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

November books

The Aeneid- Virgil: Robert Fagles translation (physical book, new read)

‘’Robert Fagles’s latest achievement completes the magnificent triptych of Western epics. A sweeping story of arms and heroism, The Aeneid follows the adventures of Aeneas, who flees the ashes of Troy to embark upon a tortuous course that brings him to Italy and fulfills his destiny as founder of the Roman people. Retaining all of the gravitas and humanity of the original, this powerful blend of poetry and myth remains as relevant today as when it was first written.’’ (The Aeneid synopsis)

I’ve never studied literature or classics so I definitely don’t get as much from books like this as others, however, I’ve finally binge read enough mythology retellings to be able to read and keep up with The Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid. I knew little about this book, but I found it interesting and fairly readable, although I did prefer the early chapters with Dido and the underworld, and I began to feel a bit restless by the end of the story as wars and battle scenes are not my favourite unless I’m extremely invested in characters. The most striking thing I did find was the parallels between ASOIAF, particularly Aeneas and Daenerys and to a lesser extent Jon (unsurprising as Dany/Jon’s stories parallel in themselves). I’m extremely interested in ASOIAF mythology parallels and already made a blog post about some Greek/Norse parallels if you’re interested 😊. I recently bought the illustrated Game of Thrones (I do enjoy wasting money hahaha) and I’d love to reread the series (maybe one character at a time?) analysing anything that interests me and looking for parallels. I think next year (woohoo goodbye 2020) I’ll definitely give this a go and incorporate it into some rambly blog posts in a way.

Important/meaningful quote:

“Do the gods light this fire in our hearts or does each man’s mad desire become his god?”

Pride and prejudice- Jane Austen (audiobook, reread)

‘’Pride and Prejudice is one of the most cherished love stories in English literature; Jane Austen’s 1813 masterpiece has a lasting effect on everyone who reads it. The pride of high-ranking Mr Darcy and the prejudice of middle-class Elizabeth Bennet conduct an absorbing dance through the rigid social hierarchies of early-nineteenth-century England, with the passion of the two unlikely lovers growing as their union seems ever more improbable.’’ (Pride and Prejudice synopsis)

I read this in a very strange format, because I listened to Jen Campbell reading the book aloud. For those who don’t know, Jen is a writer with a youtube channel focusing on books. Over lockdown, she read Pride and Prejudice aloud and turned it into a youtube audiobook. This was a really interesting way to read this book! I’ve always loved the film, but I didn’t really have strong thoughts towards the book the first time I read it, around 6 years ago- I read wee bits at a time over a few months which made if feel a bit disjointed. I loved it a lot more this time around, I think with classics, audiobook can be the way to go for me to really bring the characters to life 😊. I’m sure everyone knows what this is about or has read it, but if you haven’t, I’d recommend giving it a go 😊. I love Lizzie as a character and the feminist themes throughout, particularly interesting due to the time period of the story. Also, not relevant to the book, but I’d recommend listening to the films score, especially ‘Your hands are cold’, it’s so beautiful.

Important/meaningful quote:

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

Great Goddesses: Life lessons from myths and monsters- Nikita Gill (physical book, new read)

‘’Wonder at Medusa’s potent venom, Circe’s fierce sorcery and Athena rising up over Olympus, as Nikita Gill majestically explores the untold stories of the life bringers, warriors, creators, survivors and destroyers that shook the world – the great Greek Goddesses.
Vividly re-imagined and beautifully illustrated, step into an ancient world transformed by modern feminist magic.’’
(Great Goddesses synopsis)

I read this at the start of the month and my memory is fading haha, but I found it interesting 😊. The writing style is lovely and I’m glad that I found it enjoyable as I don’t always love poetry. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, I’ve already stolen an idea to try and paint hahah. Again, it got me wanting to find more asoiaf parallels, such as Arya and Artemis, Stannis and Agamemnon. It’s a very engaging feminist retelling, however, there are trigger warnings for themes of rape and assault. The intention of these accounts is to shift the blame back to the men and Gods carrying out these horrific assaults, supporting woman to overcome trauma, however, it could nevertheless be triggering so it’s important to know going into the story. I would say, I enjoyed this book more before they started bringing the Goddesses into our modern world- apart from Percy Jackson, this seems to be a theme within my reading experiences of mythology, I don’t really enjoy reading about the Gods and Goddesses within the modern world.

