Books I read in March 2021

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Murakami (physical book, new read)

‘His wife is growing more distant every day. Then there are the increasingly explicit telephone calls he has recently been receiving.

As this compelling story unfolds, the tidy suburban realities of Okada’s vague and blameless life, spent cooking, reading, listening to jazz and opera and drinking beer at the kitchen table, are turned inside out, and he embarks on a bizarre journey, guided (however obscurely) by a succession of characters, each with a tale to tell.’
(The Wind-up Bird Chronicle synopsis)

I should start this by saying- this book is incredibly, incredibly weird. I think I got off lightly with Norwegian Wood as my first Murakami, I am now delving into the surreal world of confusion. The writing style is immaculate as usual, detailed, interesting, and unusual, and I loved some of the themes. These themes and style linked this book in a way that makes me feel that all of Murakami’s books and characters are likely set in the same world and could easily interlink with one another (I find this interesting rather than off-putting). However, I didn’t enjoy it as much as Norwegian Wood. Initially, the morality of the narrator struck me. He is an incredibly passive character and therefore very morally grey, overlooking some significantly disturbing stories (again, please search trigger warnings before reading any Murakami books). I think my main personal issue whilst reading this was that I often experience the emotions or themes of a story, and this one really made me feel quite low at times- this is testament to the writing style but not ideal during a lockdown hahaha. This was particularly evident after one chapter where we learn of a soldier’s story- I’m genuinely still scarred, if you’ve read it you know what I mean. I found the themes and the ending interesting, and as always, I enjoyed the mythology parallels to be seen, particularly Orpheus. I was intrigued by this book and very interested, although it was a bit long and spiralled me on a bit of a downer hahaha so I definitely preferred the less surreal roots of Norwegian Wood. I will continue to read his books eventually though (when I’m less scarred).

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan (audiobook, new read)

‘When you leave Ireland aged 22 to spend your parents’ money, it’s called a gap year. When Ava leaves Ireland aged 22 to make her own money, she’s not sure what to call it, but it involves:
a badly-paid job in Hong Kong, teaching English grammar to rich children; Julian, who likes to spend money on Ava and lets her move into his guest room; Edith, who Ava meets while Julian is out of town and actually listens to her when she talks; money, love, cynicism, unspoken feelings and unlikely connections. Exciting times ensue.’
(Exciting times synopsis)

I think this would definitely be classed as ‘millennial fiction’ and I really liked it! I always love listening to audiobooks by Irish authors as it’s honestly my favourite accent haha. The themes are some which have been covered many many times in this genre but I still found them interesting; class, identity and sexuality were the main themes. I’m always looking for more contemporary LGBT/lesbian books so please let me know of any! I enjoyed the exploration of these themes and found the narrator likeable (although she did do things that drove me insane, but these were part of her character so I lived to accept them). If you like these themes/this genre I’d recommend. 😊

A series of Unfortunate Events 10-13 by Lemony Snicket (physical books, rereads)

Once again, I’ve finished my reread of this series haha- this was especially necessary in getting some of the darker elements of the wind-up bird chronicle out of my mind! In these blog posts, I haven’t really mentioned too much about these books, but I would like to mention ‘The End’ in a bit more detail. I love a book series that develops in maturity with the reader, and the themes of morality change from black and white villains, to everyone is grey with a few existential breakdowns as the characters age, which I loved. Morality and family are central themes in these books, with loss of innocence. I love the way that this series explores the sense that being an adult does not mean being ‘good’ or right, and that children are capable and worthy of respect- beings rather than becoming’s. These themes reminded me of Roald Dahls books, he also did this so well. Rereading as an ‘adult’ the later, more detailed books are definitely more interesting, as the elements of mystery and morality come into play. ‘The End’ is a very philosophical book with strong ties to the garden of Eden/Adam Eve and the Snake whilst exploring the concept of innocence (there is a literal tree of knowledge, I honestly love religious parallels). There are also Animal Farm corrupt communism vibes going on, and I feel like Snicket/Handler is also influenced by dystopias like Lord of the Flies, although I haven’t read that and can’t be sure.

These books are flawed and a bit pretentious as I’ve previously mentioned, but I still feel a love for the nostalgia and comfort that they bring me. Ps. I also watched the Netflix series, and I’d recommend, they’ve done it so well! (I’m always pretty late to tv shows hahaha).

Heartburn by Nora Ephron (audiobook, new read)

‘Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel discovers that her husband is in love with another woman. The fact that this woman has a ‘neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb’ is no consolation. Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel is a cookery writer, and between trying to win Mark back and wishing him dead, she offers us some of her favourite recipes. HEARTBURN is a roller coaster of love, betrayal, loss and – most satisfyingly – revenge.’ (Heartburn synopsis)

I had to idea what this was about after randomly finding the audiobook- the main factors that drew me in were how short it was (I’ve been trying to motivate myself to go on more walks), and Meryl Streep as narrator. Only after finishing did I realise it’s based on Ephron’s own life, and she was a famous author (oops). This book is based on quite dark humour, with themes of the infidelity and anti-Semitism experienced by the main character. The book kind of read to me like a one-woman comedy show (although all I know about them is Chandler’s experience in friends with ‘why don’t you like me’, chapter one my first period hahaha). Sometimes I felt that the humour was controversial, and although sexuality wasn’t a main theme I noticed that comments on sexuality were borderline homophobic, so for this reason I wouldn’t recommend.

