Month: October 2023

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

This is apparently one of the funniest novels in English literature. I did not really find most of it funny but it was really amusing in parts. I have not read that much Dickens. Actually, I’ve only read Great Expectations before this and even though I feel like I’ve read A Christmas Carol, I haven’t actually read it. I keep forgetting that. I will read it for this holiday season. Back to Nicholas though, I did not find it that hard to read though there were a lot of tangents and side characters. I did like the principal characters but a lot of the women in the book are passive or two dimensional. It’s too bad because I think Kate had potential to do more but I think most Dickensian female characters are like this. I liked Nicholas too because of his loyalty to his family and Smike. Poor Smike. What a tragedy. This book is very melodramatic with a lot of villainous and horrible characters. All in all, I did find it engaging for the most part and Dickens is objectively a great writer how he weaves so much ridiculous drama and comedy for 800 pages.

3.75/5 stars. October 7-10, 2023.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Narrated by Kate Winslet. Read about this one from the Reading Glasses Slack. I wanted to listen to this before bed as it was one of my favourites as a kid. Winslet’s ability to change voices made it too intense especially since there was a lot of emotional child abuse. Her ability to become the awful Wormwoods was great. She did such a fantastic job. This was a good follow up to Nicholas Nickleby because it’s referenced twice. Maybe I subconsciously remembered it. I certainly did think about bad adults and headmasters. I usually do not like reading precocious children in books but Matilda is one of the exceptions. Most of the characters are so awful that you need a fantastical brilliant child like Matilda to teach them lessons. Very satisfying ending and reminded me why I loved it as a kid. I rewatched clips from the 1996 adaptation and it really is one of the best adaptations. Danny DeVito and the whole cast did such a great job.

4.5/5 stars. 1.1x. October 9-12, 2023.

Relaxation Revolution: The Science and Genetics of Mind Body Healing by Herbert Benson and William Proctor

This one has more details than The Relaxation Response so I liked it more. I am keeping ebook version to have as reference. Even though the info is repetitive at times, I’ve become a big believer in the relaxation response meditations.

4.5/5 stars. Sept 26-Oct 13, 2023

The Cartographer by Peter Twohig

A book club friend of mine who use to live in Melbourne lent this to me. This is a longer than average debut novel at 400 pages. It crossed a few genres as well. It is from the perspective of a middle grade kid who is known only to the reader as the Cartographer. The protagonist is having a rough time dealing with the grief and loss of his twin brother. It documents his adventures in his Richmond, Vic neighbourhood and all the violent and crazy things in the 1950s. It was slow because the writing is a bit too padded in parts, but once things got going, a lot happened. It’s an adventure story with a dash of thriller and some mystery. It’s a historical fiction and a coming of age story with elements of literary fiction. It’s ambitious and different. I wish more people knew about it because it was good.

3.75/5 stars. October 14-15, 2023.

All the Living and the Dead: From Embalmers to Executioners, an Exploration of the People Who Have Made Death Their Life’s Work by Hayley Campbell

Narrated by the author. This took me awhile to listen to because most of the book’s subjects are very heavy. The heaviest death book I’ve read yet. I could have read it faster via an ebook but I really enjoyed the author’s narration. Due to the nature of the topics, the audio gave it more intimacy. This is a more personal look at death and the people who work in it. The author is not detached from her subjects which made it more emotional and human.

4.5/5 stars. 1.4x. Sept 18 – Oct 2, 2023.

The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter

This was my bedtime reading but over the last couple of months, I stopped reading it before bed. I use red lighting before bed now and that didn’t display the illustrations well. I was als too tired and would listen to a podcast and audiobook instead while knitting. At least I tried. I am more aware of what I can read before bed at least. I read the last 20% during the day.

When I was a child, I would remember vividly the tiny books set from my elementary school library. I read at least a couple of these as a kid. They were always so lovely. I also watched the animated series which was wonderful as well. This was a really cozy read as a result and it’s been lovely to spend time with them again.

4.5/5 stars. July 4-Oct 4 2023

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Another Little Library find. This is a surprisingly dark middle grade graphic novel. The twist was creepy. The protagonist Anya was annoying at times because she was an outcast and unhappy like a lot of teens. I did like it as there was strong character development in the end and I could relate to Anya’s experiences as an immigrant child.

