate was how manic the start of November was going to be; I returned to school after half term and I moved to a new flat. Unfortunately this has left me with little time for reading and I think the fact I had chosen to read a non-fiction made it all slightly harder.

I have vague recollections of Bill Bryson books appearing at some point in my teenage years, however I remember avidly avoiding them, in the same way I avoid travel shows, travel agent brochures and any other type of holiday related parapanellia. Jealousy. Yes, I will readily attempt I am subject to severe green eyed envy with anything related to venturing abroad. For such a long time the thought of travelling never really seemed something I could afford to do. I grew up with a dad who views money and education as everything. Why go travelling when you can save that money and buy a house type attitude. Materialistic gain is everything and you are not successful until you have a big house, flashy car and wide screen TV. In hindsight it was this attitude that most likely stopped me from taking a gap year. As I have gotten older and more independent, as my family unit has changed (for the better) and as I have come to the realisation that to afford a deposit for a house I would most likely have to sell a kidney or live off beans for the next ten years, I have come to the wonderful epiphany of f**k it! Why shouldn’t I travel? I have a good job and income, very few responsibilities and why not spend my money on something exciting and adventurous. In this new frame of mind I am happy to read Bill Bryson’s books on travelling distant lands and I can read Lonely Planet guides without wanting to throw them out of the window and resorting to an ‘it’s not fair’ child like tantrum.

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Back to Bryson. I read Notes From a Small Island a few years ago; I could deal with this as it is a book about Great Britain so I can hardly be jealous of travelling around the country I live in. I already had some experience of Bryson’s witty writing style and my friend gave me Down Under as part of my Australian reading birthday present so I thought this would be the ideal place to start. I have read very little travel writing so I’m afraid I have nothing to compare Bryson to, but his writing is welcoming and full of interesting facts and places to visit. He has a certain ability to sum up the character of a nation and to describe these in a lovable way. You genuinely feel that he loves travelling and relishes the opportunity to meet a wide and varied selection of people. His enthusiasm for his travels is almost infectious and makes me wish I could write as well, especially as I am currently toying with the idea of a travel blog focused on my big adventure.

I started my reading by turning down the corners of pages with interesting facts, but the more I read the more I realised I would probably end up turning down every page in the book. I do feel as though reading this book has made me much more educated on Australia, perhaps some of the key things I learnt are:
1. 80% of all that lives in Australia only exists there.
2. You should swim across a rip tide.
3. There are giant sculptures of random things, such as bananas and lobsters, in the Outback just waiting to be discovered.
4. The capital city, Canberra, is just over 100 years old.
5. The majority of the Outback has never been officially surveyed.
6. Aboriginal children were taken from their families in an attempt to ‘integrate’ them with the White people and this was happening as recently as 30 years ago.
7. And perhaps the scariest thing is that the majority of animals, insects and ocean life will want to kill me. For example, Bryson recalls a tale of a man stung by a Box Jellyfish who is in so much pain he screams even though he is unconscious. Or the tale of a shark captured and kept at an aquarium, swam around for a few days and then spat out a human arm.

Despite this last and slightly worrying fact, I feel surprisingly comforted. I am travelling alone on my adventure and Bryson has reassured me that I can do this on my own. Yes, he is a middle aged man who has travelled extensively and I am a novice, but his description of the country and Australians in general has made me realise I can do this. I’m sure it will be scary at times, but I have no intention of venturing to the Outback -even though now I’m thinking should I try to get to Uluru – and I feel prepared for anything that could attack me ha! So it is fair to say that reading Down Under has helped to quiet some of my worries, but maybe I won’t be lending it to my mum anytime soon; she is 100% supportive of my plans, but that might change if she thinks I could stray into the path of a crocodile or a box jellyfish at any moment.

The Classics Club Spin #8

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Yay another Classics Club Spin. I have been doing pretty well with these this year and have completed the books I have had. I am determined to keep this up for the last spin of the year.

The rules are simple:

1. List 20 books from your Classics Club list
2. Post your list by Monday 10th November
3. On Monday a random number will be chosen and you need to read that book by January 5th

I am not going to sub divide my list into smaller categories, choosing instead to just number them at random and keep my fingers crossed. I have already started thinking about my reading plans for next year and have included some books from my Classics Club list in these plans so I don’t really want any crossovers.

1. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
2. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
3. A Room with a View by E. M. Forester
4. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
5. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
6. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
7. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
8. Emma by Jane Austen
9. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
10. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
11. Persuasion by Jane Austen
12. Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
13. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
14. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
15. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
16. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
17. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
18. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
19. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
20. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Hopefully I haven’t repeated any books as I usually do that. I look forward to next Monday.

A Storm of Swords 2: Blood and Gold

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I LOVE George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series, as do millions of other people. Having watched the first two series – after I had read the books – I decided I wasn’t going to watch any more of the TV show until I had read all the books. As I have mentioned before the hardest thing about this little mission of mine is avoiding any spoilers when the new series is being aired and so far I have been pretty successful with this. Due to my desire to avoid spoilers this review won’t be very long and won’t contain any spoilers as I truly think people should discover this amazing and epic series for themselves.

A Storm of Swords 2 picks up where the last one ended and the problem I had with this is I couldn’t quite remember what had happened to each character at the end of the last book. All this has done is highlighted that I need to read the books closer together. The battle for Westeros is still raging, with several challengers to the throne, all of who, have their armies and their enemies. Across the ocean, Daenerys is quietly gathering her own army and raising her dragons, biding her time, waiting to strike for the Iron Throne. Whilst everyone is fighting for the right to rule they are neglecting the North and most importantly the growing dangers of what lies beyond The Wall.

I could wax lyrically for paragraph upon paragraph as to how much I love Martin’s writing and how engrossed I become in the books, but I do that every review and I think it might be getting a little boring now. This is a hefty book with over 500 pages but I sped through it in a couple of days. Yes, I had the advantage of being on half term, but I also credit a lot of it with the style of writing, the gripping narrative and the engaging characters you genuinely want to know more about.

For now I am going to make a start on my Australia reading for AusReadingMonth but I am determined to read the next book in the series before Christmas. If you haven’t read any of the books or watched any of the TV show Game of Thrones I strongly recommend that you do, although obviously I would urge you to start with the books.