Overall this was a strange strange mix of books haha, I loved rereading a Series of Unfortunate Events and really enjoyed Exciting Times. Happy Easter, I hope you’ve read some good books recently! Please recommend me some books, particularly LGBT 🙂

January books 2021

I hope you’ve all had an excellent year so far (as much as can be expected in 2021 hahaha) and had a great reading month. It has taken me a long time to write anything because just now I’m working from home 90% of the time which involves a LOT of staring at a computer and typing. However, whenever I do reflect on the books I’ve read, I remember how much I enjoy writing 😊 Please let me know if you’ve read any good books recently, I love recommendations (although I’m only allowing myself to buy a book once a month at most this year hahah).

Luster- Raven Leilani (physical book, new read)

‘Edie is just trying to survive. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all-white office, is sleeping with all the wrong men, and has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting. No one seems to care that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life beyond looking for her next hook-up. And then she meets Eric, a white, middle-aged archivist with a suburban family, including a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscape of sexual and racial politics as a young black woman wasn’t already hard enough, with nowhere else left to go, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s home and family.’ (Luster synopsis)

I didn’t know very much about this book before starting but I usually find that this makes for a better reading experience. I loved this book, this is the exact writing style I enjoy, it’s so beautiful and intricate. The genre of this story has been described in lots of reviews as millennial fiction, I enjoy reading about the daily experiences within a characters life and this story intersected lots of themes such as racism, poverty, family and attachment. I would look at trigger warnings before going in as there are heavy themes (I hated the male character), but this is such an interesting and beautifully written book. I’m sure I’ll remember it for a long time and I’m glad to have read what is potentially a favourite so early into the year.

Children of blood and bone- Tomi Adeyemi (physical book, new read)

‘Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden.

Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.’
(Children of Blood and Bone synopsis)

Being honest, I don’t love YA unless I read a book series as a child/teen and YA fantasy is not my favourite genre. I had, however, been in the mood to try it again recently and I’d heard lots of good things about this story. The characters were interesting (I enjoyed the family dynamic) and I really enjoyed the weaving of mythology throughout. I could have done without the angsty romances; however, I understand that these tropes really make YA fantasy for lots of people. Overall, I think this is an excellent book to read and love if this is your genre, but as YA is not for me I don’t think I’ll continue with the series.

Till we have faces by C. S. Lewis (physical book, new read)

‘C. S. Lewis brilliantly reimagines the story of Cupid and Psyche. Told from the viewpoint of Psyche’s sister, Orual, Till We Have Faces is a brilliant examination of envy, betrayal, loss, blame, grief, guilt, and conversion. In this, his final–and most mature and masterful–novel, Lewis reminds us of our own fallibility and the role of a higher power in our lives.’ (Till We Have Faces synopsis)

I only heard about this book last year and I was interested to read a Greek myth retelling written by such a famous author. I didn’t really like the books that I’ve read from the Chronicles of Narnia, I enjoyed the film format more (blasphemous), but I was very intrigued by Lewis’ themes of religion, philosophy and myth in his books and wanted to see how he would include these in an adult novel. I found this book very interesting and unusual in its format, however, I did feel like it dragged a little bit after the first part. I feel like this is one of those books you have to spend a while thinking about and I could definitely do with rereading the ending a couple of times to take more from it. Overall, please give this ago if you’d like to read a more philosophical take on a mythology retelling.  

Summerwater by Sarah Moss (audiobook, new read)

‘From the acclaimed author of Ghost Wall, Summerwater is a devastating story told over twenty-four hours in the Scottish highlands, and a searing exploration of our capacity for both kinship and cruelty in these divided times.’ (Summerwater synopsis)

I can’t lie, I have absolutely no thoughts about this book and very little memory, haha. I started listening to the audiobook in around October and finally remembered to finish it. I enjoyed the way that the author discussed social justice issues and politics from different perspectives through the various characters inner monologues, however, the book didn’t really hold my interest. I think this book is meant to be read in one or two sittings, and there is definitely a lot more to be gained in reading it this way to really make the most of the atmosphere. You might enjoy this book is atmospheric, gloomy stories with building tension interest you.

In at the deep end by Kate Davies (audiobook, new read)

‘Until recently, Julia hadn’t had sex in three years. But now: a one-night stand is accusing her of breaking his penis; a sexually confident lesbian is making eyes at her over confrontational modern art; and she’s wondering whether trimming her pubes makes her a bad feminist. Julia’s about to learn that she’s been looking for love – and satisfaction – in all the wrong places…’ (In at the Deep End synopsis)

I didn’t really know anything about this book or know what to expect but I’d heard it was funny. This is definitely NSFW hahaha. This begins with the experiences of a lesbian who has newly come out but turns into a slightly darker account of a relationship involving lots of gaslighting and instances of abuse (trigger warnings for this). This book and the characters will drive you insane, but I think it’s important to have representation of abusive relationships and issues that can occur within LGBT relationships.

A series of unfortunate events (The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room and The Wide Window) by Lemony Snicket (physical books, reread)

‘Dear reader, There is nothing to be found in Lemony Snicket’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ but misery and despair. You still have time to choose another international best-selling series to read. But if you insist on discovering the unpleasant adventures of the Baudelaire orphans, then proceed with caution… Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent children. They are charming, and resourceful, and have pleasant facial features. Unfortunately, they are exceptionally unlucky. In The Bad Beginning, the siblings encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune and cold porridge for breakfast.’ (The Bad Beginning synopsis)

Sometimes when I’ve been reading lots of new books I just can’t resist a reread. I loved this series when I was wee, although I had never been more confused whilst reading as I genuinely thought Lemony Snicket was a real person running from the law hahaha. These books are mental, I don’t think you’d appreciate them if you’re reading them for the first time as an adult. The series and characters are definitely a little pretentious, but this has been done in a way to explore literacy and help to educate young readers, for example, frequent definitions and discussions of vocabulary. I remember being occasionally annoyed with it when I was wee, but overall, I enjoyed the insanity or these books (honestly, please google a few examples of the writing style if you haven’t experienced them before).

