Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

Thank you to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for letting me read this ebook! Before reading, I just want to say that I can’t figure out if this is spoilery or not. It’s not fully spoilery, but I do think it would be best to first read Young Mungo with little knowledge (apart from the triggering warnings), before reading a post like this. I’m also writing this immediately after reading, so this isn’t so much about my own rating of the book, or a ‘review’ of sorts, but for now it’s more a collection of thoughts. I will say before continuing, I do think trigger warnings are very important going into this book. It will make you feel rage, distraught and helpless at times.

‘’He was Mo-Maw’s youngest son, but he was also her confidant, her lady’s maid, and her errand boy. He was her one flattering mirror, and her teenage diary, her electric blanket, her doormat. He was her best pal, the dog she hardly walked and her greatest romance. He was her cheer on a dreich morning, the only laughter in her audience’’.

‘’Her brother was her mother’s minor moon, her warmest sun, and at the exact same time, a tiny satellite that she had forgotten about. He would orbit her for an eternity, even as she, and then he, broke into bits’’.

The first thing I noticed in this story, and love, is that Douglas Stuart’s stories always have semi-autobiographical elements. I’ve never heard him speak in person, and have only listened to a couple of interviews, but I get the sense through the lens of Shuggie and Mungo that Stuart is an artistic, incredibly kind and perceptive dreamer. I love that these stories feel real because they have elements of Stuart’s character within, and because any Glaswegian can feel the stories come alive in a setting that feel so familiar. It is the innocent and dreamy qualities of both Shuggie and Mungo that make their stories so sad and poignant. Douglas’s books feel like one world, where the characters from each book could meet. The themes in Young Mungo are similar to Shuggie Bain, yet almost shifted in focus; Shuggie’s relationship with his mother is to the forefront, whilst Mungo is older and growing to focus on his sexuality. Class and the cycle of poverty continues to play a large role in this book, which I feel is highlighted particularly strongly in this quote:

‘’You know, that’s not for boys like you;’…’’You’re not cut from university cloth’’.

Cycles of poverty and class are contained by the unjust society we live in, a society where people who stigmatise and believe in their own prejudice aim to segregate those who live in poverty from a young age, pushing them into boxes. The class division in Glasgow and Scotland remain strong today, and I realise that this is something incredibly difficult to break. I am privileged in that I have never had to worry about money to this extent, and that I have grown up with a loving, nurturing family. I know that there is not much I can do as one person, but as a teacher, I aim to always work in areas of deprivation like the one I grew up and live in, and I hope to use my voice to be the nurturing figure that some children are reaching out for. It is very important not to ignore privilege, and not to imagine that hope alone can overcome these barriers, but it is equally important to teach every children that dreams and ambitions are theirs to have.

A strong theme within Young Mungo is future, and choice within constrained options; or rather, what feels less like choice but may be predetermined fate due to the social structures of this family. Choices surrounding a sense of family loyalty, the bounds that can hold us when someone we love is suffering, the impact of making these choices- or rather, lack of choice- at such a young age, and how these can limit your own sense of identity. Choices become tied up with burden. I was therefore interested in the part minor characters had to play in this story. For example, Poor-Wee-Chickie’s reflections on his past choices and the life he leads now will resonate for lots of people, but I feel particularly people living in areas like Glasgow, where prejudice still exists. I believe his reflections will also resonate with many LGBT people. My choices have been impacted by my sexuality- consciously or otherwise, growing up hearing the negative connotations of being gay. This has resulted in a hesitancy in myself and a fear of taking chances. I enjoyed the parallels between Poor-Wee-Chickie and Mungo, and his part in the story of pushing Mungo to contemplate his own future.

‘‘Poor-Wee-Chickie has been surrounded by love. Where had it all turned for him?… ‘’What should I do, Mister Calhoun?’’… ‘That’s easy son. Put yourself first for once’’.

