Bookish Discussions · Reviews

January Wrap-up:


The first month of 2018 is over and with it comes my first wrap-up of the year. Despite the month starting off a little slow (I felt myself steadily declining into a reading slump), I managed to sort myself out and get something read.

To start off with, I finished all of my undergraduate reading. Not only does that mean I’m closer to finishing my degree (which I’m not ready to talk about just yet), but I now have more time to read books of my own choosing. With this, I’ll be able to write more engaging and enjoyable posts for you (and no more boring, unheard of books!).

I read a lovely selection of books this month, so let’s get into it:

Persuasion | 5 out of 5 stars:

I ended 2017 by reading Jane Austen, so I thought it would only be fitting to start 2018 with her. If you’d like to read my full discussion of this lovely book, then click here. To put it plainly: I loved this. It’s about Anne Eliot, who is left grief-stricken after being persuaded to break off her engagement to the only man she ever loved. Eight years later he returns, bringing with him a second chance of happiness. Will she take it? Can it ever be the same?

Everything I like in an Austen novel was packed into this: a simple yet detailed plot, an interesting array of characters, a “swoon-worthy” man to distract my every waking moment, and a social commentary of Regency England. In particular, I really loved Austen’s depiction of class and social mobility in the novel. By commenting on the stark differences between generations, I can outline Austen’s passionate feelings towards this culture. Additionally, all of the characters were beautifully depicted, especially our protagonist Anne. Definitely my favourite read of the month.

‘Woman Much Missed’ | 3 out of 5 stars:

As I had a slow start to the month, I decided to pick up two of Penguin’s Little Black Classics. The first being Thomas Hardy’s poetry collection ‘Woman Much Missed’. If you were to read these out of pure curiosity, then you’d probably be really disappointed. This collection is persistently sulky, depressing and morbid. But, at the same time, it is a collection penned after the death of his wife, so you can’t really expect anything more from him.

Despite an average rating, these were endlessly beautiful. I was occasionally moved by the yearning and desperate tone of the poems. It was very obvious that Hardy found comfort and solace in writing these. Taking this into consideration, I found rating them particularly hard. How can I rate them when they’re written about something so personal, especially when he may not have been thinking clearly (I go into more detail on this in my mini review)? One thing I really enjoyed was how Hardy brought his wife to life through verse; she felt real and haunting. I’d definitely recommend, but perhaps don’t be too critical.

‘The Fall of Icarus’ | 3 out of 5 stars:

This was the second Little Black Classic I picked up in January (which I also wrote a mini review on). Ovid’s tale of Icarus has been constantly recycled in literature – my first experience being with Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus – so I’ve been meaning to read it for some time now. However, I was reluctant to start it. I had never read any ancient mythology before, so I didn’t know what the language, context or imagery would be like. But I was pleasantly surprised.

Firstly, the tale of Icarus actually only lasted for about two pages. But the shortness of it didn’t hinder my enjoyment. It was an interesting portrayal of when man overextends his reach. Secondly, the story was completely ridiculous, but that made it so entertaining. The stories were chaotic and hectic, but I was swept along with them. I was never bored because Ovid never allowed me the chance. After reading this I’m really excited to dabble with some more ancient mythology.

Trumpet | 1 out of 5 stars:

The premise of Jackie Kay’s Trumpet was so interesting and relevant. I really wanted to liked it, but unfortunately I didn’t. It’s the story of Joss Moody, a famous jazz musician in the fifties who is also transgender. Weirdly, the narrative wasn’t focused on him but on the people around him.

I’ve only ever read one book that deals explicitly with a transgendered character, but they were only a side character. This was the first book that placed a transgendered character at its very core. Because of that, and because I’m so little experienced with these narratives, I wanted to enjoy it. But Kay’s writing style and the way she framed the story didn’t work. It was interesting seeing how people responded to his transition, but I wanted Joss’ story. I wanted him to tell us about his life and not hear it from other people’s mouth. However, I did appreciate Kay’s incorporation of the media. She criticised the demonization of transgendered people by depicting a close-minded and disrespectful character who only wanted to make money from Joss’ story. This aspect was not only poignant to read, but was also really thought-provoking. However, it wasn’t enough to bump up the rating.

Winter | 4 out of 5 stars:

I’m slowly making my way through Melissa Harrison’s collection of poetry and prose from honoured writers about the English seasons. I previously read Autumn and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I had high expectations for Winter. This collection included an array of writers, such as Wordsworth, Hardy, Macfarlane, Woolf, Dickens and Shakespeare, to name but a few. Each writer captures something different about the season; detailing what it represents to them, how it unfolds in different regions of the country and how it impacts the wildlife.