I read some good books this month, my favourite of which was Luster 😊 I hope you’re doing well, please let me know what you’ve been reading!

My five favourite books of 2020 (and honourable mentions)

Happy new year! When I started writing this blog I wasn’t sure what kind of stuff I’d write, if I’d keep going or lose motivation. I’ve found this to be such a fun place to really reflect on books I’ve read, read others posts and get to interact with those of you who comment- thank you so much for reading, following and commenting. Writing has particularly given a bit of structure and a sense of a community throughout the lonlier lockdown stages of 2020. As we head into another UK lockdown- a more positive one I feel, with a vaccine available- I’d like to say I hope you’re all doing as well as you can, and I hope to keep writing here 😊 I managed to read 100 books last year (thanks lockdown) and I wanted to round off the year/start the year with my favourite books of 2020. I will, however, be using my written thoughts for previous posts as I read some a long time ago and my memory is not the best haha. Hopefully you’ll find something that you might enjoy in this post 😊. Ps. I only include new reads here because I know that I’m going to love rereads.

Mr loverman by Bernardine Evaristo

Barrington Jedidiah Walker is seventy-four and leads a double life. Born and bred in Antigua, he’s lived in Hackney since the sixties. A flamboyant, wise-cracking local character with a dapper taste in retro suits and a fondness for quoting Shakespeare, Barrington is a husband, father and grandfather – but he is also secretly homosexual, lovers with his great childhood friend, Morris. His deeply religious and disappointed wife, Carmel, thinks he sleeps with other women. When their marriage goes into meltdown, Barrington wants to divorce Carmel and live with Morris, but after a lifetime of fear and deception, will he manage to break away? Mr Loverman is a ground-breaking exploration of Britain’s older Caribbean community, which explodes cultural myths and fallacies and shows the extent of what can happen when people fear the consequences of being true to themselves.’ (Mr Loverman synopsis)

I love finding an author and liking every one of their books, I’m excited to read all of her books eventually. This book is emotional but equally funny, lighthearted and charming. There is a very British humour and sarcasm to it, which as I’ve mentioned before, I love. Barrington and Morris are very warm, likeable characters whilst feeling 3-dimensional. I enjoy the layers in Evaristo’s writing and I really liked the way that this book explored the fact that you be gay with internalised homophobia, and that being gay and LGBT friendly does not automatically make you a ‘PC’ person- Barrington is flawed and has some sexist characteristics that are explored throughout. I feel that this is more realistic than some stories, where characters in a minority group are automatically thought to support every minority group, even ones that they are not part of, and I find it interesting to read about characters who experience marginalisation and yet can marginalises others with their views. Barrington is a very layered, interesting character and I felt really warm whilst reading Mr Loverman. I think this is the exact balance required for a book with such heavy themes and I’d really recommend it, I loved it 🙂

Favourite/meaningful quote:

‘In that moment, I wanted to tell this stranger, this Merle, this girl from the tiny island of Montserrat, that I had commensurate preferences too, but I couldn’t be a brave warrior like her.

I wanted to tell her about Morris.

I wanted to sing his name out into the night.

His name is Morris. He is my Morris and he always been my Morris. He’s a good-hearted man, a special man, a sexy man, a history-loving man, a loyal man, a man who appreciates a good joke, a man of many moods, a drinking man, and a man with whom I can be myself completely.

Yes, I was in the throes of a Malibu-and-Coke-soaked madness, a madness that could lead to the demise of my life as I’d hitherto known it. But I was on the verge.’

The Crimson Petal and the White- Michel Faber

Welcome to Victorian London as you’ve never seen it before. Amongst an unforgettable cast of low-lifes, physicians, businessmen and prostitutes, meet our heroine Sugar, a young woman trying to drag herself up from the gutter any way she can. Be prepared for a mesmerising tale of passion, intrigue, ambition and revenge.’ (The Crimson Petal and the White synopsis)

I read this last January and writing about it brings me back to a Wintery Christmassy feel with blustery, rainy nights- the perfect setting to read a about a Victorian time period (I’m so excited for Winter, I love it!). This is a long, long book with such intricate detail. Whilst they take a lot longer to read, I can’t resist long, character driven stories that really take the time to set the scene and envelop you in the world. Due to the subject matter, this is also quite a dark gothic novel that can be difficult to read at times. I heard about this book when both Jen Campbell and The Personal Philosophy Project talked about it on youtube- I love getting book recommendations on booktube, please recommend some of your favourite channels that discuss books! I often enjoy books that they recommend, and I was very interested in hearing that this book is loosely based on Jane Eyre. They also mentioned an abrupt ending that leaves you wanting more and I’m always very intrigued by endings like this. Jane Eyre references/parallels are apparent throughout, however, this does not ruin the story or make it easy to guess what’s going to happen, and the story and characters were very original- I loved the balance. There are characters that are definitely not likeable, and characters that I loved, particularly Sugar and Agnes. I love reading from the perspectives of the morally ambiguous characters and I found them all very interesting (although at times during the Rackham chapters I was excited to get back to other’s stories, which I think was intentional in the writing). I’d really recommend this book, although I wouldn’t recommend going into it if you are in a negative mental state, and I’d beware of themes of abuse. The narration within this story is also incredibly interesting as Faber breaks the fourth wall to talk to the reader- almost as though we are watching a Victorian play (the narration and themes remind me a little of Moulin Rouge, one of my favourite films). Whilst writing this I’ve been swept back into such a Wintery mood and it’s really made me remember how much I loved this book! I’ll definitely look into reading more of Faber’s books if they are written as intricately and beautifully as this one!