I also love Mungo and Jodie’s relationship with Mrs Campbell. She is facing deprivation amongst other issues and strives to support these children despite barely being in a better off situation herself. I believe this strongly shows the character of Glaswegian communities. This is why I feel that is so important that Douglas is a Glasweigan writer; this first hand knowledge, and love of Glasgow allows this story to be so nuanced. Douglas knows what it’s like to live here, and really explores the different levels of deprivation within this community. This story is not a 2-dimensional account with the theme ‘Glasgow is poor’. Encounters from Mrs Campbell and James highlight that the characters in this story experience differing degrees of deprivation, but that their other experiences can still equate to an equal impact on mental health and opportunity.  And this story highlights that people in these communities will always help each other despite the burden of their own pain. In this way, I feel that Young Mungo discusses two of the most famous or infamous paradoxical impressions of Glasgow: that it is a city of violence and poverty, and that people make Glasgow.

Please let me know what you thought of this book! I’d be really intrigued to hear others opinions 🙂

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins

If you’ve read this book and loved it, I would maybe suggest reading another blog post hahaha. I wrote a blog post last week about how much I absolutely love The Hunger Games trilogy, that’s a far more positive post about one of my favourite series’. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same way at all about this book. I’ll say in advance, I tend not to like books out with the original series and often I don’t read them, for example, I hate the Fantastic Beasts films and I refuse to even read The Cursed Child, it doesn’t exist in my mind haha. It’s probably unfair for me to write about this book knowing this, however, I did find the premise intriguing, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’ll also say, I don’t think I’ll go too in depth, but this will probably spoil parts of the book if you haven’t read it yet.

I’ll start with a positive; while rereading the Hunger Games last week I was happy to note that it is consistently amazing regardless of how many times I’ve read it, and the impact it has on me never fades. If anything this book made me appreciate the Hunger Games and Katniss as a heroine even more in comparison, Katniss is an exceptional character (I won’t talk about her though, I did enough of that in my dissertation-like hunger games blog post ramble). My favourite books are character driven stories (as I’ve mentioned many times haha), and while I don’t necessarily have to like the main character, I like characters to feel complex or show development or be written in a way where I love to hate them (ASOIAF is excellent for complex characters). I didn’t really connect Snow as being the same character as in the Hunger Games and whilst I despise his character, I didn’t find him very compelling throughout this story or really feel anything at all. I feel Lucy Grey is supposed to intrigue us and balance some of Snow’s more horrible instincts to drive his character development and allow us to see a ‘softer’ side of him. Unfortunately I didn’t really connect with Lucy either as I found her character to be quite cheesy and she was not given enough time to feel like a real person, she felt like a caricature at times (these are all my own opinions, and I probably feel strongly about this book because I’m so connected to the Hunger Games). I think the songs felt forced at times and I found Lucy’s character to be a bit one dimensional and annoying. I feel that the pacing of the book caused a lot of the issues I had with it; this story is missing my favourite elements of Collin’s writing in the Hunger Games trilogy. There is a strong sense of Katniss’ personality and identity coming through her narration, and the love story elements with Peeta feel very realistic and make sense within the book’s context. The Ballad of Songbird’s and Snakes feels like an ‘insta-love’ in comparison and I found it quite jarring:

She was his girl, she had saved his life, and he had to do everything he could to save hers’. (The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, pg. 190)

The characters had only met a few times, and whilst the heightened circumstances may have developed their feelings more quickly, I just didn’t believe their ‘love’. The pace of this love story is entirely opposite to the slower development in the Hungers Games and felt very rushed. This book felt a bit vague at times, as though trying to cover too many events, yet I paradoxically felt bored. After around 200 pages I considered not reading the rest, but I feel it’s only fair that I finish a book if I’m going to discuss it or write about it. There were elements of the story that I personally didn’t like such as the circus theme and the way Dr Gaul rhymed constantly; her character just annoyed me overall, as did many. I feel that the ‘vague’ plot may reflect Snows uncertainty around his own character and future, however, it resulted in a lack of character development. I’d be interested to read a review by someone who has never read the Hunger Games, to observe how this book reads as a standalone; it may be an interesting concept, however, in knowing what Snow becomes, I felt that anything ‘decent’ that he did lost a lot of it’s meaning. This did not work (for me) as a character driven novel because I know how Snow ‘turns out’. I’ve also just realised that the Hunger Games are first person whereas this story uses a third person narrator, which may be a reason for the disconnect I felt.

