Thursday Thoughts: Retelling of Old Tales

I have recently jumped on the bandwagon of becoming a little bit obsessed with the retelling of Greek myths.

Thanks to a buddy read during lockdown 1.0, I picked up ‘The Song of Achilles‘ by Madeline Miller and I absolutely loved it. I found the whole world a fascinating place, even if some of the attitudes were a little questionable. However, at the same time there were some really liberal ideas too. A great story and a great book discuss.

Next, I moved on to ‘Circe‘ also by Madeline Miller. What a strong powerful female lead we were presented with in this book. We also met some famous Greek mythological characters characters. This is a tale I found a little slower but I still became absorbed in the world and found myself wanting to find out more about the story, characters, ideas and beliefs.

And now we reach my latest read, ‘The Silence of the Girls’ by Pat Barker. This had been on my bookshelf for ages (just like the others – oops) but a good bookstagram decided it was time to read it, and that was exactly what we did.

This focuses on the story of Achilles and, although that is a similar focus as Madeline Miller’s ‘The Song of Achilles’, it is still an excellent read. This is told from a completely different viewpoint, as this is about the girls who became the ‘prizes’ of the war. They watch Achilles’ story unfold and the world around them change. And I was obsessed, finding it a real page-turner. These women are so strong – however, what really added to my enjoyment was the fact that I could continue to develop my interest in these old tales, but also by the end of this book I had a different opinion of Achilles.

It’s a well-crafted telling of a famous story, which gives a voice to the women and allows them to tell her-story.

On my bookshelves are some more of these retellings, and I will definitely be making sure that they are picked up soon, because it is another world of brilliant stories.

Thursday Thoughts: Should I Join a Book Club?

So, I always thought I would become a sophisticated member of a book club. However, life so easily takes over and it just never seemed to happen. Until I joined the bookstagram community…

In the book-loving social media world, there are an amazing number of book clubs you can be part of. You have a choice of lovely themed ones such as ‘Maidens of Murder’. This is a community of crime fiction fans who read a different novel by Agatha Christie each month. You have a chance to discuss and share your thoughts on a post at the end of the month. I am not always great at sharing my thoughts, but I have really enjoyed the chance to read more Christie books that I may not have picked up.

Another favourite that I am part of is the ‘Victorian Sensation Book Club’. This is a great community of fellow book lovers who enjoy reading Victorian classics, especially those of the sensation genre. We read a section at a time and share our thoughts as we go. This has been brilliant for getting me to read books I would never have picked up before. And, of course, talk about books.

However, these two lovely book club opportunities are still a little safe, because you chat on a post or in a chat group. So, my bravest step was taking part in the ‘Tasting Notes Book Club’ from ‘The Book Taster‘.

This is a brilliant subscription book club and you receive a box of goodies with your book, which makes it a fabulous treat. Yet, this involves an online book club meeting which, for me, was a brave step. However, I am not sure what I was worried about, because it is an amazing safe space to discuss the book with fellow bookworms. And you can, of course, say as much or as little as you like. The two meetings I have attended so far have also involved us hearing the wonderful authors, which has been such a treat.

So, I may not have managed to attend or join a physical book club, but I have found so many fabulous book communities out there to be part of.

Why not have a look what is out there if you have fancied giving a book club a go?

Thursday Thoughts: Does it matter what I read?

I am sure you have realised that I absolutely love reading. And I will happily give almost anything a go (although I am not really a Sci-fi fan). However, I do think sometimes people feel judged by their reading choices and that is really not wha this hobby is about. In fact, if you think you would enjoy a book you should read it.

I really enjoy YA fiction – I am not the target audience, but who cares? All that matters is that it is the chance to read a good story. And, to be honest, it is an opportunity to learn something and see things from other perspectives, and develop empathy for those who may be the target audience.

However, I also dislike some of the snobbery that comes with genres, like the idea of ‘chick lit’ or ‘beach reads’. What is wrong with books with strong female characters? After all, surely ‘Little Women’ is a perfect piece of ‘chick lit’ classed as a classic. And surely a beach read is something that helps you unwind on a holiday, and that is certainly different for all of us.

So, do not worry about the books you want to read – if it makes you happy and helps you unwind, then pick it up and enjoy the escapism.

Thursday Thoughts: Who is your Favourite Detective?

I do not claim to have read all novels starring every single famous literary detective – however, I do enjoy a good piece of crime fiction!

Before I start, I have previously done a piece about Poirot versus Miss Marple. For me, Poirot won and he would again in that debate. Yet, would my opinion be swayed if I was to throw other characters into the mix?

