Finally! I’m catching up on blog posts and my numerical reading goal for this year, but looking at this pile- I don’t know. I know there’s no shame in reading what you want to read, it’s a recreational activity and all. But I’m not feeling positive about the amount of middle grade I’ve been sailing through between last month and this. I mean, it’s mixed with classics but there’s no pattern to my reading this year and as a pattern-loving person, I miss them! Anyway, the books…
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
So… I wasn’t the biggest fan of Fahrenheit 451.
I expected to be! I love books about books. Half my favourite books feature reading and I’m always drawn to any character with a full shelf. But with Fahrenheit 451, I listened to the audiobook and fell asleep halfway through. When I woke up I was just annoyed that I’d have to re-listen to what I missed and isn’t that just a bad sign!? The writing just felt clunky, especially with someone reading it. Even when I tried just reading the book myself, we didn’t click.
The thing is that the moral of the story is the main point of this book. Not plot. Not characters. A punch-you-in-the-face moral. And oh boy, do I disagree with it. Ray Bradbury himself said many times that Fahrenheit 451 was about mass media like television being ‘bad’, which- sure. The current POTUS is a reality TV star and a nightmare, but there’s complicated and mind-opening TV too just like there’s close-minded simple books. Ray Bradbury was living in a pre-Lost era! He was inspired by seeing a woman walking down the street with her headphones in, but heck. I walked down the street with my headphones in listening to this dang book.
Also, his opinions on minorities not feeling represented. Now, I have a whole other blog post half-drafted on how censorship is wrong, and I do get a little confused when people hold classics up to todays standards even though I’m guilty of it at times. But looking forward, I don’t see a problem with people wanting to read books that they’re represented in. Or at least not wanting to read books that have a deliberately hateful message.
All in all though, I think Ray Bradbury wrote a book that fit his morals without much care for story or characterisation and I don’t like the writing or the message… But it made me think. And I appreciate that in a book.
“There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”
Dancing in Lughnasa by Brian Friel
This is one of the books I’m required to read for my next Open University module; Reading and Studying Literature (you can see the whole haul here). I liked it okay, it just didn’t interest me. Chances are that I’ll enjoy it a lot more when I study it because I’ll start to understand the context and things like that. But for now, it’s just a play about a family doing boring family things and all the interesting parts are not explored enough for my liking.
Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth
I finally got around to the last of the Call the Midwife books! I took this to Norway and it was the only physical book I actually got round to reading. I really enjoyed this last romp around London, and I have my eye on the newly released edition of In The Midst of Life.
Farewell to the East End went back to the tried and true format of the first book, with shorter chapters and much less talking of situations that she couldn’t possibly know about. It focused more on the midwives, and the nuns which was really interesting as I know understand some of the character choices for the TV show a lot more. If felt grim, real, but uplifting at the same time. Jennifer Worth clearly got a lot from these experiences and these really are the kinds of memoirs I like to read!
We had experience, risk, and adventure enough to fill a lifetime. And to remember in old age is sweet-
Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
I borrowed the audiobook of this… from the library! That’s a whole other thing but I ended up listening to this while my physical copy was around 700 miles away. Technology is amazing.
I’ve been meaning to re-read these books for a while anyway, because I loved them as a kid. I would take them from my brothers shelves and devour them. It’s James Bond for teenage boys basically. Adventures and gadgets and all kinds of fun!
However, it was kind of… racist? Spoiler alert here, but the main story line was that a middle eastern character was racistly bullied so he became the bad guy. He, and his accomplice, are the only PoC.
And I probably could’ve done without the line: “We have to send in someone who won’t be noticed… We were considering sending down a woman, she might be able to slip in as a secretary or a receptionist but then I had a better idea.” With the better idea being to send a schoolboy into the dangerous situation. But there are female characters in power in the book, so I can’t decide if it’s sexism or a sarcastic observation of women’s value in the workplace in 2000.
Overall, I’m proceeding with caution.
After Eight by Meg Cabot
Guess who finally got around to reading the last books of The Princess Diaries series? Yup. This woman. After discovering my library app, I went and downloaded the ebooks while I was in Norway, despite taking nine physical books. Of course. And I don’t even normally read ebooks because they tend to exacerbate my migraines but I was having a couple of migraine-free days and everything just came together.
Anyway, I’m glad I finally got around to this book. There’s a little of that old purity myth nonsense where I actually agreed with Mia’s Grandmere: “-Virginity is no GIFT. You can’t even WEAR it!” but in general I liked the plot and these books are always fun reads.
To the Nines by Meg Cabot
The reason that this got four stars rather than the usual three of enjoyment-but-nothing-special, was because it was actually kind of special! Depression is something that’s being dealt with more and more in YA novels nowadays but this was published ten years ago and deals with it really well! Mia goes to therapy, and I can only imagine how wonderfully normalising that could be for a kid reading these books that is dealing with the same things. It makes me wish I kept reading them when I was younger.
I also liked that this book talks about how teenage girls can be completely underrated, which is so true.
Ten out of Ten by Meg Cabot
And we’re done. Amazingly, an exact year since I read book seven and over three years since I re-started the series. I’l admit, I got a little emotional! It’s so strange saying goodbye to a series from your childhood. I can’t really see myself re-reading it. I know there’s Royal Wedding but- well, we’ll see if I ever get around to it.
All loose ends are tied up, admittedly in a much longer book than they really needed, we get a happy ever after fit for a princess and my favourite bit of this one was the idea of genre fiction has it’s place alongside literary fiction. Mia has written a romance novel and defends it so valiantly. I love a good book that talks about books!
Emma by Jane Austen
Did Imogen read her first Jane Austen novel? Yes, I did! I actually asked a bunch of people which I should start with and ended up ignoring all of their sound advice and reading the one that had an audiobook available in an Audible deal. But hey! I actually enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to my next Austen novel so that’s definitely a win.
I wasn’t sure what to really expect with Emma, having never read an Austen before and only seeing very vague blurbs. But I enjoyed it well enough. It wasn’t as action-packed as most modern novels are and that really disoriented me for a while, but it’s really interesting as an insight into how life was lived by people of the upper-middle class in society at that time. There’s domestic drama and a really natural community feeling. I fell into the world of Emma and sat with her at tea, walked with her down country lanes, and felt every blunder. It was a lovely escape with no really high stakes.
Now I just have to decide… What Austen next?