On a positive note though, I did enjoy Collin’s attempts to show the moral ambiguity felt by some people who lived in the Capitol, or even some of the mentors, with discussion around the morality and purpose of the games. I also found the concept of the design of the games interesting: how the games were constructed to become an ‘entertainment’ form that appeared to alter the purpose of the games. For those who read Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes first, I think it will be very interesting (if dark and horrifying) to read about these changes and read about the modern games from the perspective of Katniss as a tribute. Overall, I think that this book would probably be more interesting if read prior to reading the Hunger Games.

Despite the overall tone and pace of this book feeling very different to the Hunger Games, some of the little phrases were very similar and I found this to be a bit jarring, for example, the consistent use of the phrase ‘rooting for you’ and ‘put as much distance as you can between you and the others’. I feel that I’m being very picky and probably wouldn’t have found this as annoying if I hadn’t just read the trilogy, however, it stuck in my head whilst reading and took me out of the story. I feel that the inclusion of the hanging tree song and the meadow song are referencing the Hunger Games in a nostalgic way, and some comments are made in an ironic nod to the reader of events to come in the Hunger Games, which many readers will love. I, however, appear to be in a moaning mood haha, and I didn’t really like these references. They felt almost like breaking the fourth wall in a way and I didn’t really like how self-aware this book was, for example, when discussing the mockingjays:

If they can, what’s one more songbird?’ She said. Coriolanus agreed they were probably harmless. (pg. 417)

Some people call them swamp potatoes, but I like Katniss better. Has a nice ring to it.’ (pg. 436)

I’d like to end on a somewhat positive note, so I’d say I liked Snow’s internal dialogue surrounding identity; it nicely parallels the identity theme I rambled on about in my Hunger Games blog post:

‘And what on earth would they do with themselves, when the challenges of obtaining food and shelter had been met? Her with no music. Him with no school, military, or anything. Have a family? It seemed to bleak an existence to condemn a child to. Any child let alone one of his own. What was there to aspire to once wealth, fame and power had been eliminated? Was the goal of survival further survival and nothing more?’ (pg. 495)

I find it interesting that Snow and Katniss’ environment, upbringing and personality result in entirely opposite perspectives of life and meaning. The woods and running away represent freedom and happiness to Katniss, whilst Snow associates this ‘freedom’ as feeling trapped and losing out on the life of structure that the capitol can offer. There is also an interesting disconnect between Snow’s experiences, emotions and the choices he makes in later life. He acknowledges the innocence of children, the terrible experience of life in the districts, he himself has experienced the sever punishment and corruption within the capitol and has been in the games himself. However, these experiences are not enough for Snow to care about those suffering, and when he is in the most powerful position rather than making a positive difference, he uses his position as president to maintain this state of oppression, inequality, cruelty and suffering (what kind of president would do that?!).  I think we are supposed to make our own decisions as to the factors that led Snow to become such a terrible man and think about the age-old debate of nature/nurture.

I’m so sorry that I was no negative towards this book, as I’ve mentioned, these are only my opinions and I am biased towards prequels. Please let me know how you felt about this book and don’t let my rambling put you off if you’re interested😊 I love how different the experience of reading is for everyone and I hope you enjoyed this book. Thank you for reading, I hope you’re well. 😊

Weekly books (April 22- April 30th)

Song of sacrifice- Janell Rhiannon (e-book, new read)

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 recently found 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.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

‘While you live, hope exists. It’s only hidden beneath your pain.’

‘The gods love to cut us with their truths. We, busy with suffering, bleed for their amusement.’

