Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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Read 17/05/2017-18/05/2017

Rating: 4 stars

This is a very funny book, chaotically and terrifyingly so. I don’t need to tell you what it’s about. You already know what it’s about.

I’ve had my copy for about ten years. It was given to me by a chaotic and terrifying writer that I once knew. I think he was attempting to channel Hunter S Thompson. Sometimes that’s all you can do when you live in darkest South Wales.

I’ve been saving it up for a moment such as the one that hit me this week. I’m calling it existential nihilism, even though that gives more weight to my ‘so what?’ than it deserves. Continue reading

Pachinko

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Read 06/05/2017-11/05/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Pachinko was on the list for The Reader’s Room March Madness Challenge. I ordered it from the library, but lots of people wanted to read it, and when it eventually arrived it was too late for the challenge. I’d read enough about it to still want to read it, though. Continue reading

A Gentleman in Moscow

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Read 29/04/2017-30/04/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room March Madness Challenge

I’ve been itching for an excuse to read A Gentleman in Moscow for a while, so I was pleased when it came up as one of the reads for the March Madness Challenge over at The Reader’s Room. I was even more pleased when my local library accepted my request for it to be added to their stock. It only arrived on Thursday, though, so I didn’t have much time to read it in. Fortunately, it was gripping.

Now that I’ve read some Zweig, every time I think a novel reminds me of a Wes Anderson film, I’m going to remind myself that it’s Zweig I’m thinking of.

The beginning of A Gentleman in Moscow made me think of Zweig. Moscow in 1923. The early days of the Bolshevik regime. Sasha Rostov, who may or may not have been on the side of the revolutionaries before they brought down the bourgeoisie, finds himself firmly viewed as an opponent of The People, if not quite their enemy. Continue reading

Hidden Figures

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Read 07/04/2017-10/04/2017

Rating: 4 stars

What I wanted was for them to have the grand, sweeping narrative that they deserved, the kind of American history that belongs to the Wright Brothers and the astronauts, to Alexander Hamilton and Martin Luther King Jr. Not told as a separate history, but as a part of the story we all know. Not at the margins, but at the very center, the protagonists of the drama. And not just because they are black, or because they are women, but because they are part of the American epic.

So says Margot Lee Shetterly in the prologue to her history of the black female mathematicians working at NASA from the 1940s onwards. Shetterly grew up in Hampton, Virginia. Her father was an engineer at Langley, working for NASA. She grew up among the women who worked alongside her father as human computers. Until a chance remark made by her father on a visit Shetterly made with her husband in 2010, she had no idea about the pioneering work these black women carried out, or about just how many black women worked at NASA. And so began her research into the subject. Continue reading

Homegoing

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Read 01/04/2017-07/04/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room March Madness Challenge

Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel is an ambitious one. It charts the lives of two half-sisters from Ghana who have very different experiences of slavery. The book sets off in the 18th century and follows the descendants of each sister to see how slavery impacted on African women depending on the form their slavery took. Continue reading

Tōnoharu

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Read 19/02/2017 (Parts One and Two originally read in 2010)

Rating: 5 stars

My husband bought me the first two volumes of Tōnoharu for my birthday a few years ago, and I read them ravenously. They are based on the author’s experiences teaching English in Japan, and are full of the melancholy of heading off on an adventure to a country and culture that is alien to your own. I decided to re-read the first two volumes in advance of starting the long awaited final instalment. Continue reading

Yes Please

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Read 30/01/2017-03/02/2017

Rating: 3 stars

This book is wondrously eclectic.

I like Amy Poehler. Or rather, I like Amy Poehler’s performance as Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation. That’s the only thing I’ve seen her in. I like her in that enough to have bought her autobiography.

When it came up as my next read in The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge, I cheered. Out loud. The house was empty but for me and the cat, so it was okay. I cheered because it had been a bewilderingly frightening weekend of watching and reading the news coming out of America, and I needed a book that would lift my spirits. Continue reading