The ‘To Read’ List (Updated 6th June 2017)

toreadpile

EDIT: Updated 6th June 2017 –  Pompeii recently completed, review to follow. Link to review for Switch Bitch added. Misery and The Green Mile added to the list.

…As for the subject of this post; yes, it is the dreaded ‘To Read’ pile that, for those like me who enjoy a good book, seems to grow ever bigger due to the heavy demands and committments of our everyday lives. It became a bit of a problem for me last year, as I was constantly buying books from second-hand bookshops/charity shops, thinking ‘I’ll get to all these someday’, only to find I had so many building up in my room, still unread. It was at that point I literally sorted them into a ‘To Read’ pile, and began, you know, actually reading the blasted things, further vowing to not buy anymore until I had finished them. I’ll admit I make the occassional exception – if there is a new Margaret Atwood coming out I will either buy it or ask for it as a gift, for example – but I’ve generally managed to keep to this pretty well. So, in order to keep an actual list for myself, here are all of the books that have amassed in the pile, with links to their Goodreads pages (I will give my account on there some attention as I work through all of these as well!). Click to read on…

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Quick Book Reviews: ‘Switch Bitch’

switch-bitch

Switch Bitch (Roald Dahl)

Simply put, this is a collection of short stories about sex. But this isn’t as cheap and tawdry as you might imagine; the stories are all wonderfully inventive and each with delightful twists at the end. Indeed, you’d expect nothing less from Mr. Dahl. This was something of a bizarre read for me as well, as I’d only ever read his works intended for children (although they could get dark and twisted in places as well), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory being a particular favourite of mine growing up. So reading one of his more adult-oriented works was certainly an experience for sure. What he does especially well in this collection is effortlessly make parts of the stories emotionally crushing yet hilarious at the same time, which is no mean feat.

Two of the stories, ‘The Visitor’ and ‘Bitch’ are told from the perspective of ‘Uncle Oswald’, presented as a notorious womaniser whose memoirs have been discovered by his family. ‘Visitor’ is particularly brilliant as, not to give anything away, a dream-come-true (for him) scenario of sleeping with another man’s wife and daughter becomes a nightmare, when he is cruelly, yet justly punished for his intended transgression at the end. My first reaction was ‘Oh….shit’ but quickly turned to hysterical laughter. ‘Bitch’ meanwhile is perhaps a little silliler and ‘out there’, the ending in particular, but it captures the sheer primality of our carnal desires very well. The character in general, despite his attitude towards women (he has a strict ‘one time only’ policy’, which he repeatedly stresses), and complete lack of morals, is one you just can’t truly hate, and his (mis)adventures are truly a joy to read.

‘The Great Switcheroo’ meanwhile, involves two husbands crafting a master plan to sleep with each other’s wives, without the wives actually knowing that it isn’t their husband in the act with them. If this sounds completely implausible, suspend your disbelief – the plan and how it is carried out is actually quite ingenious, and fully explained step-by-step, again emphasising the lengths we will go to for sex. Again, not to spoil things too much, but while the plan technically does work, it has devastating consequences for one of the husbands in question, but again, this is written in such a way that is darkly humorous.

‘The Last Act’, meanwhile, is probably the most brutal of the four – there is little comedy in this one, given that it deals with a woman contemplating suicide following the tragic passing of her husband. While this ends up being delayed when she lands herself a job, an encounter with an old flame quickly sends her falling into the abyss again, and I personally had to put the book down and process what I had just read after the ending, which really does show how cruel and callous humanity can be, at its worst. It pulls no punches, this one, and is a very raw and emotional read. Probably just as well, then, that the more light-hearted ‘Bitch’ is the story to close the collection.

Overall, I really enjoyed this collection, and read it all more or less in one sitting – I was certainly hooked in. Would highly recommend it, and therefore will award it a 5/5!

Check out my first poetry collection, ‘The Awakening’, avaliable NOW!

Paperback – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Awakening-Selection-Poems-Stuart-Peacock/dp/1911476335

eBook-: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B017BZBH6M

The ‘To Read’ List (Updated 8th May 2017)

toreadpile

EDIT: Updated 8th May 2017 – Ah – been a while since I’ve updated this, hasn’t it? Apologies for that. In the time since the last post I have since completed Good Bones and Profiles of the Future, and may post some brief thoughts on them shortly. I have also added Pompeii and Switch Bitch to the list.

…As for the subject of this post; yes, it is the dreaded ‘To Read’ pile that, for those like me who enjoy a good book, seems to grow ever bigger due to the heavy demands and committments of our everyday lives. It became a bit of a problem for me last year, as I was constantly buying books from second-hand bookshops/charity shops, thinking ‘I’ll get to all these someday’, only to find I had so many building up in my room, still unread. It was at that point I literally sorted them into a ‘To Read’ pile, and began, you know, actually reading the blasted things, further vowing to not buy anymore until I had finished them. I’ll admit I make the occassional exception – if there is a new Margaret Atwood coming out I will either buy it or ask for it as a gift, for example – but I’ve generally managed to keep to this pretty well. So, in order to keep an actual list for myself, here are all of the books that have amassed in the pile, with links to their Goodreads pages (I will give my account on there some attention as I work through all of these as well!). Click to read on…

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The ‘To Read’ List (Updated 22nd Feb 2017)

toreadpile

EDIT: Updated 22nd February 2017 – Links to reviews of Saint Odd and Of Mice and Men added.

