Book Chat Wrap Up #58: Jakob Wegelius, Maya Angelou, Gail Carriger & more! [CC]


Hello, lovely people! Welcome to another
book chat: the weekly roundup of stuff I have read at some point in the past!
[theme tune plays] [theme tune plays: Sophie Vlogs!] In this week’s book chat, we are
talking about the books I read at the very start of 2020. I’m gonna kick off
with the first books that I read this year, which is The Murderer’s Ape by Jacob
Wegelius, which is translated by, hang on a biscuit… translated from the Swedish by
Peter Grave. This was a wonderful way to kick off the year! I have to thank
Matt at MCS books because he recommended this to me and he also recommended that,
if possible, I should just try and read it in like a moment that I could immerse
myself. I think I read this in a day, I might have read this in two days, I can’t
entirely remember. But as I mentioned in some of my previous videos, I’m better now, but I
kicked off the New Year with a horrendous cold. So in those first couple
of days of the new year, when I was also ill and wrapped in a duvet and I was
like, I just want to be a slime ball all on my own, I read this book and it was so
wonderful! This follows Sally Jones. Hello Sally Jones! Who is a gorilla, but also a
ship’s engineer. Her best friend is the Chief;
she’s the engineer on his ship. Essentially, they take on this… I was going to say
mission. It’s not really a mission, like a job ?the A job, Sophie! That’s what they’re called!
And things go wrong and the Chief ends up being imprisoned for a crime he
doesn’t he did not commit and then Sally goes on some very meandering adventures
to try and free him and prove his innocence. One thing I loved about this
is the world-building. So we go all over the world in this, our
sort of central base point is Lisbon and I have not been to Lisbon. I did watch a
documentary, Art Lovers Guide documentary about Lisbon that made me
want go and then reading this also made me
want to go because I want to… I feel like he painted such a picture of these
streets and this particular time, so it made me want to go and see what it’s
like now. But essentially, Sally befriends some
people, ends up going on this journey to find someone who can prove the Chief’s
innocence, this takes her all over the place.
She ends up in India for a portion of this.
It also explored like engineering topics, like ships, but then also like planes
during this particular time period, which is like… I want to say like reign of
Queen Victoria type era is what’s happening. So he painted such a picture
of everywhere that we’re at along this journey which is I think really
helpful, because this is a story that takes its time. It is a chunky book for a
middle grade book, I get that, but I think the fact that you always felt like
everywhere… well I always felt like everywhere we visited in this I felt
very situated in the place. I understood what the place was like, also aided
by the fact that you have these maps as endpapers and then running
throughout, you also have these illustrations of all the people she
meets along her journey and then also illustrations that the start of every
chapter, which all of this really helped build up this world which I can imagine
if you’re reading this as a 9 to 12 year old, will also really help you
get to grips with what is a chunky book for a child to read. As well as that, I enjoyed
all of the characters. I felt like there were… Sally is a very endearing
protagonist. She can’t speak words but she can understand speech and
communicate through writing and stuff like that, so it is interesting having a
story told to you by someone who is not able to actually talk-talk to the other
people in this. I don’t know, I felt like there was an interesting focal point and
also the fact she’s a gorilla! Is a thing! As well as engineering because
Sally is an engineer I think that’s really interesting I think it makes
engineering sound really interesting for children, you also explore stuff like oh
music is a topic that runs throughout this,
whether that there’s a character who’s a beautiful singer, there’s a character who
repairs instruments, stuff like that. But also just this whole mix of
characters there are such… I’m not gonna be tropey characters in a bad way, but so
far as like, you have your… there are duplicitous people in here. There are… I
feel like it’s riffing off of genres somewhat, there is a bit of a riffing off
of like detective genres, there’s a riffing off of this sort of Victorian
novel type thing and I felt like that is… that’s not a negative thing, that’s a
deliberate thing that we are… we’re playing to a genre and I enjoyed that. I’ll stop babbling because I feel like I am babbling, but suffice to
say, I just felt like I got so immersed in this. I am glad I read it in like one
or two sittings because it made it all just feel very real and the end of this
all I was just like, oh there is no Sally Jones in my life. I am, this is all book!
