Weekly books (May 8th to May 14th)

A bit of a Stretch: The Diaries of a Prisoner- Chris Atkins (new read, audiobook)

Where can a tin of tuna buy you clean clothes? Where is it easier to get ‘spice’ than paracetamol? Where does self-harm barely raise an eyebrow?

Welcome to Her Majesty’s Prison Service. Like most people, documentary-maker Chris Atkins didn’t spend much time thinking about prisons. But after becoming embroiled in a dodgy scheme to fund his latest film, he was sent down for five years. His new home would be HMP Wandsworth, one of the largest and most dysfunctional prisons in Europe. With a cast of characters ranging from wily drug dealers to senior officials bent on endless reform, this powerful memoir uncovers the horrifying reality behind the locked gates. Filled with dark humour and shocking stories, A Bit of a Stretch reveals why our creaking prison system is sorely costing us all – and why you should care
.’ (A Bit of a Stretch synopsis)

I don’t read very much non-fiction (I need to read more), but memoirs are my favourite genre to read via audiobook, I think they work really well and can be brought to life- particularly because they’re usually narrated by the author. I particularly seem to enjoy memoirs about institutions such as hospitals and prison (I’d recommend This is Going to Hurt, and the Confessions series). I enjoyed this book, felt for the people and I think it has a great balance of humour. I really felt enveloped in the setting and the stories were told in a way that brought the individuals and setting to life. I wouldn’t say this is my favourite prison memoir, and I probably enjoyed Orange is the New Black more (I will say here, Orange is the New Black is one of the rare tv shows that is better than the book, they have done so much with the characters and I can’t recommend it highly enough). Throughout this book, I thought about the crime committed by Atkins and his place in prison- as a white male who has not experienced mental illness, poverty or trauma, the writer’s prison experience is not reflective of the majority. However, I was extremely happy when Atkins acknowledged this himself and reflected upon the privilege that he experienced even within prison; this awareness made the memoir and narrator more likeable. Atkins also used the memoir to emphasise some of the struggles of other men within the prison and used his time to become a better person, as well as highlighting the issues within the prison system. I personally agree that prison is not working, people are dehumanised and there should be far more done to support those with mental health issues and rehabilitate. Overall, this was an enjoyable insightful book and I would really recommend it if you like this genre! 😊 Please let me know if you’ve read any memoirs about the prison system, I find them so interesting.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

I always forget to note quotes for audiobooks haha but there were lots!

Perfect- Cecelia Ahern (new read, physical book)

Celestine North lives in a society that demands perfection. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine’s life has completely fractured – all her freedoms gone. Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with the complicated, powerfully attractive Carrick, the only person she can trust. But Celestine has a secret – one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground.

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save only herself, or risk her life to save all the Flawed. And, most important of all, can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed…?’ (Perfect synopsis)

I enjoyed the first book in this series (Flawed), however, I didn’t really like this book, I mainly kept reading because I have an annoying irrational need to finish books haha, and my friend gave me it to borrow. I don’t really like love triangles, and whilst this wasn’t as bad as some it did still annoy me a little bit. I thought the pace was a little bit strange sometimes and a little rushed at the end, however, there were strong parts and I’m glad the Ahern decided to go with two books instead of the typical trilogy as I don’t feel that another book would have been necessary. I have to admit I’m struggling to remember too much about this book, but I wrote a couple of tiny notes: at times I felt that there were instant connections between Celestine and new characters who were introduced. This is a heightened, dystopian world; however, these relationships didn’t feel very realistic. This book still has elements of the Hunger Games and more of Divergent. There were also some unsettling parallels to concentration camps within the book. Overall, despite whingeing about this book I did enjoy the idea of a dystopian story based on ethics and moral dilemmas, and I think the message of anti-discrimination is amazing, I just personally didn’t like elements of the writing style. You may like this book if you enjoy Divergent or if you’ve read Flawed in the past. 😊

Important/meaningful quote:

Maybe the strongest fighters are the nurturers because they’re connected to something deep in their core, they’ve got something to fight for, they’ve got something worth saving.’

The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins (reread, physical book) and Catching Fire- Suzanne Collins (reread, physical book)

I’m writing a separate blog post for my hunger games reread when I finish Mockingjay, this is one of my absolute favourite series.