Important/meaningful quote:

“Every woman is both match and spark, a light for each other from the dark.”

Athena’s Child- Hannah Lynn (physical book, new read)

‘’Gifted and burdened with beauty far beyond that of mere mortals, Medusa seeks sanctuary with the Goddess Athena. But when the lustful gaze of mighty Poseidon falls upon her, even the Temple of Athena cannot protect her. Young Perseus embarks on a seemingly impossible quest. Equipped with only bravado and determination, his only chance of success lays in the hands of his immortal siblings. Medusa and Perseus soon become pawns of spiteful and selfish gods. Faced with the repercussions of Athena’s wrath Medusa has no choice but to flee and hide. But can she do so without becoming the monster they say she is?’’ (Athena’s Child synopsis)

I can’t tell who this book was aimed for as it was interesting and fast paced but something about it felt young, it sometimes felt like YA but I’m not certain. Either way, it would be a good place to start in terms of myth retellings. This is a very glum story, but I enjoyed learning more about Perseus and his story (I knew quite a bit about Medusa already), particularly learning about his mother and I previously only knew what I’d read from Percy Jackson haha. I mentioned Jen Campbell earlier on, she has been discussing the use of disfigurement in characters as a negative trope being associated with ‘ugly’ or ‘evil’ characters, I’d recommend looking up her Instagram and reading her article. This is a very prevalent issue in stories and this book definitely equated disfigurement with ugliness and becoming evil or losing humanity in some way. This is not Lynn’s fault as this stems from early mythology itself, however, when retelling these stories, I think authors could be more conscious about this and use the opportunity to rewrite these tropes.

Troy: The Siege of Troy Retold- Stephen Fry (audiobook, new read)

‘’The story of Troy speaks to all of us – the kidnapping of Helen, a queen celebrated for her beauty, sees the Greeks launch a thousand ships against that great city, to which they will lay siege for ten whole and very bloody years. The stage is set for the oldest and greatest story ever told, where monstrous passions meet the highest ideals and the lowest cunning. In Troy you will find heroism and hatred, love and loss, revenge and regret, desire and despair. It is these human passions, written bloodily in the sands of a distant shore, that still speak to us today.’’ (Troy synopsis)

I loved listening to this, you can feel Fry’s interest in the subject and his enthusiasm makes it even better to listen to. This was my favourite listen of the trilogy as I’ve always been slightly more interested in the Trojan War and the people involved than the stories of the Gods alone (and I’ve never been particularly interested in the heroes, I can never seem to retain much info about Hercules/Heracles despite reading lots). This trilogy is definitely a great place to start with mythology and I enjoy the humour and input from Fry throughout. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading the story of the Trojan War, I enjoy the different perspectives of each writer and I was happy to see Achilles/Patroclus mentioned as lovers in this account as this is the version of their story that I prefer. I’ve mentioned this before, but I love that in every single myth retelling that I’ve read (including the Iliad), Patroclus is consistently a genuinely good compassionate person (there are few others that I can say the same about, except Briseis and some of the Trojan women).

Love lessons- Jacqueline Wilson (e-book, reread)

‘’Fourteen-year-old Prue and her sister Grace have been educated at home by their controlling, super-strict father all their lives. Forced to wear Mum’s odd hand-made garments and forbidden from reading teenage magazines, they know they’re very different to ‘normal’ girls – but when Dad has a stroke and ends up in hospital, unable to move or speak, Prue suddenly discovers what it’s like to have a little freedom.

