chestnut book blog

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Holiday reading round up

I managed to avoid taking any hardbacks with me on holiday this year, much to husband’s relief! I thought some mini reviews of what I did take with me would be in order:

Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

The follow-up to the Devil Wears Prada. A light and easy holiday read.  Personally, I preferred the first book. If I am completely honest, I also preferred the film to the first book, but I think that is heresy so I’ll stop there!

The Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Reading this whilst in Southern China where this book is set was a real treat. It gave me an insight into the customs and culture of the people, as this book appears to be meticulously researched. The practice of foot binding and the general hardship of women’s lives then was difficult to read about, but I’m glad I have. A gorgeous story, but it leaves a bitter taste. Thank goodness foot binding no longer happens.

Wool by Hugh Howey

My opinion of this book was very volatile. At first I found it difficult to get in to, then I was really enjoying it, then I found it predictable. I picked it up after reading some favourable reviews – I find it difficult to resist possible future novels as you know.  However, this is one I probably could have lived without. It was ok and parts of it were well done, but I won’t be investigating the sequel.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

This book has a premise similar to Groundhog Day. Sam lives her final day over and over again until things are put right and she realises what is important. This book made me a little uncomfortable as it brings back memories of the selfishness and cruelty of teenagers. Ultimately, I found this book a little disappointing due to a lack of connection with the characters and the fact that Groundhog Day does the same thing so much better.

I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson

I was not expecting great things from I don’t know how she does it by Allison Pearson at all. It has a sugary chick-lit cover, was on the chick-lit shelf and I thought it wasn’t for me. However, in a moment of weakness brought on by seeing it for £2, it slipped into my life. I then picked it up at the end of my holiday as I didn’t quite feel ready to pick up anything meatier. For the first fifty or so pages, I don’t know how she does it conformed to my low expectations I’m afraid to say. This is not great literature be under no illusion. However, between a third and halfway through something happened. This book was actually making me think. Can mothers have it all? Is it better to work or to stay at home with children? How much compromise is too much compromise? By working are you just doing every job badly?

To be clear, I didn’t entirely like I don’t know how she does it. I found Kate frustrating at times, selfish at others and generally a bit irritating. The other characters in the book were also little more than props. Kate’s relationship with her husband did not feel particularly real or resolved at the end. But it did definitely make me think, and you can forgive a lot for that, can’t you?!

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China. Tea. All the tea in China. Rice paddies. Silk. Willow Pattern. Porcelain. Luxury. Royalty. the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square. Communism. Censorship.

I thought I’d try a quick word association game about China. As you can see I have quite conflicted views! I am flying out there shortly and am excited about what I am going to discover. I talked about doing some preparatory reading before I go in a previous post but to add to that here are two books I’m going to be tackling while I’m there.

The Story of the Stone (Book 1)

The Story of the stone Book 1 by Cao Xueqin

The Story of the stone Book 1 by Cao Xueqin

A Chinese classic, also known as The Dream of the Red Chamber. The story of Baoyu, a young man of aristocratic birth and his romantic entanglements with two of his female cousins, but also an allegory about the soul’s journey towards enlightenment. I have heard that this book will help me understand Chinese life and character, even though it was written in the eighteenth-century. I thought I’d start with Book 1 (there are five) to see how I get on before pursuing the others. John Minford wrote this excellent article about The Story of the Stone which persuaded me that I needed to add it to my Chinese reading list.

The Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

The story of Lily’s long life, through the turbulent nineteenth century history of China. This is a story about friendship and the abuses women were subjected to. I will let you know what I think of both books when I return.

I’ve got a few posts prepared for while I’m away and I’ll be back properly in a few weeks with some photos and stories from my adventures!