I always feel so inspired to write my own pieces after reading these (see here and here). It’s so interesting to see what winter means to someone from centuries ago or from somebody on the opposite end of the country. I particularly enjoyed this instalment for its array of writers who I’ve grown to love. Inside included a favourite Shakespearean sonnet, one of my favourite Wordsworth poems, a beautiful snippet from Woolf’s Orlando (which I really need to read now), and a moving piece from Edward Step’s 1930 Nature Rambles: An Introduction to Country-lore. I’d definitely recommend this lovely series!

Lost Souls | 1 out of 5 stars:

I had such a hard time comprehending this book. It was so weird. One night, a vampire has sex with a human. The human ends up pregnant, but dies because they cannot survive vampire childbirth (the vampire dad abandoned her). The child, Nothing, is left on someone’s doorstep and grows up a normal, Goth life. However, he knows he doesn’t belong, so leaves his small town to embark on a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, he meets his vampire dad (but doesn’t know it’s his dad just yet) and engages in lots of sexual activities with him.

It had no real plot and no real character development. Instead, it’s a book full of paedophilia, incest, detailed rape scenes, drug abuse and any other taboo and twisted things you can think of. It was honestly awful. I don’t see what people could possibly enjoy about this book? The only reason I read it was for my university course, otherwise I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Not only that, but all of the aforementioned things were dismissed like they were nothing because it was how these people lived. It was just wrong on so many levels and I would never, in a hundred years, recommend it.

The Woman in Black | 3 out of 5 stars:

This was a bittersweet re-read for me. This was the last book I’ll ever read for my undergraduate degree – I finally did it. I managed to read around 90 books in two and a half years (not including short stories or poetry). I’m pretty proud of myself for that. Anyway, I first read Susan Hill’s ghost story back in 2012 when the movie adaptation came out. I distinctly remember hating every minute of it. I thought the narrative dragged and I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Reflecting back on that, I just don’t think it was the right book for me at the time. I enjoyed it so much more the second time round.

I was fully engaged and immersed in the tale. It felt like a true ghost story to me; it was creepy, unsettling and eerie throughout. Despite receiving an average rating, I think this is one of the best ghost stories I’ve ever read. It actually made me feel something that wasn’t boredom. The back story of the ghost was intriguing; it wasn’t overdone and instead explained clearly and rationally. I also loved the narrator; despite being completely different people, I really connected to him. He was convincing, which was achieved through the first person narration. The setting (a big house isolated from any civilisation by the barren, marshy land) was also very fitting, and really added to the story’s effectiveness. I’d definitely recommend this.

Middlemarch | 4 out of 5 stars:

To celebrate finishing my university reading, and to procrastinate from writing my dissertation, I decided to finally read George Eliot’s 900 page Middlemarch. Let me tell you, it was an adventure. There was a host of characters, all with their own unique stories, guiding the plot along. I’ll be uploading a review of this on Monday, so I’ll keep this short and sweet.

To sum up this novel one only has to look as far as the subtitle: ‘A study of Provincial Life’. It was very much concerned with a small, rural town where everyone knows everyone’s business. Tucked inside this lovely novel was an array of different themes, ranging from womanhood and marriage to religion and politics. With such a diverse character list, and such diverse subplots, I have no doubt you’ll find at least one story you click with. For me, I was drawn into Dorothea’s story and I never once lost interest (if you’d like to know more about this, then definitely read my review). The only negative was how long it took for me to get into the story; I didn’t start investing myself until about a quarter of a way in. But when I found my footing, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I’d definitely recommend this!

Considering the month didn’t start off well, I managed to read 8 books (with one lasting nine-hundred pages!). So I’d say it was a pretty decent reading month, especially considering I had two huge essays due in and the bulk of my dissertation to write. Plus, I enjoyed a lot more than I hated which is always a positive!

Have you read any of these books? What was your favourite book of the month?

Thanks for reading, Lauren X

5 thoughts on “January Wrap-up:

  1. Loved seeing what you thought of Persuasian – it’s probably my least favourite from Austen, so seeing why you loved it was really interesting! Middlemarch is one I want to get to one day, but I can tell it’ll probably be in future years rather than anytime soon ahaha 😆 Hope February reading treats you well 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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