Books I read in February 2021

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (physical book, new read)

‘’When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki. Immediately he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo, adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire – to a time when an impetuous young woman called Midori marches into his life and he has to choose between the future and the past.’’ (Norwegian Wood synopsis)

This was just such an intriguing and atmospheric book. I was so incredibly happy to find my exact type of reading style- long detailed character centred books where pages can go by describing minor things in great detail. I loved the writing (and translation as I can only speak English sadly). I would strongly recommend that everyone read this book, it’s beautiful, however, please check the trigger warnings before it as there are many. The characters intrigued me as well as the depictions of Tokyo, I felt enveloped in the setting whilst reading and I’d love to travel there one day. I’d like to learn more about the history of Japan, as I don’t know very much about this country and there were definitely references in the story that went over my head a little bit (although they weren’t central elements). This could obviously be perceived as very stereotypical and is only reflective of the books I’ve read, but I’ve loved every book I’ve read by a Japanese writer. I feel such a shift of focus, tone and atmosphere to more Western books I’ve read, and something about it really appeals to me. I feel that Murakami will discuss elements and include themes in a way that a lot of American writers, for example, may shy away from. It was just incredibly interesting and powerful. I also bookmarked one of the letters near the end of the book as I believe this message is one that everyone can take something from, and that really provided a frame for me to think about my own grief and loss (grief is a strong theme throughout). I’d recommend this to everyone, and I think it will be a favourite read this year. I’ve already started another Murakami and now plan to get to all of his books, however, I’m slightly worried that I won’t feel the same as I have heard it said that he doesn’t write women very well.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

”My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a life time, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives.”

Rage of Queens: The Homeric Chronicles book 3 by Janell Rhiannon (e-book, new read)

‘’After years of fighting, the fate of Troy hangs precariously in the balance. Rage and revenge rule the final days, as the heroines and heroes come face to face with their fates. Some will be victorious. Some will die.’’ (Rage of Queens synopsis)

The third book in a retelling of the Iliad. I read the first two last year, and the first was in my favourite books of the year. 😊I’d recommend the series, especially as a starting point to Greek mythology as the books as so detailed but incredibly easy to read! At times, I felt that this book was a little slower, however, this one focused more on the war itself and I’m always a bit lazy when it comes to reading action sequences haha. I think at times the writing was a little bit cheesy, especially some dialogue, as this was maybe due to the pressure to focus on ensuring chapters emphasised the powerful women of the Trojan War, as this was Rhiannon’s aim. Overall, though, I’d really recommend this series! 😊 Especially as it is relatively unknown, I don’t think it’s been given the credit it deserves yet!

A Series of Unfortunate Events books 4-9 by Lemony Snicket (physical books, reread)

Continuing the childhood nostalgia reread. As I said in the January blog, these books are gothic, eccentric, unusual and a bit pretentious at times but they feel so nostalgic and bring me back to childhood times (although I remember even then being annoyed by some of the pretentious elements hahaha). They are so unsusual, I’d recommend these books for children as something a little bit different 😊 (and the mystery like elements are woven through the books so well). I’m not really going into individual books; however, I would say book 9 features a carnival where the main characters are disguised as ‘freaks’. These books are set in times where carnivals and circuses of this nature still existed, and the characters themselves frequently reference how disgusting and wrong freak shows are, with the author obviously trying to educate children around the importance of treating everyone equally. I don’t however, feel that this excuses the representation of disfigurement. I felt uncomfortable reading this book and do not believe the characters moral discussions make the setting okay.

I feel like this blog would have been a lot better if I wrote it earlier in the month and remembered more about the books haha, but online teaching involved a lot more planning that you would think and I honestly couldn’t bare to look at a computer screen anymore hahaha. I hope you’re well, please let me know what you’re reading. Also, please let me know your favourite Murakami book if you’ve read any! 😊

Books I read in October

Autumn/Winter time in general- and more specifically the very strange 2020 vibes- have made me want to go back to rereading and the comfort it brings, something that I’ve been making a conscious effort to do less of for a couple of years due to the never ending pile of new books I have, hahaha. I just love the welcoming atmosphere of rereading an old favourite, even better if it’s a childhood book on a cold Winter’s night. In October I read two new books and reread four childhood favourites (I also meant to read some spooky Halloween books but I just wasn’t in the right vibe)