Sent to a real school for the first time, Prue struggles to fit in. The only person she can talk to is her kindly, young – and handsome – art teacher, Rax. They quickly bond, and Prue feels more and more drawn to him. As her feelings grow stronger, she begins to realise that he might feel the same way about her. But nothing could ever happen between them – could it?’’ (Love Lessons synopsis)

I wanted to finish my nostalgic Wilson binge with another book that I loved as a child/teen. This is another of her older, darker books with themes of authoritative fathers (potentially verbally abusive) and heavily features a grooming type scenario between a 14 year old student and her art teacher. I’ve always found the tone of this book to feel far different from Wilson’s other books, you definitely get the sense of alienation Prue feels around others her age and the strain within her family and environments. Again, I appreciate Wilson’s approach to discussing heavy topics and would recommend this book if you enjoy her others.

Office Girl- Joe Meno (physical book, new read)

‘’Set in 1999 – just before the end of one world and the beginning of another – Office Girl is the story of two youths caught between the uncertainty of their futures and the all-too-brief moments of modern life. Odile is a lovely 23 year-old art-school dropout, a minor vandal, and a hopeless dreamer. Jack is a 25 year-old shirker who’s most happy capturing the endless noises of the city on his out-of-date tape recorder. Together they decide to start their own art movement in defiance of a contemporary culture made dull by both the tedious and the obvious.’’ (Office Girl synopsis)

I don’t want to spend much time on this as I found it incredibly pretentious and want to roll my eyes even thinking back now. I can barely remember how it ended, the characters were manic-pixie dream girls and boys and the themes were so dull and pretentious, I bought this from a charity shop not knowing anything about it and the only reason I finished it is because it’s a quick read and I have a compulsive need to finish books haha. I’m genuinely getting annoyed thinking about it. I also mentioned the representation of disfigurement earlier, I can’t remember the specific quote but there was a disgusting comment from a character that was very anti-disfigurement. I would not recommend this book; I will be trying to forget it.

I hope you’ve been reading lots of good books recently, please let me know if you’ve read any of these and liked them! 😊 I’m currently on 91 reads this year so I now feel a compulsive need to reach 100 before 2021. I’ll see what happens because I’m lazy haha, but December is usually filled with childhood rereads. Anyway, Merry Christmas month!

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!

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 🙂

Weekly books June 22nd to June 30th

Again I am behind, I really feel like the lockdown lack of motivation has started- fair enough as it has now been four months hahaha. I hope you’re all doing well, how are other countries doing in terms of lockdown or getting back out and about?

An American Marriage- Tayari Jones (physical/audiobook, new read)

‘Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit.’ (An American Marriage synopsis. I only took part of the blurb because the full synopsis genuinely ruined the entire story haha!)

I was really interested in the premise of this book, however, whilst this was a really interesting plot and had realistic, intriguing characters, I didn’t really enjoy it. I think this was partly timing as I’ve been in such a reading slump recently and finding it hard to concentrate (I’ve been half reading around six books at a time), and partly because I tend not to like books that fast forward large periods of time. I find it hard to really engage with the characters and get to know them due to the passages of time and rarely read books with this writing style. For this reason, I listened to the second half of the book on audiobook to help my concentration (the narrators were really good!) The message of this book is extremely important and there continue to be devastatingly similar examples of racism and prejudice in the world today. I would recommend this book and I’m sure that readers who do not mind time skips will find this an incredibly engaging and moving (I was moved by the characters and storyline despite my issues with the writing style).

Favourite/meaningful quote:

Much of life is timing and circumstance, I see that now.”

But how you feel love and how you understand love are two different things

Eclipse- Stephanie Meyer (physical book/reread)

Eclipse is the third novel in the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer. It continues the story of Bella Swan and her vampire love, Edward Cullen. The novel explores Bella’s compromise between her love for Edward and her friendship with shape-shifter Jacob Black, along with her dilemma of leaving her mortality behind in a terrorized atmosphere, a result of mysterious vampire attacks in Seattle.’ (Eclipse synopsis)

When I said I was in a reading slump, I meant it. There’s something about the shockingly cheesy, ridiculous, at times boring and eye-rollingly bad Twilight series that draws me in when I’m finding it hard to focus, or when I’m feeling a bit stressed. It’s just the mixture of nostalgia, familiar (if ridiculous) characters, and the books ability to cheer me up by allowing me to laugh at Bella being ridiculous (although she deeply enrages me). I almost enjoyed this reread in a strange way, but not enough to relive it through a ‘review’. I think everybody knows what to expect and for anyone who has been spared in your childhood/teenage years, this delightful book involves an extremely whiney teenager who is obsessed with a lil 110 year old vampire, who as a couple are involved in an unnecessary love triangle with a wolf- and if you reach the exceptional conclusion in Breaking Dawn, said wolf later imprints with his ‘soulmate’ who is none other than the human/vampire combos baby.

