Monday, 24 February 2020

Sofa Spotlight - England’s Best Loved Poems, George Courtauld

This was a present from a few years ago that I’ve just got around to reading. Yes be warned it can take me a while to read books bought for me as presents. It’s not that I don’t want to read them it’s just that there are so many books on my tbr pile that presents have to join the back of the queue.

Anyway not being a huge lover of poetry I was sceptical about how much I would enjoy this collection. But to my delight I found that I enjoyed it very much. Sometimes not because of the poem but because of the background that was provided for each poem. I’m finding that the more I know about the poem or the poet the more I enjoy their work. 

Without this book I wouldn’t have know that Winston Churchill was a poet! So yes one I would recommend but I would love to see something similar for different cultures.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Sofa Spotlight - Animal Farm, George Orwell

Like 1984 and The Catcher in the Rye this was on my must read list. And I liked it considerably more than either of those two. Like 1984 George Orwell really does make some very accurate points.

Animal Farm begins on a farm where the animals led by the pigs drive out the people and begin to run the farm themselves. They make rules about not becoming like people but over time these rules seem to be eroded by their leaders, the pigs. The ending is very interesting but you need to read it to find out why. 

I would say that Animal Farm is just as readable as 1984 if not more so. The parallels to Communism are clear but there are some parallels that I feel I am missing. The character of Snowball is one such parallel. Research will be done but if you can shed some light on this comment below and let me know.

Very glad that this was on my to read pile and I think it is one that should be read by everyone.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Sofa Spotlight - The Catcher in the Rye, J D Salinger

This was another one on my list of books I felt should be read. To be honest I was quite disappointed. Maybe I missed the point but I just didn’t get it. The plot is fairly straightforward from what I can gather and covers only a few days. 

The main character is Holden Caulfield, a 16 year old who drops out of school and spends a few days in New York just before Christmas. His disillusionment with the world is clear and he often refers to people he perceives as being superficial as “phonies” and it is clear he has little time for them. As the story progresses I felt that many of the characters he met fell into this category and his quest for a meaningful connection or relationship became harder.

I found it a hard book to read, mainly because I found Holden’s processing difficult to follow. Not sure I would recommend it. Maybe I’m wrong and it deserves its status as an important book. Let me know. 

Monday, 3 February 2020

Sofa Spotlight - Keep Her Close, Erik Therme

Another thriller in the same vein as The Girl on the Train or A Stranger in the House but maybe not as good. I picked this up because I very much enjoyed Mortom by Erik Therme. It’s not that this isn’t a good book it just wasn’t as enjoyable. I found myself having to suspend belief quite a bit.

However, I did read this in one afternoon and it kept me hooked from beginning to end. So if you’re looking for a rainy afternoon read this could be what you need. The story follows Ally, who was abandoned as a three year old. Fifteen years later and her adoptive parents have now split and she receives a message claiming to be from her real dad wanting to connect. 

She goes for it and promptly disappears. The book is about the search carried out by her adoptive parents and the outlandish behaviour of her adoptive dad. Like I said, had to suspend belief a fair bit, ok a lot, but it is fast paced and you defiantly can’t describe it as dull. It lacked that creepy tension that I’ve come to know and love in books of this genre. By the end I was possibly only reading to get a bit of closure and to see what crazy sub plot or plot twist was going to come next. 

Give it a read and let me know if you agree.

Monday, 27 January 2020

Sofa Spotlight - The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

This has been on my list as a book that I felt I should read, rather than one I wanted to read. I’d seen the film a few years ago and wasn’t that fussed about it, but thought that maybe the book was better. Turns out that if I hadn’t seen the film I would have had a problem understanding what was happening in the book.

It won’t come as a surprise to learn that the plot follows the fortunes of a character called Gatsby. Gatsby throws outlandish parties in the hope that Daisy, who he was in love with but couldn’t marry, will come. Thing is Daisy is now married, but that doesn’t stop Gatsby from being obsessed with her. And eventually things go pear shaped.

My biggest problem was finding a character that I could get behind. None of them were likeable and some of them, like Daisy’s husband, I really didn’t like. When the book came to an end I wasn’t left with a great impression. If anything I was glad it was over as it had been hard work to get to the end. Not one I would recommend, but maybe I’m missing its significance. Either way it’s ticked off my list.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Sofa Spotlight - The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead

Last week I talked about how I felt Furious Hours by Casey Cep was one of the best books I read last year. Nickel Boys is also a strong contender. It is a fictionalised account of what happened in a real school in the states. 

Nickel is the name of the Nickel Academy, a reform school for boys, and the story follows Elwood Curtis who is a black teenager growing up in the 1960s. An innocent mistake leaves him as a pupil at the Nickel Academy and we see the horrors through his eyes. 

There is a grittiness to this book that is hard to come to terms with. The subject is handled well, and doesn’t dwell on graphic details, but in no way does it downplay the brutality of what happened. 

I was taken by surprise by the way the book ended, but that was one of the features that made this such an impactful read. I highly recommend it but it’s not for the fainthearted. 

Monday, 13 January 2020

Sofa Spotlight - Furious Hours, Casey Cep

One for you if you are a fan of either Harper Lee or In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I think this is possibly one of the best non fiction books I read last year and I’m not alone in that opinion. Really you could split this book in two. 

Part of it deals with the murder of The Reverend. The Reverend being Rev Willie Maxwell, a suspected serial killer in Alabama, who was shot at the funeral of what may have been one of his victims. The second serves almost  as a biography of Harper Lee and focuses in on her investigation of Maxwell. 

Harper Lee’s involvement in the research needed for Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood, also comes under scrutiny. And it essential for understanding why she may have been working on a manuscript for a book about Willie Maxwell. Certainly Cep makes a valid case for parts of the book having been written, but sadly it’s one of those things we may never know for sure. 

I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time last year and fell in love with it. Needless to say I was eager to get my hands on this book and I wasn’t disappointed at all. Casey Cep makes this an exciting and very readable tale. If you didn’t catch it last year, make sure you do this year.