I read alot over January. 16 books in total (well, 15 and a half. I’m still finishing one off).
The first thing I read this month was the entire collection of Lemony Snicket books. 13 of them in total. The first 5 are pretty short, with the thirteenth and final book being the longest.
Each book tells a new and unfortunate tale of the Baudelaire Orphans misfortunes.
A Series of Unfortunate Events is a series of thirteen children’s novels by Lemony Snicket (the pen name of American author Daniel Handler), which follows the turbulent lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire after their parents’ death in a fire. The children are placed in the custody of a murderous relative, Count Olaf, who attempts to steal their inheritance and, later, orchestrates numerous disasters with the help of his accomplices as the children attempt to flee their clutches. As the story progresses, the Baudelaires gradually discover a deep background of secrets and conspiracies involving a secret society known as V.F.D., with connections to both Olaf and their parents. The series is narrated by Snicket, who dedicates each of his works to his love interest, Beatrice, and often attempts to dissuade the reader from continuing the learning experience of the Baudelaires’ story.
The set of books is aimed at children first and foremost. Probably slightly older children to young teens. That said, as a much, much older child (at heart) I thoroughly enjoyed each one of these stories. Each book is a real delight, full of woe and sorrow and the occassional moral lesson. There are some real stand out paragraphs and quotes in these wonderful books.
“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”
“Wicked people never have time for reading. It’s one of the reasons for their wickedness.”
“Reading is one form of escape. Running for your life is another.”
“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.”
“If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats.”
I strongly recommend you read the books, especially if you enjoyed the film or recent Netflix series of the same name. If you are one of those snooty book snobs, then find a child to read them with (I’d suggest a child you know and ask permission before you borrow it. I don’t want you getting in trouble). Pretend it’s like when Harry Potter was released with more “adult” covers.
I went from the unfortunate world of the Baudelaires to some real life unfortunate stories when I tried my first non-fiction book – We’ll All Be Murdered in Our Beds! The Shocking Story of Crime Reporting in Britain by Duncan Campbell.
Duncan Campbell is the former crime correspondent of the Guardian and as former Chairman of the Crime Reporters Association, making him a pretty good candidate to write a history of crime reporting in Britain.
In this colourful history of the wild world of crime reporting since 1700, Duncan Campbell reveals what it’s really like to deal with murderers, robbers, cat burglars, victims, informers and detectives, looking at the ‘hacks in the macs’ and the ‘Murder Gang’ who would go to any lengths to get a story – and serve it up to an ever-eager reading public.
All of human emotion is here: hate, love, greed, desire, fear, jealously, anger, revenge, redemption, compassion. Crime is a prism through which we see society and its phobias. As the relationships between the press, public, police and criminals are now being questioned as never before, We’ll All Be Murdered in Our Beds! Tells the compelling, sometimes scandalous tale of the stories and storytellers that have entertained, shocked and appalled us – and will continue to do so.
I genuinely found this book really interesting. I actually learned alot of things I didn’t know and it was really fascinating to see how the press have affected the outcome of crime and trials for better and worse over the years.
I learnt that a man named William Stead who was largely responsible for raising the legal age of female consent around 1885 as he was so appalled by the forced prostitution and the failure of parliment to do anything about it and after a series of shocking newspaper articles, parliment finally agreed to raise the age of consent. He was then jailed for 3 months after being found guilty under the Offences Against the Person Act.
The thing that I have taken from this book is that history repeats itself. Campbell talks of different racial minorites being persecuted and blamed since the birth of the newspaper and it saddens me that this never seems to change.
At times, I found this book pretty hard going, lots of facts and dates to take in but I am glad I persevered and I am glad that I learned some new things from this book. All in all, a rather enjoyable, factual read.
Next up I fancied some more fiction and I decided to read Fellside by M.R Carey who also wrote The Girl With All The Gifts, which I loved and was recently adapted for the big screen.
You will find Fellside somewhere on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. It is not the kind of place you’d want to end up, but it’s where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life.
It’s a place where even the walls whisper. And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess. Fellside will be the death of you – if it doesn’t save you.
I didn’t really enjoy Fellside. I had high hopes based on how much I enoyed The Girl With All The Gifts and it never really lived up to that. I almost stopped reading it at one point, the story just felt a bit damp. A story about a prison by someone who didn’t seem to know or understand what an actual prison is like. Described as a thriller, it really isn’t.
Basically, Jess wakes up in a hospital and is charged with a murder (well, manslaughter I suppose) that she doesn’t remember committing. Long story short, she ends up in prison, stops eating and as she about to die, she hears the voice of a little boy.
I ended up reading the whole book and couldn’t help but feel I’d wasted my time. Having said that, it is well written and the story flows quite nicely (perhaps that’s why it put me to sleep). In conclusion, I would suggest you don’t avoid the book completely, read it and see if you agree. If you’d like my copy – let me know. You are more than welcome to it.
The last book I started in January (I’m almost finished now) is another non-fiction book. How To Be A Victorian by Ruth Goodman.
I professed my love for the wonderful Ruth Goodman in my recent book haul post as I’d picked up another of her books.
We know what life was like for Victoria and Albert. But what was it like for a commoner like you or me? How did it feel to cook with coal and sprinkle tea leaves on the carpet? Drink beer for breakfast and clean your teeth with cuttlefish? Dress in whalebone and feed opium to the baby?
Drawing on historian Ruth Goodman’s unique first-hand experience, gained from living a year on a Victorian farm, as well as a life devoted to practical historical study, this book will teach you everything you need to know about nineteenth-centru living, from morning to night, kitchen to textile mill.
What I love about Ruth is her passion. As you read through the books, many of the practices and ways of life have been methodically and accurately tested by Ruth herself. She genuinely knows what she is writing about. I’ve learned so much, from medicinal tonics containing opium and cocaine, to mascara being a male product used to colour moustaches and how electrolysis was a popular method of hair removal even in the 1800s.
The book contains reference pictures so you really get a feel for what you are reading about.
If you want to learn a little more, or you just want a fun read then this book is totally worth your time!
So that’s what I read last month. What have you been reading? Would you like my copy of Fellside?! Get in touch below.