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Teeming with life and crackling with energy — a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.’ (Girl, woman, other synopsis)

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book because whilst I love contemporaries, I tend not to like short stories, however, I very quickly got into the unusual writing style and I loved this book! I think the ways in which the characters were interconnected kept a flow and helped to make the book feel like a whole story rather than short stories. I loved the way that Evaristo raised discussions around feminism, gender and race through the perspectives of the characters- I began to think deeply about these issues and the discussions that the characters were having. The way in which these issues were interspersed felt very natural and I feel that the different opinions voiced through the characters multiple perspectives allow the reader to form their own opinions. Through this writing style the reader can be part of the discussions without the authors distinguishing a ‘right or wrong’ perspective- that said it is important to note that there are a number of issues raised within this story that are clearly wrong such as examples of racism and domestic abuse. I found the conversations about race between Amma, Dominique and Nzinga and Morgan’s feelings surrounding gender as a construct to be particularly interesting:

Amma thought she was accusing them of being too white or at best, in-authentically black, she’d come across it before, foreigners equating an English accent with whiteness, she always felt the need to speak up when it was implied that black Brits were inferior to African-Americans or Africans or West Indians’ (Amma)

women are designed to have babies, not to play with dolls, and why shouldn’t women sit with their legs wide open (if they’re wearing trousers obv) and what does mannish or manly mean anyway? walking with long strides? being assertive? taking charge? wearing ‘male’ clothes? not wearing makeup? unshaved legs? shaved head (lol), drinking pints instead of wine? preferring football to online makeup tutorials (yawn), and traditionally men wear makeup and skirts in parts of the world so why not in ours without being accused of being ‘effeminate’? what does effeminate actually mean when you break it down? (Morgan)

This book was engaging and fast paced; I would say by the last quarter I read it a little more slowly as there were so many new characters, but overall I felt that every character was interesting (although Amma and Yazz are maybe my favourites as the ones I got to know first). I would recommend this book- although I’m sure you’ve heard of it already haha- I loved it 😊

Favourite/meaningful quote (there were many):

… ageing is nothing to be ashamed of especially when the entire human race is in it together

white people are only required to represent themselves, not an entire race

Song of Sacrifice by Janell Rhiannon

The heart of the Trojan War belongs to the women. Mothers and daughters; wives and war prizes all whisper to us across time… praying they be remembered alongside the mighty men of myth.

As the Age of Heroes wanes, the gods gamble more fiercely with mortals’ lives than ever before. Women must rely on their inner strength and cunning if they’re going to survive the wars men wage for gold and glory. They struggle for control of their own lives. Rise from the ashes of brutal assaults. Fight to survive… by any means necessary. In a world where love leads to war and duty leads to destruction, it is the iron hearts of these heroines that will conquer all.’ (Song of Sacrifice synopsis).

I hadn’t heard of this book until I listened to Rhiannon’s podcast on spotify Greek Mythology Retold (which I found in 2020 and love). This is a retelling of the events leading up to the Trojan War based upon the Iliad, with an emphasis on the different perspectives and experiences of the main characters throughout. This is a long book, but I really enjoyed it and the detail allowed the author time to think about how each character would have felt and dealt with their different fates throughout- in her podcast, Rhiannon emphasises her interest in the perspective of the women in the war and the relationship between humans, fate and the Gods. This book is easy to read with interesting characters and I’d recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read the Iliad but would like to learn more about the Trojan War- I’ve read the Iliad but I built my way up by reading about 20 myth retellings first and without doing this I would have no clue what was happening hahaha. I think mythology is one of those things where it will always take a long time to get to grips with what’s going on, but I do think this could be an interesting starting point (with the help of Google or a map of the million characters haha). 😊 I think the author is planning for this to be a series known as the Homeric Chronicles with around four books, there are currently two out just now.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Meet Queenie. She just can’t cut a break. Well, apart from one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That’s just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Stuck between a boss who doesn’t seem to see her, a family who don’t seem to listen (if it’s not Jesus or water rates, they’re not interested), and trying to fit in two worlds that don’t really understand her, it’s no wonder she’s struggling.’ (Queenie synopsis)

I knew nothing about this book going into it, but I instantly loved Queenie as a character and found this very quick and easy to read. This book emphasises the more ‘every-day’ elements of systemic racism and Candy-Williams highlighted the ignorance of white people in denying racism through the dismissive nature of the white characters; Queenie experiences lots of gaslighting from her relationship and there are several examples of her ex-boyfriend supporting the racist statements and assumptions made by his family. As a result of this gaslighting, Queenie often doubts herself and the racism or sexism that she faces throughout this book- I loved the nuanced way that this is addressed as the writer effectively emphasised the doubt that people can feel whilst standing up for what’s right, and the way that dominant assumptions and meritocratic discourse create an environment where racism and sexism can go unchallenged. Queenie will be a very relatable character for readers in her actions and inner monologues. I will note here that there is lots on consent, power and abuse which is extremely well written but may act as a trigger for some readers.