But I had a wonderful time, I thought it was really great. That was followed
by some nonfiction. I read Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou. This is the third book in Maya Angelou’s
autobiographical series. I previously didn’t own this book, so I actually went
from the second book to the fourth book so reading this is filling in that time
in between, and that’s an interesting thing to do because I know where she
ends up. So like the fourth book which I had previously read is very much Maya Angelou getting into her political activism, working for the organisation
that Martin Luther King run, marrying a South African man and
learning a lot more about the politics of South Africa at the time, stuff like
that. So it’s kind of weird flashing back in time into her life and then
seeing the bit that happens before that. So the first half of this is a lot to
do with trying to provide, she’s a single mother with her son, trying to… all these
different jobs she’s doing. She was like a sort of like an exotic dancer that
sort of thing, and then the latter half of this is her time on tour with Porgy
and Bess doing the European tour and how that
absolutely blew up and all that sort of thing. A.) that whole tour thing was so
interesting. Porgy and Bess is… I’m familiar with it a bit, I would like to now
actually just like listen to the music, watch the performances, that sort of
thing, because I I know a couple of songs from it but I’m not super familiar. So it
was very interesting to get the perspective of someone who is like in
that when it is blowing up and all that sort of thing. Even though she is not
involved in the activism that she is involved in in the fourth book, there is
very much present in this a lot of political discussions. So although it is
less of an organised aspect of her life, it is very much something which she’s
kind of, to be honest with you, forced to engage with, because she’s existing as a black
woman in this time when like you would very much still be openly discriminated
against and then also because she’s travelling around Europe
she’s contrasting the types of treatment they get in different places and the
different attitudes. And places that might initially trick you by seeming to
be more accepting than America is, but actually it’s just because it’s done in…
it the discrimination comes out in a different way, that sort of thing. So
this real… I really enjoyed this focus on like music and stuff that ran through
this, it was also always tempered by her experiences and stuff like that. I
dunno, I just think that Maya Angelou is so masterful as a storyteller, I think
that she has lived such a full life, every time I read all of these… I don’t
read them too close together, I’m spacing them out because I don’t want to… like
there’s a finite number and I don’t want to run out before I’m ready to finish
this journey, but they are they’re brilliant and I would recommend them. Yes.
I’m going to go back to fiction and then end on a nonfiction again. So the
next book is Soulless by Gail Carriger. This is the first book in the Alexia
Tarabotti series. This is like a steampunk-ey, detective-ey series. I knew
I was going to enjoy this and, again, because I was ill at the time I needed
something that I thought would be a lot of fun, that I didn’t need to engage too
much brain in and this was a perfectly fun enjoyable read. Alexia Tarabotti is
soulless so… This is set in a world where the supernatural creatures are like part
of society. So we’re in Victorian society but
vampires exist, werewolf’s exist and ghosts exist. Vampires and werewolves are
very much a part of society and in this world, as supernatural beings are able to
exist because of stuff to do with souls. So in this supernatural creatures
have like an excess of soul, that is what makes them be supernatural. In contrast
to that, Alexia is soulless, so she negates the effect of
supernatural creatures. So like if a vampire is to touch her, they will become
human for the amount of time that they are physically in contact with her, which
is an interesting setup! I found that very interesting. I also found it very
interesting the way that these supernatural creatures are like weaved
into the society. So this is Victorian society, with all of its manners and
rules and that sort of thing, and it just so happens that there are also manners
and rules within werewolf society and within vampire society and it’s all
interconnected. Alexia is attacked by this vampire and
it goes against all etiquette of the current time, so they realise that this
vampire is not one who’s been claimed by any of the vampire like houses and then
the guy who’s like head of police of the area is like a werewolf and they try to
solve the mystery. There’s a… there’s a heavy element of
this that is like romance, like Alexia and this guy like getting together, and
there’s also an element of this that is like mystery-solving, what is going on
here, that sort of thing. There was an interesting… I enjoyed how the mystery is
playing out, I sort of called elements of i,t but I also don’t necessarily think