Well, he would be ever so slightly pipped to the post of my favourite detective. You see, for me, it is the tales from the pen of Sur Arthur Conan Doyle that can be read over and over again. The greatest detective is Sherlock Holmes, with his companion Dr John Watson. There are tales I never get bored of. I can read them, watch them, listen to them, repeatedly, without ever getting bored. I know the solution, but I still love following the adventures. I have never really been able to put my finger on one specific reason why these stories are my absolute favourite – it is not down to one thing. Conan Doyle’s writing and characterisation just bring me back, time and time again to the books. And I do believe that they are responsible for my love of crime novels.

Because, let’s be honest, if I had read the tales of the great Sherlock Holmes, I would not have read so many of the other famous literary detectives. As mentioned, I love the cosy crime of Christie’s two main famous creations, but I also enjoy the investigations of Rebus, Morse, Scarpetta, Pirie (newly discovered) and there are so many more for me to discover.

So, I am interested in your thoughts – who is your favourite detective?

Thursday Thoughts: Should I take part in buddy reads?

Book clubs always seem like such a fabulous idea. However, I have never quite made it to one. Terrible excuses like ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I am shy’ or ‘I don’t think I can talk about books in a sophisticated way’.

However, the beautiful bookstagram community has given a great solution to this – ‘Buddy Reads’! I have mentioned these a few times in posts, as they have got me involved in reading all sorts of books. A buddy read is a relaxed way to read books along with friends. There is no pressure, no set questions and no judgement. A few buddies simply read the same book at the same time, but at their own pace. And, as they go they share their thoughts and ideas in a group chat.

I have really enjoyed all the ones that I have taken part in with my fantastic bookstagram buddies. It has helped clear my tbr pile a little, but has also has me reading books that I may never have picked up without the little support groups. It also builds friendships with brilliant bookworms.

A buddy read removes all those excuses you may have for being part of a real book club. So, if you have always meant to pick up that book, put a little shout out and you will find bookworms more than happy to read along with you.

Thursday Thoughts: How do you make time to read?

So many of my friends look at my bookshelves and say:

‘Wow, have you read all of those?’

‘You have a lot of books.’

‘Nobody can say I have too many books again.’

Or, fairly reguarly:

‘How do you have time to read?’

This is a question that I have been thinking a lot about recently. Especially as a lockdown highlight for me has been all the books I have managed to read and enjoy. As a sense of my ‘normal’ is starting to return in September, I am trying to decide if I can keep this up. And the answer is, yes I can but possibly not in quite the same way or pace.

I have always read – all the time – since I was a child. The two places or time I always read are on any trian journey and before bed. So, as I return to my commute by train, I have made the decision to ensure I read both ways, As, at the end of the day, it can be easy to let social media take over rather than returning to my book for relaxation. That will make time for reading.

I will also – and this is a promise to myself – ensure I read every night. Even those nights I am very sleepy, I will for my own wellbeing, carve out times to read some pages, as this always improves my quality of sleep.

Just these two little things give me time to read, and I am grateful. Also, my new little reading space should be complete by mid-September, which I am sure means I will snatch some more reading moments.

However, I do always think it is not the amount you read or the pace you read at, but ensuring you enjoy reading. Life is not a competition and reading is there to be enjoyed, not to compete over.

So, allow yourself some reading time – and make sure you enjoy it!

Thursday Thoughts: Are you afraid of the classics?

So, I have decided to start sharing my Thursday thoughts. It is a little random idea I had to share some of my other bookish thoughts.

My first set of thoughts are about the classics. There is, of course, a whole genre of classic literature, which covers so many other genres. Some you may have read and loved; some you may have read and hated (or DNF), and some you may have read because you had to. Or, maybe you have not read any of them, and that is fine too. I am not writing this because I want to preach about the classics or because I want to judge anyone’s reading preferences. I am writing this because I just want to share my own thoughts (and fears) of the classics.

I love classics adpated for TV. However, I have not always read them and, let’s be honest, that absolutely okay. Yet, the reason for this has occasionally been the fear of the classics. But, thanks to the great bookstagram community, I have started tackling all sorts of classics with the support of amazing buddy reads (which have also been a great lockdown highlight): non-judgemental spaces to read and discuss books with other brilliant bookworms.

This has led me to read books that I never thought I would have the nerve to tackle due to the classic fear. Vanity Fair, a book I always considered a brick, has been read and enjoyed. Great Expectations has become a favourite of mine. And, currently, Les Miserables (a real brick) is being read and I absolutely adore it. Hugo’s writing is just beautiful.

So, I guess, what my rambling is trying to say is that maybe you can pick up that classic, you may enjoy it. And, if you don’t it does not matter at all. After all, if we all liked the same thing, the world would be a dull place.