Dreamless- Josephine Angelina (physical book, reread)

A story of love, destiny and feuding families with extraordinary powers, descended from the heroes of ancient Greece, Dreamless is the second book in the heartstopping Starcrossed series by Josephine Angelini.’ (Dreamless synopsis)

This is the second book of the Starcrossed trilogy from my nostalgic binge. I still found this book interesting and fast paced, but I don’t like this as much as the first book for three main reasons: this was somehow even more cheesy and the characters became progressively angsty, characters were texting and the text language used was SO BAD hahaha, and this book decided to follow the apparently necessary trope of young adult fiction by developing a love triangle. I enjoyed the setting of the book and introduction of the character Orion (based on Aeneas) and depiction of Morpheus, however, I didn’t really like the interactions between Hades, Ares and Persephone, I’d rather that they weren’t in the book. Overall, if you’ve read Starcrossed I think this is an interesting sequel although it’s quite cheesy with the addition of overdone tropes. I tried to read the last book in the trilogy (can’t remember it’s name at this point) but stopped after 30 pages because it got too annoying, sadly I think this series went downhill (but I’d still consider it far better than Twilight).

Favourite/meaningful quote:

Remember there’s always a grain of truth in the prophecies, no matter how much poetry has been frosted on top.’

The Switch- Beth O’Leary (audiobook, new read)

Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen… So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and L Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire.

But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – local schoolteacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn’t straightforward. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?

For someone who claims not to like cheesy books (and I don’t hahaha) I end up reading at least one contemporary romance a month. I end up rolling my eyes at quite a lot of them, but Beth O’Leary is probably my favourite author of this genre. 😊 I like the subplots and characters in her books (I’ve read The Switch and The Flatshare) are quite interesting, adding more to the story than the romance element (that I would say is secondary to the plot in this book). I really liked the character Eileen and found the story interesting and I guess endearing would be the word? I liked Leena less, but her chapters were still enjoyable to read. I listened to the audiobook which I tend to do for this genre- I liked the narrators in this story and I love Yorkshire accents, so It was quite relaxing to listen to on my bike rides. I would say this plot was predictable but enjoyable. 😊

I think my favourite book this week was Song of Sacrifice. Please let me know what your favourite book you read in April was, I love talking about books. 🙂 Also, thank you so much everyone who’s been reading my ramblings and commenting, I honestly thought nobody would read this blog haha so thank you! I hope May’s a good month for you all. 🙂 Also, I’m sorry if the fact that this ‘weekly book’ thing being over a week annoys anyone else haha.

Weekly books (15th April- 21st April)

Wide Sargasso Sea- Jean Rhys (physical book, new read)

‘’Born into the oppressive, colonialist society of 1930s Jamaica, white Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent beauty and sensuality. After their marriage, however, disturbing rumours begin to circulate which poison her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is inexorably driven towards madness, and her husband into the arms of another novel’s heroine. This classic study of betrayal, a seminal work of postcolonial literature, is Jean Rhys’s brief, beautiful masterpiece.’’ (Wide Sargasso Sea synopsis)

I ordered this book a year or two ago because I loved the premise of a Jane Eyre prequel and I enjoy reading stories from different perspectives. This is a short book and is one that I enjoyed while I was reading, but for some reason I never felt like reading it again after a break. I did finish it and I think it was well written and very interesting. The writer also made me empathise with Antoinette and grow to hate Rochester, however, I sometimes felt distant from the characters which might explain my hesitancy to keep reading.  I do feel that this might be due to the writing style and a purposeful move, as Antoinette began to feel isolated and lose her sense of self which was reflected in the distance I felt whilst reading. I’m glad I finally read this (it can sometimes take years to read a book I own haha) and I’m happy that someone chose to create Antoinette’s story, however, in terms of books loosely based on Jane Eyre I preferred The Crimson Petal and the White– I sometimes feel that some of the themes in short literacy fiction books can be lost on me as my main reading aims are connecting with the characters I read about (although I don’t have to like the characters). I love the time that can be spent setting the scene and bringing the characters to life in longer stories such as The Crimson Petal and the White.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