The Black Flamingo- Dean Atta (Physical book, new read)

‘A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.’ (Black Flamingo synopsis)

I didn’t know what to expect from this book because I often don’t really like young adult unless I read it as a teen, just because I often find it cheesy, however, this book is beautiful and I ended up absolutely loving it. It was real, poignant and even made me cry a lil bit. I appreciate that it doesn’t overdo any of it’s themes, but will be very beneficial to a number of people. The prose also makes it very quick to read which I always love as I want to keep going and really engage with the characters. I’d highly recommend this book for everyone. I also love family themes where you can feel the love and connection coming through, please recommend any books that come to mind.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

To have a loving family is to feel afraid and yet believe you are going to be all right.

Don’t.
Don’t come out unless you want to. Don’t come out for anyone else’s sake. Don’t come out because you think society expects you to.
Come out for yourself.
Come out to yourself.
Shout, sing it.
Softly stutter.
Correct those who say they knew before you did.
That’s not how sexuality works, it’s yours to define
.’

Meat Market- Juno Dawson (new read, audiobook)

‘Jana Novak’s history sounds like a classic model cliché: tall and gangly, she’s uncomfortable with her androgynous looks until she’s unexpectedly scouted and catapulted to superstardom…But the fashion industry is as grimy as it is glamorous. And there are unexpected predators at every turn.‘ (Meat Market synopsis)

I enjoy/get very enraged reading books about the fashion industry because I feel very passionate yet mixed about the messages associated with the industry. Fashion can be exciting, interesting and obviously has a part to play in everyone’s lives. I have respect for models who are very hardworking and have to spend lots of time in what I can imagine would be a very isolating job at times. However, I am extremely passionate about ensuring that children and young adults do not have to grow up in a world that condemns people for what they look like, promotes weight loss, eating disorders and a negative perception of self image; again, I am not condemning models who are naturally slim, it is not wrong to be skinny and there is too much body shaming concerning tall, slim individuals, however, it is disgusting that the people who work behind the scenes in such industries, and in magazines promote only one image and imply that everybody should have a slim body type that is only natural to a few people. Not only are diets promoted and disordered eating encouraged (obviously not by all), but the fashion industry is also extremely racist, ageist and in many cases transphobic. I went on a lil rant there, I’ll get onto the book now.

This is a young adult book (this is the first month in ages that I’ve only read YA!) and it does well to tackle some of these themes, as seen from the first hand account of the narrator, who herself is growing and learning as the story progresses. It has a number of stereotypical tropes associated with fashion and YA, and at times I felt like it dragged a little bit, however, for the most part it was very interesting with an important message. Trigger warning- this book includes themes of assault and one of the main themes in the second half of the book is the me too movement. I felt like this subject matter was handled well. There are also themes that may be triggering for anyone recovering from an eating disorder or substance abuse. I’d recommend this book if you are interested in the themes, I enjoyed it.

‘Girls’ series- Jacqueline Wilson (reread, physical books)

Back at it with the Jacqueline Wilson books, this is definitely my favourite series of hers, I still find these books incredibly interesting and love the characters (most of them). I find them so readable and they have Wilson’s typical ability to touch on heavy themes in an engaging and almost comforting way. Ellie is such a lovable (if angsty) character and I feel so at home and comforted every time I revisit these books. P.s. I swear I read these when I was about 9, my mum just saw Jaqueline Wilson and assumed they were fine, but they really are more for teens hahaha, please beware of this.

Girls in Love– focuses on the pressure to be in a relationship as a young teen, with darker themes of grooming.

Girls under Pressure– discusses eating disorders and image, background themes of grief and loss in family

Girls out Late– first relationships and pressure with changing friendships. (I hate Russell, good lord what a character).

Girls in Tears– again pressure to have sex, relationships, grooming, friendships and jealousy.

This has been a month where I’ve felt like I’ve read nothing, but I’ve actually read some pretty lovely (and in many cases comforting) books 🙂 I hope you’re well!

