Literature

What I read in February

Hello everybody! Apologies for the lack of posts in February. I hope you all had a good month. It’s time for my monthly wrap-up of the books that I read in February. It wasn’t as good a month quantity-wise as January, but I’m still well ahead of schedule on my reading challenge for the year so I’m not too worried. Life is too short to beat yourself up over something as trivial as not reading as much as you’d have liked! Without further ado, here are my February reads.

1. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh – ★★★★

I’ve wanted to read Trainspotting for a while now, but only just got around to picking it up from the library. I felt a little bit intimidated by the prospect of reading it, because while I’m Scottish, I thought I would find the written dialect really difficult to decipher. However, I was pleasantly surprised; it actually flowed really well and after a couple of pages I was completely used to the writing style and could understand everything being said. As a case in point, I even went home the weekend after I finished reading this and my parents asked me why I was talking like I was from Leith…But yes, this is actually a really heartwarming book and I loved how well-developed and distinct each character was, and how their stories overlapped and twisted together in sometimes unexpected ways. So don’t be put off by the dialect, if you’re not used to the Scots language – it’s well worth persevering!

2. An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender – ★★★

Sadly, I was really disappointed by this book. I bought it on a whim because I had seen some rave reviews on BookTube, and based on its Goodreads blurb, it sounded like my kind of book. I even read a few pages in Waterstones before buying it and was really taken in, but unfortunately, it all fell a bit flat for me. Don’t get me wrong, Bender writes some really beautiful prose (and that’s what bumped it up to three stars for me), but there were so many points in the plot that made me want to bash my head against a brick wall. This book is widely considered to be magical realism, which I like and I’m generally good as suspending disbelief, but it didn’t seem particularly magical or whimsical – just irresponsible. Writing about a teacher my own age, who has zero teaching qualifications but quite a lot of deep-seated emotional issues, displaying an ax in her primary school classroom isn’t the kind of thing for which I’m able to suspend disbelief. It just made me go, “BUT WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT AND NOT FORSEE THAT SOMETHING BAD IS GOING TO HAPPEN, YOU SILLY PERSON.” I rest my case.

3. Enduring Love by Ian McEwan – ★★★

This was so nearly a four-star book, but occasionally I found myself zoning out when reading it (maybe I was tired, who knows) so for that reason it lost a star. I did really enjoy it; I thought the subject (erotomania) was fascinating, and it really made me question a lot – mainly whether the narrator was reliable or whether it was literally in his mind. Something I found interesting was the appendix at the end, which is a journal article detailing case studies of erotomania; it discusses the plot and the characters in such accurate detail that to be honest, I still don’t know whether the article itself was real or made up by McEwan. Does anyone know?

4. Yes Please by Amy Poehler – ★★★

I feel really sad that I could only give this three stars, as I am a huuuuuuge Amy Poehler fan, but it just didn’t win me over. I expected something different from what I got, which is almost definitely the reason I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would; I expected it be a fun, sometimes serious, collection of essays, aphorisms and general life advice. I don’t know why I got that in my head because while it’s got odd chapters like that, for the most part, this is an autobiography. And a slightly self-conscious one at that. Poehler talks a lot about how she doesn’t actually want to be writing a book, and how difficult it is, and how she’s only doing it because her agent told her to. I kind of wish she’d have just gotten on with it, to be honest. Sorry Amy. I love you dearly but wasn’t completely won over by your literary offering.

5. The Humans by Matt Haig – ★★★★★

And from a book that I had high expectations for, to one I wasn’t really too fussed about picking up…but which turned out to be my favourite book of the year so far! Much like An Invisible Sign of My Own, I picked up The Humans because I had seen a lot of BookTubers absolutely rave about it and thought “why not?” Admittedly, I was very confused for the first few chapters because I had misconstrued the blurb and thought the main character had been turned into a dog, and wondered why he was being treated like an outcast for not wearing clothes or being able to speak. I’m an idiot, basically. Needless to say, this book is NOT about a man who has turned into a dog, but rather an alien who has been sent to take over the body of a Cambridge mathematician whose work on the Riemann hypothesis is considered a threat to humanity, as the human species are supposedly not mature enough to be able to cope with the advances it will bring. It sounds weird, but IT WORKS. IT SO WORKS. I almost cried multiple times because it’s just so, so moving seeing how he becomes more and more attached to humans, discovers how to love and feel empathy, and wishes to become one of them. I borrowed it from the library but will definitely be buying my own copy soon, if only to copy down the chapters of “lessons about being human” that he leaves for his (sort of, but not really) son. It made me realise how miraculous life can actually be and affected me on such a profound level.

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So, that’s my wrap up for February done and I hope I’ll be able to find a bit more time to read this month despite my crazy hectic schedule. Shameless plug time… I’m running my first ever 5k on Sunday (March 8th) to raise money for Health in Mind, a local mental health charity, and would absolutely love your support because I am so nervous and it’s such an important cause! You can donate HERE.

Then from the 18th-21st March, I will be performing in the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh as part of my Music in the Community course. We’re doing an opera for children with local primary school children called Watching, which is all about sleep and a little girl who just can’t get any. If you’re in or around Edinburgh, please come along, but if not, it would still be nice for you to check out our WEBSITE! (I’m the project blogger – not to shamelessly self-promote…)

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