What will you be reading this Christmas?

“Sleigh bells ring…it’s the season…la la laa!”

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IT’S ONLY 5 WEEKS TILL CHRISTMAS!

About a year ago, when I had just about got back on track with my reading habit, after a 2-3 year hiatus, I decided that every Christmas I would read a ‘Christmassy’ book!

Last year I read and reviewed A Chirstmas Carol by Charles Dickens and this year I hope to begin reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott in the next few weeks.

Do you have a Christmas book ritual too? Do you like to read something that reminds you of the spirit of Christmas? Or a story set in a picture perfect winter land? Perhaps you prefer a nice chilling winter murder story instead! Or do you have one favourite book that you read every Christmas?

Whatever your Christmas reading plans or recommendations, I am eagerly waiting to hear all about them!

 

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Book Review – The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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(My Rating: 5/5)

This is only the second children’s book I have read since I reviewed The Railway Children by E. Nesbit some months ago, and I loved it for SO many reasons, that I am sure I will forget at least a few while writing this review!

At the beginning of the story, which was first published in 1911, we are introduced to Mary Lennox, a little English girl who has lived in India for all of her life, but now, under tragic circumstances, she is sent to live with her brooding, elusive uncle in England, in a large mansion on the Yorkshire moors.

Mary, who is a spoilt, fussy, difficult child soon realises that her new house and occupants seem to be hiding many secrets. She slowly begins to uncover some of these and undergoes a transformation in the process. She gradually discovers the joys of childhood that she knew nothing about before. Due to her interaction with some very kind and caring individuals – mainly the house help – she begins to grow healthy, less churlish and even considerate of others. From this point on there are more wonderful secrets she uncovers and more wonderful people that come into her life and she ultimately plays a vital role in restoring a damaged relationship.

I read this book during a time I was going through something very sad, as well as emotionally and physically draining. A story that inspired hope, spoke about the goodness of people transforming one’s life and about the possibility and joy of turning a seemingly hopeless situation into something beautiful, through determination, care and love, was just the sort of of story I needed to read. It reminded me, in the midst of my sorrow for something I had lost, to stop and notice the beauty that already exists, right now, in my life. Once again a book came into my life at just the right moment, and in a way, helped save me. Continue reading

All Together Now!…OR…One By One?

I wouldn’t be surprised if that ambiguous title has you confused and you’re wondering if I have rightly categorised and tagged this post under ‘books’.

So let me quickly say that I am indeed talking about books; in specific, about how you like to read them. Do you simultaneously juggle two or three books or do you prefer to give all your attention to just one at a time?

What do you feel are the pros and cons?

When reading a long and ‘heavy’ book I sometimes like to read something light (and perhaps frivolous) alongside, just to give my mind a break. I do however find that this can come in the way of getting completely absorbed in a book and half the joy of a book, in my opinion, is about being transported to another place, time or situation. So I try not to do too much of that, especially when it comes to reading fiction.

I think reading more than one book works fine if only one of those books is fiction and the other(s) is/are non-fiction. Somehow I find it easier to switch off from non-fiction and not get emotionally attached to the book, as is usually the case for me with fiction.

So what works for you? I would love to know!

2016 Reading Challenge – Completed!

Dear Reader,

I am very happy to report that I have completed my 2016 Reading Challenge, which, for those of you who don’t know, was to read 15 books that I owned at the end of 2015 but had never read. Many of these I have had for 10 or even 15 years!

After my son was born, my habit of reading had waned for a couple of years, but joyfully, around this time last year, the reading bug seemed to have caught up with me again. I thought 15 books might be a stretch, given that I hadn’t read anything in so long, but guess what, I actually completed the challenge at the end of August, 4 months in advance!

Not only have I read 15 ‘old’ books, but I have also read a number of books that I acquired over this year. (I’ll give you a re-cap of those at the end of this calendar year.) I thought I would struggle to finish 15, so as you can imagine, I am feeling rather chuffed with myself! And with 4 months to go till 2017, perhaps I’ll even be able to surpass the challenge by a book or two, who knows!

For now, here are links to the reviews I’ve written for the 15 books I read for my challenge:

  1. My Sainted Aunts by Bulbul Sharma
  2. The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
  3. The Mousewife by Rumer Godden
  4. Words of Freedom (Bhagat Singh)
  5. Hindu Gods: The Spirit of The Divine by Priya Hemenway
  6. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  7. Golden Rules by Wayne Dosick
  8. The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith
  9. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
  10. The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith
  11. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  12. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  13. Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons by Gerald Durrell
  14. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
  15. Persuasion by Jane Austen

Happy reading to all you book lovers out there!

Reading Challenge 2016: Book 15 – Persuasion by Jane Austen

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(My Rating: 3/5)

I am disappointed that I am unable to give this a higher rating than 3 stars, because I thought I was really going to love this book. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood when I read it!

Anne Elliot, who was being courted by Captain Wentworth, was persuaded by a close family friend, Lady Russell, not to marry him, as she didn’t think it a suitable match, mainly because they came from different social backgrounds.

The book begins eight years later, when the two former lovers are brought into each other’s company once again. Now Captain Wentworth is courting someone else and Anne, wisened by the interim years, begins to examine the reasons that her relationship with him did not go any further. The reader now begins to wonder whether there is a chance that they will get back together again. Continue reading

On authors’ lives influencing their works

I enjoy reading about writers’ lives, especially when I come across a book I really like, for I feel that the circumstances they found themselves in must have contributed greatly to what and how they wrote.

There is no denying that a good imagination, a talent for story telling and writing, intelligence and having a way with words are all key elements for writing a great book. But what about circumstances?

Had Jack London not spent a year in the Yukon, would he ever have been able to write The Call of The Wild (read my review) in the manner he did? Had Hannah Kent not visited Iceland as a student, would the idea to write Burial Rites (read my review) ever have come to her? Did Sylvia Plath’s depression not find expression in some of her greatest works? What about Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Anne Frank?

Sometimes in fact, I feel a book is made even more enjoyable by learning about the author’s life. In fact, I would go so far as to say that some books don’t make sense or lose their meaning, when we don’t know anything about the author’s life. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, for example, which I read a long time ago, is, by itself, a great book. But when you learn about Jean Dominique Bauby and the circumstances under which he wrote the book, it becomes a truly remarkable achievement.

So, whenever I come across a good book, it is always interesting to me to know what made these writers who they were – what motivated them, from what perspective they looked at the world, what experiences helped them become better writers – I guess the list could be pretty long!

However, I usually don’t like to read about their lives before I’ve read their book/s. I like to enjoy a book unbiased. I like to enjoy it for what it is and once I have finished, only then do I like to understand what made the writer ‘tick’.

What about you? Do you enjoy reading about a writer’s life before you embark on his/her books? Or after? Or do you just like to enjoy a good story and leave it at that?