Holiday bookses

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While in Cornwall this past week, I read two books and bought five, plus I talked Tim into buying another three that I kinda want to read too (all our purchases are pictured above). I don’t really do book bans, and any vague notions of one that I do have are always suspended while on holiday, but five books in a week feels like a lot. Then again, we found some lovely bookshops, and I always want to support great bookshops.

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July 2016 reading round-up

This has been an okay month for reading, a bad month for review-writing. But in my defence we’ve been on holiday and that’s definitely a time for reading without thinking too hard about analysis. I do have some thoughts running around my brain that I will at some point turn into reviews when time allows. I also bought quite a lot of books while we were away, which I’ll share pics of soon.

For now I have about a thousand holiday photos to scan through for highlights and half a dozen loads of laundry to wash. Ah, that coming home from holiday feeling! I have a few posts planned about our recent holiday but for now I’ll tease with this photo. There will be many more to come.

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How was your July?

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Languages are different for a reason

alif the unseenAlif the Unseen
by G Willow Wilson

I was eager to read more G Willow Wilson after discovering her writing in the Ms Marvel comics. This is a lovely easy read that deals with some pretty deep complex issues but manages to never feel like an “issues” novel. Which is a clever balancing act. It’s probably the fantasy elements that help keep it light and fun. Mostly.

The story follows Alif, a young man in an unnamed Arab Emirate who works as a “grey hat” – a skilled hacker who helps paying customers to remain hidden online. He keeps a vigilant watch for the state’s top internet security expert “the Hand” but is widely acknowledged to be the best and therefore safest from arrest. He is also conducting a secret affair with Intisar – secret because although they are both Muslim, their social classes are very different and neither set of parents would approve. But Alif is a romantic and assumes they will somehow find a way.

When the book opens, Alif (which is his screen name, not his given name) has not heard from Intisar (ditto) for two weeks and is trying not to worry about the possible reasons. Then the Hand manages to break most of the way through his computer’s encryption and he is suddenly at real risk of arrest. Friends help him out but there comes a point when he needs more than friendship – he needs another kind of aid entirely.

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The past was hard, cruel and especially inimical to women

angela carter fairy talesAngela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales

I started reading this book on 31 December and finished it this week. It’s not the smallest book, but 450 pages doesn’t usually take me several months. Especially not when it comes from one of the 20th century’s greatest authors, Angela Carter. So what gives?

Well, two things. One: this is a collection of more than 100 short stories, and I do like to spread out short stories by reading one or two per sitting, even when the shortest are less than a page long. Two: perhaps more pertinently, these stories were collected and curated by Carter, not written or even edited by her. So while they share her taste in the weird and feminist, they do not exhibit her writing skill – more noticeably so in some cases than others.

Carter spent many years collecting these stories for what was originally two separate books published by Virago. She sought translations into English, ideally transcriptions from oral storytellers, from all over the world and the result is truly the most international collection I have ever read. For example, the final chapter’s stories are labelled as: Yiddish; Norwegian; Africa: Bondes; USA; Africa: Hausa; Chinese; Surinamese.

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Cornwall mini-break

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Tim and I are just back from a long weekend in Cornwall. It was warm (if overcast), beautiful as always but most importantly filled with a bunch of our favourite people – a group of friends we go to the same beach with every year. That sounds boring but it is comforting, truly relaxing. I only read one book, but then we did squeeze a lot into four days.

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Recent reads: DNF

As I mentioned in my June monthly round-up, I have abandoned a few recent reads despite getting the best part of halfway through them. I don’t actually think they’re bad books, so I thought it still worth writing a few words about them.

cairoCairo: My City, Our Revolution
by Ahdaf Soueif

I loved Soueif’s first novel The Map of Love and I enjoy her journalism on the Guardian, so I was excited to read this, her account of the Egyptian revolution of 2011. She combines adrenaline-filled, first-hand, written-at-the-time stories of Cairo mid-revolution with calmer, more reflective chapters written eight-plus months later. It’s a passionate, well-written book but I had to put it down because it was making me sad. The enthusiastic excitement of Soueif, her family and friends mid-revolution is suddenly brutally tempered by the reality of months later, where Egypt is in a fragile state still and statistics have been gathered about the number of revolutionaries who died. I will come back to this when I am emotionally ready for it.

Published 2012 by Bloomsbury Publishing.

Source: Christmas present from one of my parents.

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Sunday Salon: Bathroom books

The Sunday SalonWe all have bathroom books, don’t we? I don’t mean books to read in the bath – for me, that’s all books except the three Bs: big, beautiful or borrowed books. No, I mean books for reading on the loo.

Perhaps you have a stack of magazines in the bathroom (we have those too, but they’re all months out of date). Or perhaps you just take your phone or tablet in these days. We have a collection of non-fiction titles ideal for dipping into, but today I spotted that it had been more than a year since their last update, and they were gathering dust, so I did a swap (and wiped off the dust from the outgoing titles).

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