‘You can pretend for a long time, but one day it all falls away and you are alone. We are alone in the most beautiful place in the world’

La Traverse- Bellindton Cayo (e-book, new read)

“La Traverse” is inspired by William Shakespeare’s “Venus and Adonis”. In Shakespeare’s story, the Goddess Venus was at a twist with love, while the brazen sportsman’s love for the game took some compromising turns. A dashing Adonis could not commit his time to beautiful Venus; instead, he preferred to hunt in the wild. In this separate story, it all begins with a separation between Venus and Adonis because of his premature death. After Adonis crosses unto the other side, will he adapt to the nature of the new world, or will he hold on to his past life? This story crosses many boundaries. Songs like “I Need a Spark” and “Lighter Fluid” complement Creole poem “Sous-Ivye(Winter-Spring)” and French poem “Prière Prométhéenne.’ (La Traverse synopsis).

I can’t resist a myth. I hadn’t heard of this play, but it was recommended to me on Instagram during one of my Greek mythology binges and I really enjoyed it! It’s an interesting retelling with different formats- the story is written as a play but includes poems and songs to move the story along. I enjoyed this story (although I do typically prefer books to plays) and I’d recommend it if you like mythology, particularly as it’s relatively unknown and I enjoy supporting new writers 😊. I do think I should have read up on Adonis first though, as I didn’t have clear memories of the myths surrounding this character.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

‘Persephone: Although your circumstance is a result of cause and effect, project your ideal reality from infinitely probable events simultaneously taking place.’

The Fellowship of the Ring- Tolkien (physical book/audiobook, new read)

‘Sauron, the Dark Lord, has gathered to him all the Rings of Power – the means by which he intends to rule Middle-earth. All he lacks in his plans for dominion is the One Ring – the ring that rules them all – which has fallen into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.

In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.’  (Fellowship of the Ring synopsis)

I have somehow managed to avoid reading or watching the Lord of the Rings until this month, partly accidentally and partly because they became so hyped that I was put off a little bit. I decided to finally read the first book with the aim of reading the trilogy over the next month. I enjoyed this book to begin with but over time I felt that it became a bit repetitive and it wasn’t really holding my interest. I listened to the second half of the book on audiobook but by this point I was honestly just finishing the book for the sake of it. I feel that the characters and the story don’t interest me at all for some reason, and I far prefer A song of ice and fire and Harry Potter– my two favourite fantasy series. In saying this, Tolkein’s writing is absolutely beautiful and I have to appreciate this series as it paved the way for fantasy and inspired a lot of the tropes and story in ASOIAF. I also noted a lot of the elements that inspired Harry Potter- Galdolf and Frodo discussing the quest almost exactly parallels Dumbledore/Harry and the horcruxes. It would therefore be incredibly unfair to say that this is a bad book and I recognise the importance of Tolkein’s books in influencing the fantasy genre; this is simply a story that I don’t find very engaging and I don’t think I’ll ever finish the trilogy.

Favourite/Meaningful quote:

It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.’

The Witches – Roald Dahl (physical book, reread)

‘Witches really are a detestable breed. They disguise themselves as lovely ladies, when secretly they want to squish and squelch all the wretched children they despise. Luckily one boy and his grandmother know how to recognize these vile creatures, but can they get rid of them for good?’ (The Witches synopsis)

This was the stage in the month where I went on a re-reading binge. This week I felt a little bit down at times, and I find something incredibly comforting and nostalgic about rereading books. I’m unsure how well known Roald Dahl books are outside of the UK, but I love them and they are definitely childhood favourites (I’d also love to read them to the children when I get a classroom😊). This book is incredibly funny, sarcastic and witty, and I love the relationship between the boy and his Grandmama. Roald Dahl’s books deal with dark themes in a touching and funny way, for example, loss and grief in the witches, and always offer an interesting perspective on the dynamics between adults and children. The end of this story is very bittersweet, and I loved the tone and themes throughout. I’d really recommend reading Roald Dahl and sharing the stories with any children in your life.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.”