…As for the subject of this post; yes, it is the dreaded ‘To Read’ pile that, for those like me who enjoy a good book, seems to grow ever bigger due to the heavy demands and committments of our everyday lives. It became a bit of a problem for me last year, as I was constantly buying books from second-hand bookshops/charity shops, thinking ‘I’ll get to all these someday’, only to find I had so many building up in my room, still unread. It was at that point I literally sorted them into a ‘To Read’ pile, and began, you know, actually reading the blasted things, further vowing to not buy anymore until I had finished them. I’ll admit I make the occassional exception – if there is a new Margaret Atwood coming out I will either buy it or ask for it as a gift, for example – but I’ve generally managed to keep to this pretty well. So, in order to keep an actual list for myself, here are all of the books that have amassed in the pile, with links to their Goodreads pages (I will give my account on there some attention as I work through all of these as well!). Click to read on…

Continue reading

Quick Book Reviews: Of Mice and Men

ofmiceandmen

So chalk this one up as one of those famous books that I somehow hadn’t got around to reading, and thought that I probably ought to, hence why I picked it up upon seeing a copy in a charity shop sometime back. I read this short novella in one sitting, completely gripped all the way through, and then left in emotional turmoil after THAT brutal, unforgiving ending. I already had a rough idea of what happens, but that didn’t mean the ending lost any of its power. Steinbeck was able to write it in such a way that the impact of what you most likely saw coming is still very much felt.

Telling the story of George and his mentally disabled, but well-meaning friend Lennie, Of Mice and Men tells of their life on the road as drifters during the Great Depression , searching for work across California. They are able to keep going because of their hopes of one day owning a farm of their own and having lots of rabbits (the latter part particularly appealing to Lennie), and live the fabled ‘American Dream’. If there is a message running through the book, it is that such hopes are foolish to have in the harsh reality of the world, and the implication that the American Dream is nothing more than an unachievable myth. Of course, George and Lennie’s wishes sadly do not come to fruition – there is an overhanging sense of dread throughout the story, especially as we’ve been told that there were previous ‘incidents’ in places where they previously worked, caused by Lennie, where they were forced to run away and move on. It is asked at several points why George continues to stay with his challenging companion, why he doesn’t just leave him behind and never look back – but George feels unable to because he knows that Lennie would not be able to take care of himself – he is a burden that he must carry or otherwise feel an unbearable guilt if he does not. Despite George’s best efforts, Lennie does get himself into trouble again, leading to tragedy, and there is a constant feeling of him being able to see it coming, perhaps why he is so resigned to his friend’s fate by the end of the story. We as a reader feel it as well, as well as the pain of their desire to have land to call their own. It still resonates very strongly reading it in the present day as well – the obligation to always be working for someone else, to never have full control of our own livelihood, is an all-too-relatable feeling for many.

Loneliness is also a key theme that weighs heavily on a lot of the characters; one of the reasons George most likely stays with Lennie is simply because he has no one else, the reverse also being true. Old Man Candy is forced to hand over the life of his aging dog, leaving him numb and desperately wanting to be a part of George and Lennie’s little scheme, which tragically does not come to pass. The wife of the abusive and blockheaded Curley (her name is not even revealed, emphasising how stuck she is in this submissive role), is clearly unhappy in her marriage, and tries to flirt with everyone else at the farm, who all make a point of staying away from her so to not invoke Curley’s jealous wrath, leaving her even more isolated. And of course, her attempts to befriend Lennie lead to tragedy. Crooks, the lone negro worker, of course feels strongly isolated from everyone else as well. He is also extremely bitter and cynical, pointing out he has seen hundreds of men come through just like George and Lennie with dreams of their own land, “An’ never a God damn one of ’em ever gets it”. – but at the same time he does ask if he’d be able to come and lend a hand if needed, as he gradually softens and his desire for companionship exposed through speaking with the innocent, hopeful Lennie. In a line that has become one of the most famous in the book, Crooks muses that “A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody. Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s he’s with you. I tell ya a  guy gets too lonely an’ he gets sick”.

Steinbeck was able to effortlessly write each of these characters who all have a hidden depth – and hopelessly loneliness to them, which is why there is such an emotional resonance to what seems like a deceptively simple plot and course of events. Learning that a lot of it was based on his actual experience travelling as a ‘bindlestiff’ – and that Lennie was in fact based on a real person – makes it all the more raw and personal, and with an impressive amount of layers for such a short novella.

A true classic, and one I would not hesitate to give 5/5.

Like this poem? Read more in my first poetry collection, ‘The Awakening’, avaliable NOW!

Paperback – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Awakening-Selection-Poems-Stuart-Peacock/dp/1911476335

eBook-: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B017BZBH6M

The ‘To Read’ List (Updated 31st Jan 2017)

toreadpile

EDIT: Updated 31st January 2017 – The Collected Works of Edgar Allen Poe added, link to review of How to Look for a Lost Dog.

…As for the subject of this post; yes, it is the dreaded ‘To Read’ pile that, for those like me who enjoy a good book, seems to grow ever bigger due to the heavy demands and committments of our everyday lives. It became a bit of a problem for me last year, as I was constantly buying books from second-hand bookshops/charity shops, thinking ‘I’ll get to all these someday’, only to find I had so many building up in my room, still unread. It was at that point I literally sorted them into a ‘To Read’ pile, and began, you know, actually reading the blasted things, further vowing to not buy anymore until I had finished them. I’ll admit I make the occassional exception – if there is a new Margaret Atwood coming out I will either buy it or ask for it as a gift, for example – but I’ve generally managed to keep to this pretty well. So, in order to keep an actual list for myself, here are all of the books that have amassed in the pile, with links to their Goodreads pages (I will give my account on there some attention as I work through all of these as well!). Click to read on…

Continue reading