Breaking Dawn- Stephanie Meyer (physical book/reread)

‘To be irrevocably in love with a vampire is both fantasy and nightmare woven into a dangerously heightened reality for Bella Swan. Pulled in one direction by her intense passion for Edward Cullen, and in another by her profound connection to werewolf Jacob Black, she has endured a tumultuous year of temptation, loss and strife to reach the ultimate turning point. Her imminent choice to either join the dark but seductive world of immortals or pursue a fully human life has become the thread from which the fate of two tribes hangs. Now that Bella has made her decision, a startling chain of unprecedented events is about to unfold with potentially devastating and unfathomable consequences.’ (Breaking Dawn synopsis)

There are no words. Somehow this is the book with the most interesting premise, but the one I struggle through the most.

Goodreads 50 books to read before you die (part one)

I really liked doing this challenge for amazon books and people seemed to like reading it- it was really fun looking at the comments to see how many everybody has read!- so I’ve decided to do it again, it’s always fun to see if I’m influenced to read classics or popular books 😊

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
  2. Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen

I have read this book, but as I think I mentioned before this is one of the rare occasions where I enjoyed the film more (blasphemous hahaha but I do love the film). It wasn’t my favourite classic that I’ve read which is strange because I love the sisters, however, I think it felt a bit too long with sections about side characters that I didn’t really care about. Maybe if I reread it one day I’d enjoy it a little bit more.

3. Jane Eyre- Charlotte Bronte

This is maybe my favourite classic that I’ve read, I really like the story and enjoyed Jane as a character. I’d also like to mention here that I loved ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ which is loosely based on Jane Eyre, I’d recommend it!

4. The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald

I swear there is a ghost in my house because I read half of this book in the bath, came out of the bath and it was never seen again, I have searched my entire house and this book is gone hahaha. I will get it and finish it one day.

5. Lord of the Flies- William Golding

6. Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War- Sebastian Faulks

7. 1984- George Orwell

8. The Diary of a Young Girl- Anne Frank

This book is very impactful and emotional, however, the main thing that stuck out whilst reading this was the depths of kindness, love and positivity in Anne’s writing, she was incredibly hopeful despite her horrific circumstances and this is a loving, relatable book about growing up and family.

9. Brave New World- Aldous Huxley

10. The Grapes of Wrath- John Steinbeck

11. The Picture of Dorian Grey- Oscar Wilde

I really want to read this one day, this is high on my list of books I always say I’ll get to soon!

12. Wuthering Heights- Emily Bronte

This was not a favourite of mine hahaha, I struggled through this book. I was very intrigued by the intensity of Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship and I enjoyed the concept of the story, however, it dragged a bit without any ‘goodness’ or humour to balance. Again, I’m blasphemous and a very bad reader when it comes to classics, but I’d like to see a new big-budget film based on this book, I think I’d enjoy the story far more as a film.

13. The Bell Jar- Sylvia Plath

This book was difficult to read due to the themes and heavy depression weighing it down, however, I think this is an important book to read to understand mental illness and I would recommend The Bell Jar if you are okay with heavy themes.

14. The War of the World- H.G. Wells

15. The Quiet American- Graham Greene

16. The Catcher in the Rye- J.D Salinger

I really enjoyed this book, I read it this year and found it really easy to read and interesting (a few books are coming up that I’ve already mentioned in a blog post so I’m trying not to repeat myself too much).

17. A Passage to India- E.M Forster

18. Catch-22- Joseph Helle

19. Anna Karenina- Leo Tolstoy

I listened to a fair chunk of this audiobook but then I forgot about it (and the narrators voice annoyed me haha, I can be fussy with narrators). I would like to finish the book, but it’s been long enough that I’ve forgotten everything so I’d have to start from the beginning and make sure I read this book at a time when I can really concentrate on the story.