I also enjoyed the realistic and positive depictions of mental health and illness, and Queenies relationships with her family and friends. Themes of reliance on others and the need to work on yourself and learn to love yourself can be seen throughout. It was very interesting to read about the cultural elements of mental health discussions in this book; Queenie and her family reflect upon the often-dismissive reaction to mental illness within Jamaican culture, and reluctance or shame surrounding accepting help.

Important/meaningful quote:

It’s not putting black lives on a pedestal, I don’t even know what that means,” I said, my heart beating fast. “It’s saying that black lives, at this point, and historically, do not, and have not mattered, and that they should!”

I looked first at Gina, then around the room to see if anyone was going to back me up. Instead, I was met with what I’d been trying to pretend hadn’t always been a room full of white not-quite-liberals whose opinions, like their money, had been inherited.

Honourable mentions

  • The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta (this book and Queenie are even to me, it was hard to decide)- See ‘Books I read in October’
  • Six Tudor Queens: Katheryn Howard by Alison Weir- September books 1st to 15th
  • Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
  • The Hate u Give by Angie Thomas- see May books 22nd to 31st
  • The Iliad by Homer

Thank you so much for reading, please let me know your favourite books of 2020, I love these kind of lists! 😊

P.s. I don’t use Goodreads, but I do record books on List Challenges and I’ve made a list of all the books of 2020 if you want to see how many you’ve read:

https://www.listchallenges.com/books-carly-read-or-reread-in-2020

Books I own and haven’t read yet (please help haha)

Over the past year I’ve actually done really well in my goal to read lots of new books and try to read lots of the books on my shelves (giving away the ones I don’t like). I have a bad habit of buying books- I do try to buy lots from charity shops- and whilst I read roughly 100 books a year, I LOVE the comfort and experiencing of rereading, so it can take me a long time to get round to all of my new books. I’d love to end 2020 with some reading highs (given the riot that the year has been otherwise hahaha), so I’m going to list the books that I own and haven’t read yet and I’d love your opinions on what books I should priories. 😊 Please, please let me know if you’ve read any of these and why you’d recommend them (or why you absolutely hated them). I have 20 books left to read to reach my yearly goal! (I’ve made the books that I’m currently most interested in reading bold).

  1. N-W- Zadie Smith
  2. Blonde Roots- Bernardine Evaristo
  3. The Remains of the Day- Kazuo Ishaguro
  4. The Mothers- Brit Bennett
  5. Calypso- David Sedaris
  6. The Sellout- Paul Beatty
  7. Northern Lights- Philip Pullman
  8. The Book of Dust- Philip Pullman
  9. Morbid Relations- Jonathan Whitelaw
  10. Theology and Works and Days- Hesiod
  11. The White Boy Shuffle- Paul Beatty
  12. Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian- Rick Riordan
  13. The Book of Strange Things- Michel Faber
  14. Under the Skin- Michel Faber
  15. The Republic- Plato
  16. Jesus: A Life- A. N. Wilson

Books that I’ve owned for at least a year (some are honestly 5+ years old hahaha):

17. George Harrison: Behind the locked door- Graeme Thomson

18. The Light Between Oceans- M L Steadman

19. The Wasp Factory- Iain Banks

20. The Understudy- David Nicholls

21. Lanark- Alasdair Gray

22. Them- Jon Ronson

23. The Trial- Franz Kafka

24. Being Elvis- Ray Connolly

25. The Post Birthday World- Lionel Shriver

26. The Secret Garden- Francis Hodgson Burnett

27. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- Stieg Larsson

28. Horns- Joe Hill

29. I am the Messenger- Markus Zusak

30. School Daze- Elaine McGeachy

31. The White Queen- Philippa Gregory

32. The Lost Books of the Odyssey- Zachary Mason

33. The Bluest Eye- Toni Morrison

34. The Miniaturist- Jessie Burton

35. David Bowie: A Life- Dylan Jones

36. The Lie Tree- Frances Hardinge

37. Casting Off- Elizabeth Jane Howard

38. All the Light We Cannot See- Anthony Doerr

39. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams

40. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest- Ken Kensey

41. Not the Life Imagined- Anne Pettigrew

42. Utopia for Realists- Rutger Bregman

43. American Gods- Neil Gaiman

44. The Elephant Keeper- Christopher Nicholson

45. The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales- The Brothers Grimm

Oh dear, 45 hahaha. Although it was genuinely about 100 a couple of years ago. There are some on the list that I really should just give away, but I’m quite the hoarder and don’t want to miss out on a potentially interesting read. Also, I’ll definitely take into account any comments, but I’m such a mood reader so please, please don’t be offended if I end up reading completely different books haha! Also, I rarely know anything about authors so please let me know if any are a bit dodgy/controversial for any reason. I hope you’re well and have read great books so far this year! 😊

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. 😊

September books (1st to 15th)

I have returned. I now have a new flat, a new job and despite these positive things, I also have a mindset that has not been the most positive hahaha, my anxiety/changed based depression has been thriving recently. However, I feel positive that I can change this and make some real progress in terms of managing my anxiety, and that is the aim of this year 🙂 I hope you’re all well! My mindset is not really what I’ll be focusing on in this blog post, but it does reflect why I haven’t really felt like writing (although every time I do write, I realise how much happier it makes me feel) and why I’ve been away (not that it’s too noticeable as this is just a fun side thing that I do. Anyway, I feel settled enough in my new job (if not my new flat yet) that I’d like to start writing on here again, and I’m hoping that for the days I don’t feel so good, writing on here will be a comfort or distraction. P.s. I have wifi again after a month of none, so that again explains my disappearance.

