May Reads

May has been mega disappointing month reading wise. It seems that by cutting down my anti depressants, I have lost all ability to read. It may well be worth medicating again just to see if I get my reading mojo back. I just seem to be struggling to concentrate. Nothing seems to be floating my boat and by the end of the month, I was gagging for a book that I would like enough to finish.

1. The Shining by Stephen King. 4*

Description: Horror, detail, abuse.

One of the true classics of horror fiction, THE SHINING is regarded as one of Stephen King’s masterpieces.

Danny is only five years old, but in the words of old Mr Hallorann he is a ‘shiner’, aglow with psychic voltage. When his father becomes caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, Danny’s visions grow out of control.

As winter closes in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seems to develop a life of its own. It is meant to be empty. So who is the lady in Room 217 and who are the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why do the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive?

Somewhere, somehow, there is an evil force in the hotel – and that, too, is beginning to shine . . .

This was a book club choice and as a result, quite a few members picked it up, who otherwise would never have read a ‘horror’ novel. The general consensus was that everyone really enjoyed it. The discussion mainly centred around the differences between the film and the book of which there are many. It is a well known fact that Stephen King was not a fan of the movie. He felt that Nicholson was the wrong choice for Torrance, who played the character as a very disturbed individual from the beginning. In the novel, you are really rooting for Jack. Although he has had a troubled time this is put into context as we learn about his abusive father. Jack’s relationships with Wendy and Danny are also on the whole, loving. King felt (and we all agreed) that there was no journey with Nicholson’s character. He began the film as a scary nutter and ended the film as a scarier nutter. I personally spent a lot of time watching the film wondering why anyone in their right mind would want to spend the winter in a deserted hotel with Jack Nicholson. That leads us into Wendy. Shelly Duvall has a notoriously bad time with Kubrick during the film. Her terrified and weak portrayal of Wendy is very different from the brave character created by King. God how annoying must it be to write a book which you have poured your heart and soul into and then a director changes parts which are utterly fundamental to you as an author?!?!?

2. This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay. 4.5 *

Description: medical, humour, interesting.

‘Painfully funny. The pain and the funniness somehow add up to something entirely good, entirely noble and entirely loveable.’ – Stephen Fry

Sunday Times Humour Book of the Year

Winner of the Books Are My Bag Non-Fiction Book of the Year

Winner of Blackwell’s Debut Book of the Year

Winner of iBooks’ Book of the Year

Welcome to the life of a junior doctor: 97-hour weeks, life and death decisions, a constant tsunami of bodily fluids, and the hospital parking meter earns more than you.

Scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt provides a no-holds-barred account of his time on the NHS front line. Hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking, this diary is everything you wanted to know – and more than a few things you didn’t – about life on and off the hospital ward.

This edition includes extra diary entries and a new afterword by the author.

Oh Adam Kay how you have made me laugh over the last month. This was an audiobook read by the man himself and it is probably the first EVER audiobook that hasn’t been a massive chore to listen to. I now know that I need to listen to funny audiobooks (not romantic sagas). This has made my commutes and jogging sessions around London an absolute joy.

During the first couple of days of listening to this book I discovered some similarities between being an opera chorister and a junior doctor working for the NHS. I know right?!?! What a surprise!!!! Turns out both Opera choristers and doctors miss out on major life events, weddings, hen dos, christenings, Glastonbury because you aren’t allowed time off. Twice this month, my sister has had to rearrange her wedding date so I would be free to make it and in 2011 when I got married, I also had to beg for the day off. Unfortunately, this is where the similarity ends. A bad day in the office for me is being lumbered with a wig that makes me look like a man, hitting my top B a little bit flat or an interval dragging on a bit later thereby causing the show to finish later and therefore result in me missing the 10:36 back to South West London. Don’t even get me started on what a bad day in the office of a junior doctor entails. As well as being very amusing (I think it will take a while for my dressing room to forget the story of potatoes being used as a method of curing cervical prolapse) this book is incredibly humbling and very moving. Without a doubt we should cherish the medical staff of the NHS who work like dogs for little money.

I was particularly moved by this book as over the last 10 years I have had 2 children and also had a blood clotting condition. I have nothing but gratitude and admiration for the doctors, nurses and midwives who have looked after me along the way.

3. Random Acts of Heroic Love by Danny Scheinmann. 4*

Description: 2 stories, WW1, death of partner.

1992: Leo Deakin wakes up in a hospital somewhere in South America, his girlfriend Eleni is dead and Leo doesn’t know where he is or how Eleni died. He blames himself for the tragedy and is sucked into a spiral of despair. But Leo is about to discover something which will change his life forever.

1917: Moritz Daniecki is a fugitive from a Siberian POW camp. Seven thousand kilometres over the Russian Steppes separate him from his village and his sweetheart, whose memory has kept him alive through carnage and captivity. The Great War may be over, but Moritz now faces a perilous journey across a continent riven by civil war. When Moritz finally limps back into his village to claim the hand of the woman he left behind, will she still be waiting?

Danny Scheinmann paints a dramatic portrait of two men sustaining their lives through the memory of love. Cinematic and brimming with raw emotions, it is the magnificent and emotive debut from a remarkable new writer.

