November 2019 Reading

I’ve read 100 books this year! Which means my secret not-so-secret goal of reading that many this year has been fulfilled! I’m so chuffed about it, especially because this year I made an effort to read books out of my comfort zone. And for the most part, it paid off by discovering some gems.

Because these monthly reading posts are quite long (am I the only one who reads them?), I’m considering making them fortnightly. That might be something to start in the new year. (Speaking of, can you believe we’re nearly in 2020?)

Flora and Ulysses by Katie DiCamillo and illustrated by K.G. Campbell

This is a children’s book that was required for my current English unit at uni, and while it wasn’t a difficult read it wasn’t quite my cup of tea. About a young girl who meets a squirrel with superpowers and the adventures that follows, including the villainy of her romance-writer mother.

I do like the focus on family and redemption, it was just that the style and protagonist didn’t click with me. I would blame the age-group of the book, but I love Matilda, so while that may be part of the equation, the story and characters weren’t enough to lift the novel.

My rating: 3/5 stars

Wanderlust: History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit

This is basically one long essay about walking and the effect of walking.

From pilgrimages to mountaineering to walking groups to women to cities and countries, this book has it all. I was more interested in some chapters than others; I found the chapter on pilgrimage much more interesting than the chapter about strolling through gardens. I also loved the chapter which discussed the safety and lack of familiarity in walking through cities because cities are constantly changing.

I was reading this book for a long time and did struggle through some of it, but overall I really enjoyed reading all about walking, and I loved how many points Rebecca Solnit was able to draw out without repeating herself.

My rating: 4/5 stars

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams

Charlotte’s Web wasn’t terrible; it’s a classic and I respect it for what it is. Even though I wasn’t fully engaged with it, I understand why it’s such a well-regarded children’s book. I look forward to studying it at university and understanding further what makes it such a good book for kids.

My rating: 3/5 stars

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

While I’ve heard many comments on this book relating to feminism and in women not needing men to provide for them, I didn’t read this in terms of ‘men are trash’ (which isn’t true btw), I read it simply from the point of view that if a woman wants to write, she needs somewhere to write and the money to sustain her writing.

I enjoyed this book in terms of gaining insight into the history of women writing (such as how they used to have male pseudonyms) and Virginia Woolf’s take on writing throughout history. I liked the descriptive language of Woolf, and the roundabout way she gets to the point.

My rating: 4/5 stars

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I loved Animal Farm. I haven’t read it before, and always avoided it because I thought it would be too difficult to read, thought I wouldn’t understand it. Instead, it was engaging and I didn’t want to put it down. The concept is simple yet strong and conveys a powerful message relating to communism.

I laughed at some moments because it was so ridiculous, but also sobering in the context of history. My favourite moments, as funny and tragic as they were, are when the ‘lower ranked’ animals check the list of rules that they made when they first established the animal farm only to find they had been changed by the pigs. So what was originally “all animals are equal” becomes “all animals are equal but some are more equal than others”. It’s so disturbing how the pigs take control of the other animals without them realising it. The ‘lower ranked’ animals quality of life gets worse and worse as the novel goes on but they can’t change how things are.

My rating: 5/5 stars

On the Fence by Kasie West

As much as I love classics, there is something appealing in reading something lighter, though I like Kasie West novels because the stories and characters do have depth. While there is a romantic element, there is also a focus on family and personal growth.

I particularly enjoyed On the Fence as the protagonist has grown up without a mother or sister, and she’s very tomboyish. That changes when she gets a job in a boutique and needs to start dressing up for work. I really liked seeing her come into her own and accepting the different aspects of herself rather than boxing herself in with her brothers.

Overall, a quick but enjoyable read.

My rating: 4/5 stars

Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

Yes, my second Kasie West novel this month. I was cut when I found this not even being in the same league as the previous.

The protagonist, Abby, is an artist but was rejected from an art show due to the lack of heart in her pieces. She then makes a list of things to do that will bring depth; while this isn’t particularly realistic or original, it was the characters that brought down the rating.

I did not like the love interest, Cooper, who is Abby’s best friend and involved with completing the list. He was annoying, selfish, and boring. Abby is also boring, but at least she has the potential for growth; Cooper remains the same immature boy who adds nothing to the story. I found their fight – over her feelings for him – unnatural and unnecessary to the main storyline of her artwork, and the way they get together equally unnatural and unnecessary.

Even though you don’t read Kasie West for a deep, profound novel that changes you forever, I did have higher expectations based on her other novels I’ve read. This one lacked interesting family dynamics, a protagonist to root for, and sweet romance.

My rating: 2/5 stars

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

Despite the disappointment that was Kasie West’s Love, Life, and the List, I was in the mood for something light and gave her another chance.

It paid off.

This novel had all the aspects of a well-written young adult novel. Caymen, the protagonist, lives alone with her mum above the store they own. They’re poor, and it’s difficult keeping the store running. The main reason I like Kasie West novels is because of the family and how they navigate their problems. Kasie West is good at writing interesting family dynamics that differ in each book.

While Caymen is poor, she meets a rich boy who, of course, is the love interest and cause for much conflict, particularly regarding her mum.

I didn’t find this book as easy to read as On the Fence by Kasie West, but still enjoyed it.

My rating: 4/5 stars

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

Another Kasie West! I know, maybe I went overboard with the young adult novels this month. But I was on a roll and had nothing else to do (well, I suppose that’s up to debate).

As I’ve said, the family dynamics were perfect in this story, and different to Kasie’s other books. The protagonist navigating family and sharing a room with her sister while craving her own space and freedom was very well done. Add to the mix a mean boy at school, and Kasie West is a winner.

I love the storyline of an anonymous friendship. Lily, the protagonist, writes letters to someone who sits in the same seat as her in chemistry class (in different periods, of course). While this isn’t an original idea, Kasie West did a good job of making it fresh and enjoyable.

My rating: 4/5 stars

Thanks for reading. Have a quiche.

Sarah xx

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