I just checked and I haven’t written about any books that I read in July or August- I didn’t read very much in August and I don’t have the best memory to write full ‘reviews’ but I’m going to consult my list challenges list and let you know what I did read July/August because it’d be a shame not to share any books that I’d recommend:

Hot Milk- Deborah Levy (this book is, like all of Levy’s, surreal and a lil bit mental. It took me a while to get into it but I ended up really liking it. I’d recommend reading it in large chunks over a short period of time. It has themes of identity, guilt and dependency in relationships and has a few small Odyssey parallels. It’s mainly a kind of atmospheric book focusing on language and imagery, I think it’s the kind of book that’s a bit love it or hate it).

The Children of Jocasta- Natalie Haynes (it’s strange because I love mythology books and I know Natalie Haynes is really popular, but I haven’t really liked either of her books that I’ve read for some reason. I never really feel connected to the characters.)

Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth- Rick Riordan– I love this series, I wish I’d read it as a child.

The Vanishing Half- Brit Bennett (this is a character driven book which is my favourite kind and I found it really interesting throughout, I loved it! I’m sure most people have heard of it by now so I won’t say much about the plot, but I was interested in every characters perspective (although I liked the characters to varying degrees). There are interesting, uncomfortable and educational themes of colourism throughout, with the characters reflecting upon the ways that social constructs surrounding race can impact a person’s own identity and the way they are perceived. This was an important and interesting story and I’d really recommend it :))

The Boy at the Back of the Class- Onjali Q Rauf (I read this children’s book as a potential class novel, and although it wasn’t the most interesting to read as an adult, there are great themes for children! It’s an important book that talks about family, refugees and gender sterotypes)

Wonder- R.J Palacio (again a potential book class, although I’m not sure how I felt about it and how well it deals with disfigurement, I think I’d research how people with disfigurements felt about this book before introducing it to the class).

Girl, 15, Flirting for England- Sue Limb (you can tell that this is when my mental health went down the drain hahaha because this is a complete comfort read)

Girl, 15, Charming But Insane- Sue Limb (these books are genuinely quite funny)

Get a life, Chloe Brown- Talia Hibbert (this has some more interesting themes than ‘typical’ romance stories, but I get bored of cheesy romance half way through so I found myself losing interest at parts).

September:

Anyway, back to this months books :). I’m going to start with videos every two weeks and see how my reading goes because I’m not sure how much of a reading mood I’ll be in. Please let me know if you’ve read any good books, talking about and hearing about books really motivates me 🙂

Mr Loverman- Bernardine Evaristo (physical book, new read):

Barrington Jedidiah Walker is seventy-four and leads a double life. Born and bred in Antigua, he’s lived in Hackney since the sixties. A flamboyant, wise-cracking local character with a dapper taste in retro suits and a fondness for quoting Shakespeare, Barrington is a husband, father and grandfather – but he is also secretly homosexual, lovers with his great childhood friend, Morris. His deeply religious and disappointed wife, Carmel, thinks he sleeps with other women. When their marriage goes into meltdown, Barrington wants to divorce Carmel and live with Morris, but after a lifetime of fear and deception, will he manage to break away? Mr Loverman is a ground-breaking exploration of Britain’s older Caribbean community, which explodes cultural myths and fallacies and shows the extent of what can happen when people fear the consequences of being true to themselves.’ (Mr Loverman synopsis)

I love finding an author and liking every one of their books, I’m excited to read all of her books eventually. This book is emotional but equally funny, lighthearted and charming. There is a very British humour and sarcasm to it, which as I’ve mentioned before, I love. Barrington and Morris are very warm, likeable characters whilst feeling 3-dimensional. I enjoy the layers in Evaristo’s writing and I really liked the way that this book explored the fact that you be gay with internalised homophobia, and that being gay and LGBT friendly does not automatically make you a ‘PC’ person- Barrington is flawed and has some sexist characteristics that are explored throughout. I feel that this is more realistic than some stories, where characters in a minority group are automatically thought to support every minority group, even ones that they are not part of, and I find it interesting to read about characters who experience marginalisation and yet can marginalises others with their views. Barrington is a very layered, interesting character and I felt really warm whilst reading Mr Loverman. I think this is the exact balance required for a book with such heavy themes and I’d really recommend it, I loved it 🙂

Favourite/meaningful quote:

In that moment, I wanted to tell this stranger, this Merle, this girl from the tiny island of Montserrat, that I had commensurate preferences too, but I couldn’t be a brave warrior like her.
I wanted to tell her about Morris.
I wanted to sing his name out into the night.
His name is Morris. He is my Morris and he always been my Morris. He’s a good-hearted man, a special man, a sexy man, a history-loving man, a loyal man, a man who appreciates a good joke, a man of many moods, a drinking man, and a man with whom I can be myself completely.
Yes, I was in the throes of a Malibu-and-Coke-soaked madness, a madness that could lead to the demise of my life as I’d hitherto known it. But I was on the verge.’

