My favourite new reads of 2021

A very late Happy New Year! I am remotivated to post this then get on with some more up to date regular 2022 posts! I also love posting on Instagram @carlybooks_ and looking at bookish accounts, so please follow me there if interested! 😊 I never count rereads in this list because I reread old favourites, so here are my 5 favourite new reads of 2021 (p.s. there are fuller descriptions of each book in 2021 blog posts so these are just wee snippets):

Honourable mentions:

Klara and the Sun, Kitchen, After Dark, Luster, Exciting times. I’ve written about these books in more detail in 2021 blog posts, but they all have the sort of style of writing I love- character driven, almost plotless, somehow dreamy, reflecting on social issues and their impact on people in today’s society. I fell in love with Japanese literature this year, it’s very beautiful and almost magical!

Number five- Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes:

‘’Now, in Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, Natalie Haynes – broadcaster, writer and passionate classicist – redresses this imbalance. Taking Pandora and her jar (the box came later) as the starting point, she puts the women of the Greek myths on equal footing with the menfolk. After millennia of stories telling of gods and men, be they Zeus or Agamemnon, Paris or Odysseus, Oedipus or Jason, the voices that sing from these pages are those of Hera, Athena and Artemis, and of Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Eurydice and Penelope.’’ (Pandora’s Jar synopsis)

I didn’t read as much non-fiction as I usually do this year, but this was a great one! I didn’t love Natalie Hayes fiction books as much when I read them, but the way this book was written weaved in all the characters with modern social issues so well, I’d recommend! I’d also recommend listening to the songs she mentions throughout, listening to Beyoncé lemonade during the Medea chapter was quite an experience.

Number four- Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

‘’Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend Eileen is getting over a break-up and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon are still young – but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They worry about sex and friendship and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?’’ (Beautiful World, Where are You synopsis)

I listened to this as an audiobook which I think is always the way to go with Irish narrators because I love the accent and it adds to the feeling of a conversation unfolding. I think this might be my favourite of her books. I love the storytelling, elements of mental health and the social commentary on social media/technology and climate change. I do feel the need to say that the characters are a bit pretentious (why do they always go on a spontaneous holiday hahaha) and Rooney’s characters are definitely privileged with first world problems. I think it’s important to keep this in mind whilst reading, but I do always feel for the characters (I was more interested in one perspective than the other though). I’d love to read more books that look at the impact of social media on our self-esteem and mental health.

Number three- Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart


’It is 1981. Glasgow is dying and good families must grift to survive. Agnes Bain has always expected more from life. She dreams of greater things: a house with its own front door and a life bought and paid for outright (like her perfect, but false, teeth). But Agnes is abandoned by her philandering husband, and soon she and her three children find themselves trapped in a decimated mining town. As she descends deeper into drink, the children try their best to save her, yet one by one they must abandon her to save themselves. It is her son Shuggie who holds out hope the longest. Shuggie is different. Fastidious and fussy, he shares his mother’s sense of snobbish propriety. The miners’ children pick on him and adults condemn him as no’ right. But Shuggie believes that if he tries his hardest, he can be normal like the other boys and help his mother escape this hopeless place.’’ (Shuggie Bain synopsis)

This book was so powerful, and the relationships were beautiful and very sad. I felt even more connected to the story because of the LGBT elements and the setting- some of my own family members have experienced some of these issues and I think they’re still sadly very relevant around Glasgow. I think this book manages to be filled with hopeful moments despite the poignant sad ones. I’m currently reading Young Mungo as I got a review eBook on net galley, woo (did not know that was a thing until last month!) and I think I like it even more, although I love wee Shuggie as a character so much. I’d 100% recommend reading some Scottish fiction if you’re from elsewhere around the world, I’d love to know if it still has the same impact or gives you a new perspective on Scotland. I’d also be curious to know where you are from and what books you’d recommend from your home country! 😊

Number two: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

’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 one of the first books I’ve read translated from Japanese and I loved it! I always love books which are basically just about characters and relationships where nothing really happens, and this is exactly that bit with a kind of whimsical feeling. There was something so interesting and unusual about this book and it’s made me want to go to Tokyo one day even more than I already did. I”d really recommend this, although I’d first check the trigger warnings as there are themes such as suicide. I’d also recommend this as a first choice for Murakami’s books because it’s a lot more realistic and less insane than his others. I read 4 of his this year and I am finding some uncomfortable themes with the ways he writes women. Overall though, Norwegian Wood has become one of my favourite ever books!

Number one: Duck Feet by Ely Percy

’Twelve-year-old Kirsty Campbell used to like school – that is until she started first year at Renfrew High. Set in the mid-noughties and narrated in a Renfrewshire dialect, Duck Feet is an episodic novel comprised of 65 linked short stories, all following the lives of working-class school-girl Kirsty and her pals as they traverse from first to sixth year of high school.’’ (Duck feet synopsis)

Another Scottish book, they did well last year! I also went to a Waterstones reading and signing from Ely Percy and it was amazing to hear their perspective on their perspective on writing the story, it brought it to life even more. I’d like to go to more book events in 2022! I’m also happy that I joined an Instagram book club last year, hosted by @scottieandthebooks. It gave me the chance to read with others, making it a less solitary experience and creating a culture of celebration of Scottish literature (although I’m too shy to really speak in it haha!) Anyway, I loved book so much, I went to school nearby Renfrew a few years after this is set and it’s so close in time and place that I felt like I was reading about my own school (good and bad times haha!). My favourite chapter VL just flashed me back to forgotten (or repressed) times. I also loved the deeper moments and themes throughout and related to so many of the characters. I’d love to read more about the queer characters in Duck Feet if Ely writes this book. I’d 100% recommend this book to everyone!

Thank you everyone who read or commented last year, I honestly love reading comments and talking about books as reading can feel lonely otherwise! Please let me know of your favourites reads of last year, I’d genuinely love to know! 😊 I know we’re still in difficult times, but I hope you have an amazing year, and please reach out to me if you’d ever like to talk- about books, mental health or anything else!

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!