Read in 2017: August

7.9.17

#44 - A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS // George R.R. Martin
"Almost a century before A Game of Thrones, two unlikely heroes wandered Westeros. In an age when the Targaryen line still holds the Iron Throne, and recollections of the last dragon have not yet passed from living memory, a naive but courageous hedge knight, Ser Duncan the Tall, towers above his rivals - in stature if not experience.
Tagging along with him is his diminutive squire, a boy called Egg, whose true identity must be kept hidden: for in reality he is Aegon Targaryen, and one day he will be king. Improbable heroes though they be, great destinies lie ahead for Dunk and Egg; as do powerful foes, royal intrigue, and outrageous exploits. " 
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Despite being a fan of the tv show, I've never read (or been inclined to read) any of the Game of Thrones novels.  This is a bind up of three novellas and seemed far less intimidating than the other books. It was easy to read and provided lots of background knowledge in the history of Westeros and the characters which shaped and influenced the GoT world as we know today.  It didn't take long to get through and had what I imagine to be typical fantasy-esque illustrations throughout.  Although I enjoyed learning more about the history of everything, I felt like that was the agenda of this book and that the characters weren't fully fleshed out.  As in, they didn't feel like characters with storylines in their own right, more like devices to educate and inform the reader about Westeros.  It serves this purpose well though, just didn't feel like stories in their own right necessarily. 
Rating: ★
Good if:  you want to learn more about the history of the Game of Thrones world

 #45 - THE ETYMOLOGICON: A CIRCULAR STROLL THROUGH THE HIDDEN CONNECTIONS OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE // Mark Forsyth
"What is the actual connection between disgruntled and gruntled? What links church organs to organised crime, California to the Caliphate, or brackets to codpieces? 
 The Etymologicon springs from Mark Forsyth's Inky Fool blog on the strange connections between words. It's an occasionally ribald, frequently witty and unerringly erudite guided tour of the secret labyrinth that lurks beneath the English language, taking in monks and monkeys, film buffs and buffaloes, and explaining precisely what the Rolling Stones have to do with gardening." 
This book was one that I dipped in and out of - something I'd recommend if you decide to read it. Each chapter focuses on a word, exploring its origins and evolution, before moving on to a linked word in the next.  I liked how each chapter was linked and felt that this really improved the flow of the book, however it was difficult to take in more than a chapter or two at a time.  It's written in an almost colloquial style - another plus point which makes it feel more like chatting to a friend than consuming an information text.  Thoroughly enjoyable!
Rating: ★
Good if:  you love the English language and are interested in the history of words

 #46 - REBECCA // Daphne du Maurier
"'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .'
Working as a lady's companion, the orphaned heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. Whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to his brooding estate, Manderley, on the Cornish Coast, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers . . . Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity."

With all the rave reviews surrounding Rebecca at the moment I think I expected a little more.  That's not to say it was awful, but I anticipated loving the book and wanting to read more of Daphne du Maurier's work.  I don't.  This was, however, our book club pick and I think it provided us the most discussion points out of anything we've read so far, which to me can only be a good thing.  There were lots of characters, actions and motives to pick apart which went some way in improving my enjoyment of the book.
Rating: ★
Good if:  you need something to read for a book club.