20. Frankenstein- Mary Shelley

This is another book that I read half of before stopping, I was sad because it’s such a well-known book but I just couldn’t keep going. I have such a thing about death and corpses, dead bodies etc so the creation of the monster in this book made me feel a bit ill hahaha, I honestly couldn’t keep reading. I’ve always been like this, I can’t read or watch anything with zombies without feeling sick.

21. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time- Mark Haddon

This is an unusual and interesting book, I’ve never read a book where the narrator has ASD and I found it very insightful. I’ve read a couple of Mark Haddon’s books and enjoy his dark humour and sarcasm.

22. Life of Pi- Yann Martel

I knew very little about this book and if you haven’t yet read it I’d go into it knowing nothing if you can. This stayed with me for such a long time and I felt almost a haunted feeling after reading it, it’s a very philosophical book, particularly around religion, and I’ve never really read anything like it.

23. The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexandre Dumas

24. Heart of Darkness- Joseph Conrad

25. Rebecca- Daphne De Maurier

I really enjoyed this book, the characters are a lil bit crazy and I didn’t necessarily feel for any of them but the gothic themes make it interesting and really envelop you in the plot and time period. I remember reading a wee short story called ‘The Drowned Rose’ for English in school and looking back I’m not sure if it’s based on Rebecca because there are lots of similarities. Please let me know if you’ve read it and know anything!

I’ve read 9 of 25 books and plan to read more, I really liked this list and I think I’d recommend all of the books I’ve read 😊 Please let me know how many you’ve read and if you’d recommend any, I loved reading the comments last time. Also, I’ve been thinking about diversity in reading as I think lots of us have at this time. There are several books on this list that I haven’t heard of so I’m unsure of the diversity of authors and characters on this list- based on gender, race and sexuality- but I look critically at lists like these in thinking about how books are chosen and the opportunities authors have. If you have read most of these books please enlighten me a little bit more about the spread of diversity.

Weekly books June 15th to June 21st

White Fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism- Robin Diangelo (audiobook, new read)

‘Antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo first coined the term “white fragility” in 2011, and since then it’s been invoked by critics from Samantha Bee to Charles Blow. “White fragility” refers to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially. These include emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors including argumentation and silence. In this book, DiAngelo unpacks white fragility, explaining the underlying sociological phenomena. She’ll draw on examples from her work and scholarship, as well as from the culture at large, to address these fundamental questions: How does white fragility develop? What does it look like? How is it triggered? What can we do to move beyond white fragility and engage more constructively?’ (White Fragility synopsis)

DiAngelo eloquently explains why systemic racism still exists and addresses the microaggressions within society. Prior to reading this book, I understood that these are definitely still prominent issues within society- all around the world, whilst the book is based on America there are unfortunately still definite similarities and examples of racism in Scotland. ‘White fragility’ will, however, help me when it comes to explaining that racism still exists and discussing microaggressions- I have been sickened and saddened by the number of people who ignorantly argue that all lives matter or that racism is a thing of the past whilst choosing to remain ignorant. I now feel more able to address these issues and become actively antiracist as a result of DiAngelo’s eloquent and educational writing- that said I have lots more to learn and will continue to educate myself. DiAngelo highlights that merely by choosing not to question the structures of society, we are allowing racism to continue by maintaining structures that create a state of white fragility. White people will often avoid discussions of racism as we do not want to accept the part of white fragility, however, this stops us from listening to the voices of black people and educating ourselves to address our white privilege and change for the better. This is an incredibly important book and I would really recommend it. I do, however, feel that it’s more important to also read from the own voice perspectives of black people who experience racism rather than relying on antiracist white authors.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

“I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color. I define a white progressive as any white person who thinks he or she is not racist, or is less racist, or in the “choir,” or already “gets it.” White progressives can be the most difficult for people of color because, to the degree that we think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure that others see us as having arrived. None of our energy will go into what we need to be doing for the rest of our lives: engaging in ongoing self-awareness, continuing education, relationship building, and actual antiracist practice. White progressives do indeed uphold and perpetrate racism, but our defensiveness and certitude make it virtually impossible to explain to us how we do so.”