Six Tudor Queens: Katherine Howard, the Tainted Queen- Alison Weir (audiobook, new read):

Bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir tells the tragic story of Henry VIII’s fifth wife, a nineteen-year-old beauty with a hidden past, in this fifth novel in the sweeping Six Tudor Queens series.‘ (Six Tudor Queens synopsis)

I was so excited when I saw that this was out, I love these books! I’m really interested in history and this time period although I don’t know the most about it. These books are engaging and easy to read, so I find them perfect to start with in understanding the Tudor period (please do not read Wolf Hall if you don’t have a lot of background knowledge like I tried to, that was a difficult read haha). I love the first person narrative and as I like routine and familiarity in books, I enjoy the similar format throughout the series. Reading historical fiction also feels like more an ‘achievement’ in a way because I like to feel like I’m learning. I’d definitely recommend this series if you like the time period and would like to learn more about the Tudors. 🙂

Mary Queen of Scots- Antonia Fraser (audiobook, new read):

‘Antonia Fraser’s biography, four years in the writing, enters fully into the life of an historical figure who continues to capture the popular imagination, and provides a moving answer to the question, `What was Mary Queen of Scots really like?’ (Mary Queen of Scots synopsis)

I wanted to continue my history lesson and I’ve always been interested in Mary Queen of Scots (need some Scottish history in my life). I enjoyed this biography and found it to be very informative, although it was more of a traditional biography and therefore less imaginative and engaging than Alison Weir’s story. This book helped me to understand Mary’s life and death a wee bit more, but I still struggle to retain information from this time period, it’s so frustrating! If you have seen any interesting programmes about her, please let me know 🙂 (I’ve seen some of Reign but I have a very up and down relationship with that show, the characters are really very annoying). Also, if you know a lot about history and enjoy similar books, please give me recommendations, I’d love to keep learning! 🙂

One to Watch- Kate Stayman-London (audiobook, new read):

‘Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger with amazing friends, thousands of Insta followers – and a massively broken heart. Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Ben! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since whenis being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?’ (One to Watch synopsis)

This is another fairly fluffy contemporary romance with some interesting themes. I enjoyed the concept of a book that explores the behind the scenes of a love island/bachelor type programme, as I do get sucked in to Love Island as a guilty pleasure whilst simultaneously finding it to be very flawed. I enjoyed the exploration of the themes of inclusivity and body shaming in this story and I was fairly interested throughout, but as usual I chose to read a cheesy romance story whilst claiming that I do not like cheesy romance stories, so there were times where I felt a bit bored or felt that the dialogue was a bit cringey. I would recommend this book if you enjoy this genre 🙂

I’m happy to say that I haven’t read any books that I really disliked in a while! 🙂 I’d love some more recommendations- especially for good audiobooks as I find these easier to concentrate on when I’m not feeling the best- and I’d like to know how you are doing as one of my favourite parts of writing is reading any comments I get 🙂

Five favourite books of 2020- so far

I always find it so hard to narrow things like this down haha. I reread lots of books and over the past couple of years I’ve actively been trying to read more new books- as of the end of June I have read 49 new books and 11 rereads, I’m improving! 😊 Since I only reread books that I love (or terrible yet nostalgic books ie. Twilight), I don’t count them in my midyear and yearly favourites. I don’t really have a particular order, but my five favourite new reads of 2020 so far are:

The Crimson Petal and the White- Michel Faber

Welcome to Victorian London as you’ve never seen it before. Amongst an unforgettable cast of low-lifes, physicians, businessmen and prostitutes, meet our heroine Sugar, a young woman trying to drag herself up from the gutter any way she can. Be prepared for a mesmerising tale of passion, intrigue, ambition and revenge.’ (The Crimson Petal and the White synopsis)

I read this in January and writing about it brings me back to a Wintery Christmassy feel with blustery, rainy nights- the perfect setting to read a about a Victorian time period (I’m so excited for Winter, I love it!). This is a long, long book with such intricate detail. Whilst they take a lot longer to read, I can’t resist long, character driven stories that really take the time to set the scene and envelop you in the world. Due to the subject matter, this is also quite a dark gothic novel that can be difficult to read at times. I heard about this book when both Jen Campbell and The Personal Philosophy Project talked about it on youtube- I love getting book recommendations on booktube, please recommend some of your favourite channels that discuss books! I often enjoy books that they recommend, and I was very interested in hearing that this book is loosely based on Jane Eyre. They also mentioned an abrupt ending that leaves you wanting more and I’m always very intrigued by endings like this. Jane Eyre references/parallels are apparent throughout, however, this does not ruin the story or make it easy to guess what’s going to happen, and the story and characters were very original- I loved the balance. There are characters that are definitely not likeable, and characters that I loved, particularly Sugar and Agnes. I love reading from the perspectives of the morally ambiguous characters and I found them all very interesting (although at times during the Rackham chapters I was excited to get back to other’s stories, which I think was intentional in the writing). I’d really recommend this book, although I wouldn’t recommend going into it if you are in a negative mental state, and I’d beware of themes of abuse. The narration within this story is also incredibly interesting as Faber breaks the fourth wall to talk to the reader- almost as though we are watching a Victorian play (the narration and themes remind me a little of Moulin Rouge, one of my favourite films). Whilst writing this I’ve been swept back into such a Wintery mood and it’s really made me remember how much I loved this book! I’ll definitely look into reading more of Faber’s books if they are written as intricately and beautifully as this one! (I’ve just paused writing this to buy another of his books, oh dear haha)