 #47 - BEAUTIFUL BODIES // Kimberley Rae Miller
"Like most people, Kimberly Rae Miller does not have the perfect body, but that hasn’t stopped her from trying. And trying. And trying some more. She’s been at it since she was four years old, when Sesame Street inspired her to go on her first diet. Postcollege, after a brief stint as a diet-pill model, she became a health-and-fitness writer and editor working on celebrities’ bestselling bios—sugarcoating the trials and tribulations celebs endure to stay thin. Needless to say, Kim has spent her life in pursuit of the ideal body.
But what is the ideal body? Knowing she’s far from alone in this struggle, Kim sets out to find the objective definition of this seemingly unattainable level of perfection. While on a fascinating and hilarious journey through time that takes her from obese Paleolithic cavewomen, to the bland menus that Drs. Graham and Kellogg prescribed to promote good morals in addition to good health, to the binge-drinking-prone regimen that caused William the Conqueror’s body to explode at his own funeral, Kim ends up discovering a lot about her relationship with her own body.
Warm, funny, and brutally honest, Beautiful Bodies is a blend of memoir and social history that will speak to anyone who’s ever been caught in a power struggle with his or her own body…in other words, just about everyone."
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Like most, I have a complex relationship with my body and this book couldn't have come at a better time as I'm moving more towards acceptance of myself.  The exploration of various diets throughout history was really interesting, as was the reflection on Kimberley Rae Miller's personal sessions with a diet/health psychologist.  It's written in a style that's easy to read and engaging, however I did feel as though things wrapped up a bit too nicely.  That seems to be a recurring theme with books I read (I don't appear to like a happily ever after!) so take my opinion in this respect with a pinch of salt.
 Rating: ★
Good if:  you need some positivity when it comes to body image and acceptance


 #48 - PERFECT LITTLE WORLD // Kevin Wilson
"Aren't the best families the ones we make for ourselves? 
 Isabelle Pool is fresh out of high school, pregnant with her art teacher's baby, and totally on her own. Izzy knows she can be a good mother but without any money or family to fall back on, she's left searching. So when she's offered a space in The Infinite Family Project - a utopian ideal funded by an eccentric billionaire - she accepts.
Isabelle joins nine other couples, all with children the same age as her newborn son, to raise their children as one extended family in a spacious, secluded compound in Tennessee. But can this experiment really work - or is their 'perfect little world' destined to go horribly wrong."

It's been a while since I've read this sort of speculative/idealistic fiction and I really enjoyed this one.  I grabbed it from the library at a whim and it turned out to be really engaging and well-written...plus it starts off with a family tree illustration which always floats my boat!  One negative though would be that, despite this family tree, the characters and their relationships to one another could get a little confusing but I feel like that was to be expected with this extended "Infinite Family" dynamic.  I also felt myself losing interest (only slightly!) by the end and found that the ending was too obvious.  There was plenty to think about within this book though, so would recommend! 
Rating: ★
Good if:  you like speculative and utopian fiction

 #49 - WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS // Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
"‘I would like to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: we must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently…’
What does “feminism” mean today?
In this personal, eloquently argued essay – adapted from her much-admired Tedx talk of the same name – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now – an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists."
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I'm sure everyone is familiar with this essay so I'm surprised it took me so long to finally read it.  I thoroughly enjoyed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's perspective and balanced argument; it provide lots to think about and plenty of discussion points I'd like to explore further.  Not much else to say here...five stars!
Rating: ★
Good if:  you're a human.  Everyone should read this!


 #50 - BODIES OF WATER // V.H. Leslie
"After ministering to fallen women in Victorian London, Evelyn has suffered a nervous breakdown and finds herself treated by the Water Doctors in the imposing Wakewater House, a hydropathy sanatorium.
Years later, Wakewater House is renovated into modern apartments and Kirsten moves in, fresh from a break up and eager for the restorative calm of the Thames. But her archivist neighbour, Manon, fills her head with the river’s murky past and with those men of science and art who were obsessed with the drowned women who were washed up on its banks.
As Kirsten learns more about Wakewater’s secrets, she becomes haunted by a solitary figure in the river and increasingly desperate to understand what the water wants from her."
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I'd heard lots about this book and it was one I really wanted to read.  It's fairly short, so I was loathe to buy it in paperback and ended up getting the kindle version on offer.  I am so glad I didn't buy it in physical form as it turned out to be such a let down.
We flick between present and Victorian London but I found the time spent in either setting to be too brief to fully connect with the characters or follow each storyline.  I was also expecting something a bit more literary, but honestly this felt no different from any other standard 'thriller'.  It wasn't thrilling either, although I didn't expect the ending on the Victorian side of things.  I read this whilst in Amsterdam, surrounded by canals and following a tour of the Red Light District so there was a nice symmetry with the setting of this book; I probably would have enjoyed it less without that added reading experience.
Rating: ★
Good if:  you need a quick read.

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