“I was co-leading a workshop with an African American man. A white participant said to him, “I don’t see race; I don’t see you as black.” My co-trainer’s response was, “Then how will you see racism?” He then explained to her that he was black, he was confident that she could see this, and that his race meant that he had a very different experience in life than she did. If she were ever going to understand or challenge racism, she would need to acknowledge this difference. Pretending that she did not noticed that he was black was not helpful to him in any way, as it denied his reality – indeed, it refused his reality – and kept hers insular and unchallenged.’

Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse- Rick Riordan (physical book, new read)

‘It’s the last Friday before the winter holidays but Percy Jackson isn’t at school, he’s battling the fearsome Manticore (half human, half lion), which in itself isn’t ideal …but with Annabeth missing and the goddess of the hunt held captive, things get a whole lot more serious.’ (The Titan’s Curse synopsis)

I’ve been finding it so hard to concentrate on books for the last couple of weeks, it’s maybe just because lots going on (and I’ve read so many books during lockdown haha), so I thought Percy Jackson might help with the reading slump. Even this book took me a good week to finish, but as usual I did really enjoy it. I love that each book loosely follows the format of a hero’s story, and this book focused on Hercules (which I liked because for some reason I can never remember the majority of his story). These books are such a fun, light-hearted way to learn about mythology and in a way experience childhood again even if, like me, you are reading them for the first time as an adult. I’m excited to get to the next two books and finish the series whenever my ability to concentrate hopefully reappears. 😊

Favourite/meaningful quote:

“Love conquers all,” Aphrodite promised. “Look at Helen and Paris. Did they let anything come between them?” “Didn’t they start the Trojan War and get thousands of people killed?”
“Pfft. That’s not the point. Follow your heart.”

Weekly books June 8th to June 14th

I don’t know what happened haha, but I accidentally disappeared from here. I went in to visit my new work and I’ve started looking at flats, so I think I’ve just been finding it hard to concentrate recently (on reading and everything else haha). I hope you’re all well anyway and have been reading lots of good books 😊

Don’t Call Us Dead- Danez Smith (physical book, new read)

Award-winning poet Danez Smith is a ground-breaking force, celebrated for deft lyrics, urgent subjects, and performative power. Don’t Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality – the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood – and an HIV-positive diagnosis.’ (Don’t Call Us Dead synopsis)

After thinking that I don’t necessarily like poetry, this is my second poetry book of the month. I think in the past I haven’t necessarily read poetry with themes that I’ve been particularly interested in, therefore they weren’t very powerful. This collection is, however, extremely powerful- and traumatic. The ease of the writing flow conflicts with the often-painful subject matter to create a truthful and harrowing complete story. This is an incredibly important collection that portrays themes of police brutality, racism, sexuality and HIV with great depth and power.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

‘think: once, a white girl

was kidnapped & that’s the Trojan War.

later, up the block, Troy got shot

& that was Tuesday, are we not worthy

of a city of ash? Of 1,000 ships

launched because we are missed?

i demand a war to bring the dead child back.

i at least demand a song.        a head.’

When the Adults Change Everything Changes: Seismic shifts in school behaviour- Paul Dix (physical book, new read)

‘In When the Adults Change, Everything Changes: Seismic Shifts in School Behaviour, Paul Dix upends the debate on behaviour management in schools and offers effective tips and strategies that serve to end the search for change in children and turn the focus back on the adults.’ (When the Adults Change Everything Changes synopsis)

I don’t think this will be interesting to anyone unless you work with children haha, I was in teaching mode reading this book. I would say though, this is well written, easy to read and a lot more interesting than some books on education that I’ve read/skimmed.

My favourite was of course Don’t call Us Dead. Again, I’m sorry I disappeared (not that it’s a big thing, it’s not like I am a sought-after blog with 1000000 readers hahaha, but I am thankful for everyone who does read and comment😊)