that’s a critique because usually if it’s a good mystery, you can figure it
out because you’ve been given clues. Tather than it’s like, twist! This guy
you’ve never met! Which is annoying. This was more of like, okay i see threads
coming together, and i see where we’re going, but i’m interested to see where we
end up. I gave this a 3 out of 5 stars because I had a perfectly fun time
reading, it I think there are a couple of niggles I had. One is that like, a mild
spoiler, but it’s not actually related to any of the plot it’s just a thing that
happens later in the book. Queen Victoria pops up in this! I sometimes find it a
little annoying in books that are set in like a historical
time period when just like out of the blue, horrendously famous person than comes in and like talks to you for
like a reason that feels a little bit forced, so I had that kind of. I was like,
really? Really? Are we doing this? And then also, there was just I don’t know
there was a little bit of “not like other girls” going on at the edges, because
Alexia is… her father was Italian, he’s now died and she lives with her
mother and her mother’s husband and their children and there just was… it was
quite a lot of like, Oh aren’t these women silly? Isn’t Alexia like oh she’s not
silly like that, blahblahblah. Ooh she has swarthy dark skin
compared to everyone all the vampires’ super pale skin, I don’t know. There were some elements of that which occasionally niggled me a little, I
don’t know, at the edges there was just… I would have liked it a little bit more if
it was like ‘Alexia doesn’t like to engage in all these feminine things, but
like her sisters do and that’s kind of okay!’
Rather than just like, oh they’re so silly and frivolous, goddamnit!
I don’t know. We’re just gonna skip over that. The final book that is super
duper tiny, this is The Wood by John Stewart Collis. This is actually an
excerpt from a larger book that he did. I saw this in a secondhand shop and I
thought I would pick this up because it would be a good way to know if I wanted
to read more of John Stewart Collis. So join the second world war, he was put on
like agricultural duties and he had to like fell trees in this wood and he…
it’s just like based on I think the diaries he kept at the time. It’s just
exploring the wood and also the nature he’s seeing and blah blah. I really liked
the bits where he was talking about nature and about his observations of how
this wood works and stuff like that. And about like, learning about different
trees and stuff like that was really interesting. Some of the bits I found less
interesting is, some of just his… he is a man of his time! He has certain
views. He has some views about like, how can you look at all this stuff and not
think that God exists? And I was like, I can do that! I’m fine with that! And then,
every now and then he would he would rail against like “oh this is like,
agricultural work, working the land, like this is the best work one can do” and
then he would like rail against people who didn’t do
stuff like that and who like did like jobs and blahblah. But then also he would be
like, “but of course, I’m not gonna do this all of my life!” And I was like “you can’t rail against
people who don’t do agricultural work and then be like ‘of
course I’m only doing this for this limited period of time and then I’m
going to go back to being like a writer’!” I don’t know but I do think he had some
really valid points about our disconnect from nature that are very relevant now
that we’re living in a time of climate crisis and we need to consume less and
we need to have a better understanding of how to support our ecosystems and
stuff like this to make sure that we don’t go past the point of no return. He
did have a very valid points, bearing in mind he’s writing in the forties! So
like hearing this perspective from the Second World War of someone being like
‘we’re losing nature! We’re losing wildlife! Blahblahblah!’ and you’re like ‘we’re
still doing that! We’ve not made a change yet!’ was at times both like interesting
to get his perspective, but also like deeply sad because look at where we’re
at. I don’t know, it was very short. It’s excerpts from throughout the book, so you
get little snippets of different topics and little chapters and blah, but it
was intriguing. I don’t know if I would read a whole large book by him, that’s
something I’m gonna mull over. I think if someone gave it to me, I would. I don’t
think I would necessarily buy it. That’s everything I wanted to talk about this
week. As usual, have you read any of these? Have you read any things that is like
these that you think I might like to read? All of these discussions and more,
do let me know in the comments down below, but otherwise I will see you next
time for something different!

3 thoughts on “Book Chat Wrap Up #58: Jakob Wegelius, Maya Angelou, Gail Carriger & more! [CC]”

  1. Do you know the original name of The Murderer's Ape?
    Soulless sounds like something I would enjoy, unless there's too much romance. 😉

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