Thank you for reading, please recommend non-fiction, I’d like to read more of it! Also, memoirs and books set in institutions. 😊

Weekly books (May 1st to May 7th)

Rise of Princes- Janell Rhiannon (ebook, new read)

‘As the Trojan War rages on, the gods pit their chosen heroes against each other, fighting alongside them on blood-slicked battlefields. Amid the carnage and chaos, Achilles and Hektor rise to fame. Conquering and defending; at their whim the people of the Troad are freed or enslaved. While the glory of battle belongs to the men…the heart of the Trojan War belongs to the women.These brave and bold souls struggle to survive, armed only with their cunning wit. Scheming for vengeance. Traded as prizes of war and obsession. Aching to fill the crushing void within their hearts. Thrust into roles they must adjust to…or die. The battle scars of these heroines cut far deeper than the slice of any blade.’ (Rise of Princes synopsis)

This was the second of the Homeric Chronicles- I think only two are out so far, hopefully the third will be out at some point because I’ll definitely be reading it! 😊 This book took me slightly longer to read than the first (Song of Sacrifice) as I found it slightly slower, but this is nothing to do with the book, I find this to be the same with everyone book I read that is based on mythology; I have read several accounts of the Trojan War now and I prefer the stories before and after the actual War because I find the battle accounts slightly repetitive, however, I do feel that Rhiannon’s writing told the story in a way that was interesting, easy to follow and well researched. My favourite perspective within the book was probably Briseis, I find her story and character very interesting. I also enjoy the slight sense of light that Briseis and Patroclus friendship brings to myths within this incredibly bleak fated world (I’ve only read positive depictions of Patroclus character, I’m glad that he appears to be consistently written as a nice person). I enjoy the way Rhiannon has taken inspiration from ASOIAF and Outlander in terms of pace; the decision to write lengthy books in a long series has allowed time for the characters to be developed and the story to be well structured. Overall, I’d recommend this series if you enjoy mythology or you’re looking to learn more about it. 😊

Favourite/meaningful quote:

burn with life for as long as the gods grant you days of breath and a beating heart. Burn away any regrets. Live.’

‘when I was young I believed you would live forever simply because I loved you.’

Flawed- Cecilia Ahern (physical book, new read)

Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan. But then Celestine encounters a situation in which she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found Flawed.’ (Flawed synopsis)

I hadn’t heard of this book and had no idea what it was about until my friend who knows I love reading gave me the series to borrow (from a safe distance leaving it at my door haha). Young adult typically isn’t my favourite unless I read it as a teenager and feel nostalgic towards it, and I was unsure how I’d feel about reading a dystopian but I always read things suggested to me and wanted to make the effort as my friend thought of me. 😊 I actually really enjoyed reading a dystopian (I’m now rereading the Hunger Games, one of my favourite series) and I found this book very easy to read (I read it in a day). I was also very interested when I realised that the plot revolved around ethical and moral issues and debates- I wish the characters spent more time contemplating these issues. I will say though, whilst I liked the main character Celestine, I found the writing to be quite cheesy (my favourite description, sorry haha) and I’m not a fan of the instant love/love triangle that I could see beginning in the series. I also noticed a number of typical YA dystopian tropes, and similarities between both the Hunger Games and Divergent (particularly Divergent) that made the book a little bit generic at times. This book emphasises discrimination and I noted a number of parallels to racism in particular; Ahern made a point to emphasise that Celestine is mixed race and this appeared to highlight that Celestine may have experienced similar discrimination in ‘the real world’ and feels attached to multiple identities, however, as race was never raised as a subject again, I feel that this message didn’t necessarily translate although it could have been an important and interesting theme (this is again an example where I know what I’d like to say but I am very bad at expressing myself eloquently haha). Overall, this book was quite enjoyable and very easy to read, however, it was a bit generic, didn’t always make full use of the interesting themes raised (in my opinion) and I enjoy other books of this genre more.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

Courage does not take over, it fights and struggles through every word you say and every step you take.’

My favourite this week was Rise of Princes. Thank you for reading, I hope you’re doing well 🙂