September books (15th to 30th)

Here the world entire by Anwen Kya Hayward (eBook, new read)

After being accused of desecrating Athena’s temple and subsequently cursed with monstrousness, Medusa lives alone on the outskirts of the world, secluding herself from everyone so as to keep both herself and the rest of the world safe. When Perseus comes to ask for her help, Medusa tries desperately to make him leave, but no matter what she does, Perseus stays. As the days wear on and she reveals more about the events that led her to the cave, it becomes obvious that there is a choice to make: stay safe and alone, or re-enter the world with Perseus. One question still remains, however: what does Perseus want?’ (Here the World Entire synopsis)

This was a really interesting and beautifully written myth retelling, focusing on the story of Medusa from her own perspective. I emphasised with the character, and I’d recommend this is mythology interests you, however, I don’t have too much to say because I typically like long books that give you lots of time to connect with the characters and this is a novella. That said, I did feel connected and emphasised with Medusa given the length of the book. Trigger warning for themes of abuse.

Favourite/Meaningful quote:

To behold is to be held, and my hands are empty. For fear of being seen, I have never looked’.

Sleepovers by Jacqueline Wilson (physical book, reread)

Amy, Bella, Chloe, Daisy and Emily are friends at school and have their own Alphabet Club (just look at their initials!). Daisy is the newest member and is desperate to fit in, even though Chloe is very unfriendly to her at times. When the girls begin planning sleepover parties for their birthdays, Daisy is dreading her own – she doesn’t know what her friends will make of her rather special older sister.’ (Sleepovers synopsis)

After realising that my class had never heard of Jacqueline Wilson (although, sadly they don’t seem to like reading in general), I bought a few of her books for them as I love them and think they are still very relevant, even if elements of pop culture may be slightly outdated. She is an excellent children’s writer, exploring heavy themes whilst maintaining humour and a quick pace. Sleepovers, for example covers bullying and the stigma surrounding disability. It’s aimed at very young readers and wasn’t as fun to revisit as others, however,  it was so nice to feel a bit nostalgic and remember the enjoyment these books brought me the first (and second and third) time I read them.

 Midnight by Jacqueline Wilson (physical book, reread)

Violet has always been in the shadow of her mesmerising, controlling brother Will, and when a shocking secret about Will’s past is revealed, things get even worse. Violet retreats further into her own fantasy world, built around the fairy characters created by her favourite author, Casper Dream. The arrival of a new girl at school, Jasmine, seems like it might change Violet’s life for the better. But is Jasmine a true friend? And will Violet ever manage to break free of Will’s spell?’ (Midnight synopsis)

I remember being really young when I first read this hahaha, my mum didn’t know that some of her books were aimed at teens and I just read them all happily. This is one of Wilson’s darker and more gothic stories and I remember always getting a very intrigued but strange almost unsettling vibe when I read it that I couldn’t explain- I now know (and unconsciously did then) that this is due to the lesbian subtext that can be found in this story. I don’t think it’s ever been explicitly stated that Violet is gay, but I definitely feel the vibes and related to it a lil bit. I think given the (judgemental) time that this book came out and the fact that Wilson herself kept her sexuality private can explain why no interviews hint at the lgbt themes. Anyway, I love the gothic witchy vibes, this book is very different from her others. This covers themes of family/identity/adoption and (I think) sexuality.

Carol/The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith (audiobook, new read)

Therese is just an ordinary sales assistant working in a New York department store when a beautiful, alluring woman in her thirties walks up to her counter. Standing there, Therese is wholly unprepared for the first shock of love. Therese is an awkward nineteen-year-old with a job she hates and a boyfriend she doesn’t love; Carol is a sophisticated, bored suburban housewife in the throes of a divorce and a custody battle for her only daughter. As Therese becomes irresistibly drawn into Carol’s world, she soon realizes how much they both stand to lose.’ (Carol synopsis)

This book covers interesting themes and I’m always glad to see LGBT representation, but I honestly found it really boring. I understand that the pace is slow to build tension and atmosphere, but I couldn’t maintain interest. Again, I feel that the strange tone of the book is due to Therese’s introverted nature and lack of self-confidence, but whilst I usually love similar characters, I felt very disconnected and felt that a very strange atmosphere surrounding this book (if that makes any sense haha). I understand what the book was trying to do and convey, but for me personally it didn’t work. I also tried watching the film to see if that format worked better for me, but again I felt bored and distant, so I only watched around 10 minutes. Please let me know if you did like it though! 😊

September reading felt a bit up and down, but I did read some amazing books, my favourite being Mr Loverman. I also loved my Jacqueline Wilson nostalgia and I’m undoubtedly going to end up rereading some more of her books. Thank you for reading, please let me know what you have been reading recently. 😊