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text 2018-07-23 01:10
Aberystwyth, here I come...
Aberystwyth Mon Amour - Malcolm Pryce

After two somewhat heavy and sombre reads, it is time for a literary romp. 


Tigus recommended this one a short while ago, and from the first couple of pages this looks like it will be delicious fun. 


All I am saying, it has gangs of Druids.

"The thing I remember most about it was walking the entire length of the Prom that morning and not seeing a Druid. Normally when I made my stroll shortly before 9 a.m. I would see a few hanging around at Sospans ice-cream stall, preening themselves in their sharp Swansea suits and teardrop aviator shades. Or they would be standing outside Dai the Custard Pie joke shop, waiting for him to open so they could buy some more of that soap that makes a person's face go black. But on that day in June there wasn’t a bard in sight. It was as if nature had forgotten one of the ingredients of the day and was carrying on in the hope that no one would notice. Looking back, it’s hard for people who weren’t there to appreciate how strange it felt. In those days everything in town was controlled by the druids. Sure, the Bronzinis controlled the ice cream, the tailoring and the haircuts; and the Llewellyns controlled the crazy golf, the toffee apples and the bingo. But we all know who control the Bronzinis and the Llewellyns. And, of course, the police got to push a few poets around now and again; but that was just for show. Like those little fish that are allowed to swim around inside the shark’s jaw to clean his teeth."

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review 2018-07-17 20:30
How to Stop Time
How to Stop Time - Matt Haig

“The longer you live, the harder it becomes. To grab them. Each little moment as it arrives. To be living in something other than the past or the future. To be actually here.
Forever, Emily Dickinson said, is composed of nows. But how do you inhabit the now you are in? How do you stop the ghosts of all the other nows from getting in? How, in short, do you live?” 

You know when sometimes it feels like a book chooses you rather than the other way around?  Apparently, the two books I picked up while dazed with exhaustion at Heathrow last month did exactly that. I knew little about either of them and both turned out to provide exactly the kind of world-critical comfort I needed.


And, yes, I tend to not turn to sweet or light reads for comfort. Never have, really.


Anyway, How to Stop Time tells the story of Tom who was born in 1581 and "suffers" from a rare condition that makes him age very, very slowly. So, he lives through the centuries, falls in love, looses his loved ones, sees the world change, and sees the world remain the same.

"I go on the BBC and Guardian websites. I read a couple of news articles about fracturing US and Chinese relations. Everyone in the comments section is predicting the apocalypse. This is the chief comfort of being four hundred and thirty-nine years old. You understand quite completely that the main lesson of history is: humans don't learn from history."

Tom really suffers with this condition. He finds it hard to invest his life in people that he knows will die so long before him. He also finds it hard to live in one place, because his condition means that he is looked up with suspicion by the people around him, at best. At worst, he and his loved ones are persecuted.

“Human beings, as a rule, simply don't accept things that don't fit their worldview.”

He lives through the plague and the witch hunts and several other catastrophes. He discovers new worlds with Captain Cook and sees them go to seed.

“And yet we had done what so often happened in the proud history of geographic discovery. We had found paradise. And then we had set it on fire.” 

I really enjoyed the book. The story struck a balance between bildungsroman as we watch Tom grow and learn about who he is and about his place in the world, mystery as we follow Tom's quest to find his daughter, thriller as watch Tom get caught up in a dubious organisation, and social criticism. I really felt for Tom as he, despite his wisdom of age, struggled to deal with each moment of new-ness in this world.

“As far as I can see, this is a problem with living in the twenty-first century. Many of us have every material thing we need, so the job of marketing is now to tie the economy to our emotions, to make us feel like we need more by making us want things we never needed before. We are made to feel poor on thirty thousand pounds a year. To feel poorly travelled if we have been to only ten other countries. To feel too old if we have a wrinkle. To feel ugly if we aren’t photoshopped and filtered. No one I knew in the 1600s wanted to find their inner billionaire. They just wanted to live to see adolescence and avoid body lice.” 

What struck me most about the book, tho, was that Haig inserted snippets of positivity into the story. Despite the general observation that humanity is doomed to forever repeat itself because it does not take lessons from the past, there is also some hope:

“Whenever I see someone reading a book, especially if it is someone I don't expect, I feel civilisation has become a little safer.” 

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review 2018-07-14 11:44
The Salt Fish Girl
Salt Fish Girl: A Novel - Larissa Lai

After a month of trying to read a mere 256 pages, I have finally finished this...but I still really don't know what the book was trying to do or what it really was about. 


We have two stories being told in alternate chapters: the story of Nu Wa, a take on the Chinese creation myth, and the story of Miranda, which is set in the future and tells of a girl who was born with an unusual condition - she smells of durian fruit and later develops scales.  


I got the connection between Miranda and Nu Wa, but I'm not sure I got anything out of the book. I guess I needed a bit more in the way of connecting the dots or elaborating on why certain things were the way they were. 


For example what did Miranda's father do for a living that is called "tax collecting" but seems to happen in virtual reality where he still gets beat up every night?


I guess the book just wasn't for me.


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review 2018-07-04 22:37
The Book Lover / The Reader
The Book Lover - Ali Smith

This was a collection of poems, short stories, and excerpts of novels that Ali Smith put together when asked to reflect upon books, or literary works, that have influenced her. 


I enjoyed this. I loved that a print of the comic strip Beryl the Peril features alongside the poetry of Margaret Tait and others as well as parts of several novels.


There were many selections that I only sampled in this book and that I was happy to move on from sooner than later, but there were also some that I would not have stumbled upon in any other way and of which I really want to read more of.

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text 2018-06-30 14:49
The 2018 Mt. TBR Project - End of June Update

June has been an unprecedented month of really disappointing reads - 5 x DNFs, 1 x 1*, 2 x 2*. However, as several of you have agreed, having a lot of DNFs can be a good thing. It frees up reading time for other books. Books that could potentially be phenomenal.

So, I took the opportunity to clear and trim Mt. TBR a little bit this month, but actually managed to read quite a few titles, too, no doubt due to some much-needed vacation time.


End of June Mt. TBR:




End of May Mt. TBR:


End of April Mt. TBR: 


End of March Mt. TBR:


End of February Mt. TBR:


End of January Mt. TBR:


Start of the Year Mt. TBR:


The Stats:


Books read this month: 19

Mt. TBR Books read this month: 15 (but 5 were DNFs)


Women / Men / Team*: 57% / 40% / 3%

Fiction / Non-fiction*: 75% / 25%

% of original Mt. TBR read: 64%

% of live Mt. TBR read: I lost count of this...and am not going to fix the spreadsheet. 


(* - of all books read since 01 January 2018)


Link to the original Mt. TBR (2018) post.

Link to the original Mt TBR (2018) Reading List.


Rules - same as previously - are that I picked a stack of physical books off my shelves at home which I would try to read over the course of the year. Any new purchases are added to the pile. If I pick another physical book of my shelves, I get to take one off the pile and put it on the shelf - as a s

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