3.5/5 stars. October 5, 2023.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Narrated by the author. I like Gilbert but have not read much in the way of her fiction. I primarily listened to this book because I like her voice and it was short. I hesitate to call myself a creative person because I often compare myself to actual working creatives whom I admire or even friends. I am creative in the sense that I craft and have more hobbies that I know what to do with. I wish I could write fiction or produce visual arts. The book itself was not really helpful to me but it was nice to listen to Gilbert talk about creativity and writing. Ann Patchett, an author I really like, was mentioned too.

3.5/5 stars. 1.4x. October 2-8, 2023.

I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Ann Bogel

Narrated by the author. This was fine. It was short and I related to the author’s musings about being a bibliophile. It was amusing.

3.25/5 stars. Mostly 1.5x. September 16-18, 2023.

The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson

I became interested in Dr Benson’s work after the Gregg D Jacobs CBT-I programme. I have been using the Relaxation Response meditations from that course. While I have meditated on and off for decades, these meditations are some of the best I’ve encountered. I do find them useful for my anxiety, depression, and likely my sleep. This book was first written in 1975 and updated in 2000. Dr Benson has a foreword which surmised that only two things are needed to elicit the response: something to direct the attention such as a word or phrase and a passive attitude. The book focused more on stress and hypertension. Like a lot of self-help or science books from the 1970s and 1980s, it was very fast paced. It was also surprisingly spiritual and religious in a good way as it discussed how the relaxation response is an ancient practice among humans. I do wish there was more science on what is actually happening to the body when you use it. I have a couple of other Benson books which I look forward to exploring.

4/5 stars. September 23-24, 2023.

The Night Eaters, Vol. 1: She Eats the Night by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda (Illustrator)

The amazing duo from Monstress. I was happy to hear that they have another series. It’s more urban fantasy than high fantasy with a heavy dose of horror. It’s set in a world similar to ours and it has themes of family and migration. It’s funny and compelling. Looking forward to the next installment.

4.25/5 stars. September 24, 2023.

DNF: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.

I should have given up on this years ago after I finished Power of Now. I bought the two Tolle books in 2009 from Waterstones Piccadilly. I didn’t want to waste them, but I had give up on this one. I got the audiobook narrated by the author via Libby. I barely made it through the first chapter. I don’t dislike Tolle or have much of an opinion on it other than finding him boring. I don’t like the writing style and I didn’t like his audiobook narration either. I do think on spiritual matters and do read books about it sometimes. I am more particular and critical now about it though. I flipped through the copy of the book that I had. I knew this would be harder to read than Power of Now. Off it goes to the neighborhood Little Library.

DNF both audiobook and print book. September 24, 2023.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Gramus

I have been seeing this book around on the internet and in real life for the past couple years. I expected something better since I had heard it was fun. I didn’t love it. This is a debut novel and you can tell. There are a lot tropes including orphans, precocious children, bad childhoods, sudden pregnancy, sudden death of a lead, sexual assault, and lots of others which I won’t spoil. It felt like fantasy and not the kind fantasy I like to read. It seemed like the author wanted to change the past but did it through this odd alternate history. Most of the characters were excessively horrible or mean to the main characters. Thankfully, there are a couple friendly and good characters but they don’t get enough development and depth. Even Elizabeth the protagonist whom I do like is missing some in depth. Still, I couldn’t help like some of these characters. The dog was cute. I did find the ending predictable and abrupt. It was easy to read at least. A lot people liked this book because it’s probably cathartic so I’m glad for that and not some other hackneyed novel at least. I do think it’ll adapt well because visuals could add onto this story and I do like Brie Larson. I may check out the adaptation.

3/5. September 24-25, 2023.

Edible Economics: A Hungry Economist Explains the World by Ha-Joon Chang

Narrated by Homer Todiwala. This was an odd book and the author even acknowledged it in the conclusion. It’s strange in that he took foods and used them as a launching pad to discuss political economics and development studies. The author is a professor at SOAS in London and has lived in the UK since the late 80s. I enjoyed his stories about moving to the UK and discovering all these foods. The economics was a bit random and haphazard but I understood all of it because I have a background in this field. I do not think a lot of other people could dive in as easily. He explained his thoughts well but the book was all over the place. In any case, I liked the narration and I think the author had a few good thoughts.

3.25/5 stars. 1.4x. Sept 19-26, 2023.

The Book of Sleep: 75 Strategies to Relieve Insomnia by Nicole Moshfegh

I was decluttering my Calibre library and skimmed through this one quickly. All of this is based on CBT-I so I was familiar with all the techniques. The book format was good as a reference.

3.75/5 stars. Read on computer. September 28, 2023.