Girl, Woman, Other- Bernardine Evaristo

‘Teeming with life and crackling with energy — a love song to modern Britain and black womanhood. Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.’ (Girl, Woman, Other synopsis)

Apart from The Crimson Petal and the White I think my four favourites have been lockdown reads! This means that I’ve already written about them in some detail in blog posts, so I’ll try not to repeat myself. I don’t always like books that follow lots of perspectives (apart from ASOIAF) so it’s a credit to Bernardine’s writing and the vivid, engaging characters that I loved every chapter and perspective- I do feel that Amma and Yazz were maybe my favourites. I loved the opportunity to read about discussions of social justice issues from different perspectives and engage in very deep moral and philosophical thinking whilst reading, the relationships and integration of social justice issues in this book are so interesting! Like Faber, I’ve never read any of Evaristo’s other books so this is something that I’ll definitely try to do in the future (writing this blog post was a mistake hahaha, I’m going to end up buying even more books now).

Song of Sacrifice- Janell Rhiannon

The heart of the Trojan War belongs to the women. Mothers and daughters; wives and war prizes all whisper to us across time.. praying they be remembered alongside the mighty men of myth. As the Age of Heroes wanes, the gods gamble more fiercely with mortals lives than ever before. Women must rely on the inner strength and cunning if they’re going to survive the wars men wage for gold and glory. They struggle for control on their own lives. Rise from the ashes of brutal assaults. Fight to survive.. by any means necessary. In a world where love leads to war and duty leads to destruction, it is the iron hearts of these heroines that will conquer all’. (Song of Sacrifice synopsis)

I knew some mythology would end up being in this list somewhere haha, I just love it. Rhiannon is relatively unknown which is such a shame as this book was an incredible depiction of the events leading up to the Trojan War, with numerous interesting perspectives of the characters who aren’t often given a voice (all three books I’ve mentioned so far cover multiple perspectives, I must have been wrong in thinking that I don’t like these sorts of books haha). I would recommend this book if you’re interested in learning more about the Trojan War or reading from multiple perspectives, particularly the women involved- this is a long book, however, it is very easy to read and I was interested throughout. I wish this series was more widely known, and I hope that Rhiannon’s books will become more popular with time, I love her Greek mythology retellings and think they stand up to many that I’ve read- for example, I’m sure this is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t really like Natalie Haynes writing style, I feel like the characters lack something and I far preferred a Song of Sacrifice (although my favourite mythology author is still Madeline Miller).  

Percy Jackson- Rick Riordan

‘Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood. I never asked to be the son of a Greek God. I was just a normal kid, going to school, playing basketball, skateboarding. The usual. Until I accidentally vaporized my maths teacher. Now I spend my time battling monsters and generally trying to stay alive. This is the one where Zeus, God of the Sky, thinks I’ve stolen his lightning bolt – and making Zeus angry is a very bad idea.’ (Lightning thief synopsis)

As of the end of June, I had read three of the five books in the Percy Jackson series and it’s hard to pick a favourite- maybe the second as I loved the storyline- so I’m going for the series as a whole. These books are so full of humour, sarcasm and light-hearted fun and friendship, whilst discussing heavy important topics and tackling deep issues. I love the bond between Percy, Annabeth and Grover, the portrayals of family and identity and I love Grover’s interest in the environment. The depiction of the Gods and Goddess’s are so funny, and I love all the characters. I’m very fussy with children’s books I read as an adult (I’m reading potential books for my class just now and they are not always the best haha) but this series really works for all ages 😊. As I mentioned before, the three friends remind me of the Harry Potter golden trio and I love that Percy is a normal sarcastic, friendly, sassy young person like lil Harry- although, sadly the Harry Potter series has been tainted now. I’m excited to see what happens next. 😊

Queenie- Candice Carty-Williams

‘Meet Queenie. She just can’t cut a break. Well, apart from one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That’s just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Stuck between a boss who doesn’t seem to see her, a family who don’t seem to listen (if it’s not Jesus or water rates, they’re not interested), and trying to fit in two worlds that don’t really understand her, it’s no wonder she’s struggling.’ (Queenie synopsis)

I read this in May so it was very recent and I loved it! I love when an author can cover heavy themes and create realistic dimensional characters that you are connected to within a funny book that’s quick and easy to read, I think I read Queenie within a day! She’s such an amazing character and I felt connected to her throughout the story. I loved learning more about Jamaican culture through the perspective of someone who is from London and cannot necessarily relate to her family’s perspective. This book is primarily about family and friends, relationships, identity, and mental illness, all of which are themes that I love to read about and are frequently found in my favourite books. Trigger warning for abuse, gaslighting and mental illness although they are handled in a very mature and positive way. I have so much more to say about this book but I don’t want to repeat myself from previous blog posts in case you’ve read them (thank you if you have and you’re still here! 😊) so I’ll let it at this but I cannot recommend this book enough!

It has been such a fun experience looking back at the year so far and remembering how much I loved these books- it makes it worth it when you read a few books in a row that weren’t for you. I think they are all quite different, however they are all character driven with similar themes that I am often drawn to. For this reason, I’m not sure if I’d recommend them all to everyone, but hopefully you’ll find something that you like 😊 I’m so interested in learning about other’s favourites, please let me know you’re favourites of 2020 so far! Also, despite really not needing any more books I’m always looking haha, so please let me know if you’ve read other books by these authors and if you’d recommend them 😊 (especially Faber, I’m intrigued to know if all of his books are so amazingly written). I hope you’re well, thank you for reading!