Well I hold up my hands and say I was Wrongy McWrong Face for prejudging this book which I totally loved. I went into this book thinking it would be a soppy love story. I was wrong. This is mainly a story about loss. The novel opens with Leo waking up in hospital in South America to learn that his girlfriend has died in the same bus crash that injured him. Bizarrely, although this is a situation I have never been in, it is one that I often think about when I am on holiday and thanks to this book, a few of my questions have been cleared up. I found Leo’s sections of the book utterly heart wrenching- the little things like picking up Eleni’s ruck sack to the larger things -breaking the news to his parents and his first conversation with Eleni’s mother.

I also enjoyed Moritz’s story. The history of WWI told from the point of view of an Austro-Hungarian soldier was new to me and I enjoyed learning about that period of history in relation to places like Siberia. I wasn’t as emotionally invested in Moritz’s story mainly because I didn’t believe the relationship that kept him going throughout his journey. Ironically if the novel had involved the sickly laying down of relationship foundations between Lotte and Moritz I probably would have given up by page 50 but I was a little baffled why Moritz would make this perilous journey off the back of one kiss with a girl he had had minimal contact with.

4. The Scandal by Fredrik Backman. 5*.

Description: hockey, small town, sexual assault.

We read A Man Called Ove in our book club a few months ago. Ironically this ended up being one of our most boring discussions because EVERYONE loved the book. I picked up The Scandal having heard and read nothing but rave reviews. I was however pretty sceptical. A book about ice hockey??? I will openly admit, I am not sporty. I have no interest in it so would I really enjoy a book that revolved around a sport as alien to me as ice hockey?!?! I think if you love an author you kind of owe it to them to read their work….particularly if they are trying to do something different. This was different to Ove but the one similarity is that Backman writes his characters so beautifully. To be able to write an incredibly believable cantankerous old man like Ove and also a teenage hockey star like Kevin shows real talent.

5. 11.22.63 by Stephen King. DNF.

Description: time travel, Kennedy, sooooooo long.

WHAT IF you could go back in time and change the course of history? WHAT IF the watershed moment you could change was the JFK assassination? 11.22.63, the date that Kennedy was shot – unless . . .

King takes his protagonist Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, 2011, on a fascinating journey back to 1958 – from a world of mobile phones and iPods to a new world of Elvis and JFK, of Plymouth Fury cars and Lindy Hopping, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life – a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

With extraordinary imaginative power, King weaves the social, political and popular culture of his baby-boom American generation into a devastating exercise in escalating suspense.

Oh god I feel mortified with myself because I gave up. This is a book that clearly people love. It has great score on GoodReads and Amazon but it wasn’t for me. The worst part is that I really tried…..I managed about 300 pages. I posted on Instagram and received some encouragement that spurred me on a little but in the end I couldn’t face another 300 odd pages reading about something I really couldn’t care less about. To read a book this length I think you have a like the protagonist and I felt absolutely nothing for him. In fact that was my main issue with the book….I felt nothing. I neither hated or liked it and so as a result it became a chore . The irony is that if the book had been half the length I would have managed it and probably given it 3 *s. The sheer size of it put me off. I have read a fair bit of Stephen King now and I can say without a doubt, this is an author who likes words. For me there are just too many of them.

6. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. DNF.

Description: mental health, memoir, essay.

For fans of David Sedaris, Tina Fey and Caitlin Moran comes the new book from Jenny Lawson, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson regaled readers with uproarious stories of her bizarre childhood. In her new book, Furiously Happy, she explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

As Jenny says: ‘You can’t experience pain without also experiencing the baffling and ridiculous moments of being fiercely, unapologetically, intensely and (above all) furiously happy.’ It’s a philosophy that has – quite literally – saved her life.

Jenny’s first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. Furiously Happy is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways. And who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

Yet another failure from me. I am definitely in a bit of a reading slump. 2 books I haven’t finished!!!! Gutted. Maybe I should have realised this wasn’t going to be a goer from me because Caitlin Moran loves her. Caitlin Moran does my head in.

I embarked on this book because it was recommended on What Should I Read Next which is a podcast I love. I also thought that because it is a collection of essays, I could read bite size chunks and maybe cure my reading slump.

For Jenny’s friends and family, I am sure that her random musings are hilarious, provoke an eye roll and a ‘what are you like, you crazy gal’ kind of reaction. For me who doesn’t know her, they are just that….random sodding musings. Essays on alternative jobs for herself (open a comic book store) and her suggestions for Japanese toilet seat buttons are things I couldn’t really give a shit about. Who sodding cares?!?!? Definitely not me. I have about a million other books sitting on my shelves that I need to give up on half way through. I am not making the same mistake I made with Stephen and reading 300 sodding pages before I admit defeat. Jenny I am done with you.

If All The World Were by Joseph Coelho and Allison Colpoys

A really good book to help explain loss to children. My 5 year old and I did end up having quite an in-depth discussion about heaven and what heaven would be like….quite full on after a hot day!

We all loved the illustrations. Beautiful, colourful depictions of nature. We loved spotting the butterflies, tigers and ladybirds. We loved how imaginative the grandad was.

Both my daughters are lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents alive and I think when the time comes, I don’t know if we would use a book to explain death to them. I also think we would explain it in a much more matter of fact way than this book presents. However, if you would like to use a book to explain the loss of a grandparent to a child then this would certainly be a lovely book to buy.

Anyway let’s hope June is better reading wise.

See you next month.

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