Starcrossed- Josephine Angelina (physical book, reread)

‘When shy, awkward Helen Hamilton sees Lucas Delos for the first time she thinks two things: the first, that he is the most ridiculously beautiful boy she has seen in her life; the second, that she wants to kill him with her bare hands. With an ancient curse making them loathe one another, Lucas and Helen have to keep their distance. But sometimes love is stronger than hate, and not even the gods themselves can prevent what will happen.’ (Starcrossed synopsis)

This is an incredibly cheesy young adult book (with the worst cover I’ve seen hahaha, I hate covers with little quotes and photographs of people), but it’s also about mythology and was one of my favourite books when I first read it (I think I was about 14). Whilst that has lots of the angsty tropes of supernatural young adult, it has genuinely likeable characters- I particularly like Helen’s relationship with her Dad- and the supernatural elements incorporating mythology feel more interesting than some vampire/werewolf tropes (see my next read hahahaha). If you like young adult supernatural stories, this is one I’d recommend. I don’t think I’d like this if I read it now but it was really fun and comforting to revisit this story 😊

Favourite/meaningful quote:

‘It’s not our talents that make us safe or dangerous, it’s our choices.’ (this was the least cheesy quote to be found haha)

New moon- Stephanie Meyer (physical book, reread)

‘For Bella Swan, there is one thing more important than life itself: Edward Cullen. But being in love with a vampire is more dangerous than Bella ever could have imagined. Edward has already rescued Bella from the clutches of an evil vampire but now, as their daring relationship threatens all that is near and dear to them, they realise their troubles may just be beginning’ (New Moon synopsis)

Here we go. I probably reread twilight every couple of years when I’m a bit stressed or want a comforting, nostalgic read. I have a very complicated relationship with this series- I appreciate the memories from my preteen obsession days and the fun of discussing twilight theories with friends for hours a day, but I simultaneously cannot read these books without laughing at and making fun of every single aspect. Bella is exceptionally dramatic (and so mean to Charlie), and the way her relationship/obsession with Edward is depicted is incredibly unhealthy, particularly in New Moon. Edward is borderline abusive, Jacob becomes a manipulative psychopath by Eclipse (and that’s before he imprints on the new born baby), and majority of the characters are there simply to look at though there is some form of substance- Bella does not even like or speak to her ‘friends’ and I’m always very confused by their continued friendship with someone who puts in no effort. I also wonder about Bella’s life before Forks- she seems to have absolutely no friends, interests or idea of a future- I’m definitely not saying teenagers know what they want to do (I still barely know and I’m 24 hahahah) but it’s incredibly strange that she has no passions at all or considerations for a possible future.

I think Meyer can write well and I feel (my theory/opinion only) that she may have been trying to write in the style of Victorian novels such as Wuthering heights and Jane Eyre, therefore resulting in the ‘dramatic’, old fashioned characterisation- these characters resemble those of a different time period and the story would appear to fit in better in the Victorian age. I don’t, however, feel that this necessarily comes across or translates well- instead it makes the book feel very dramatic and makes Bella feel dramatic and a bit one dimensional. I don’t know why I went in such a rant hahaha, but this series brings it out in me. That said, I did enjoy reading this to break up some of the heavier new books that I’ve read recently (A little life and Wolf Hall particularly) and I might read Eclipse next month at some point.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

‘life, love, meaning… over’ (I think this sums up the problems with this book).

Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars, points of light and reason. …And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty. When you were gone, when the meteor had fallen over the horizon, everything went black. Nothing had changed, but my eyes were blinded by the light. I couldn’t see the stars anymore. And there was no more reason, for anything.’

(I wanted to put this in to be fair to Meyer, because she can write quite beautifully sometimes, it’s just all a bit dramatic and ridiculous)

Thank you so much for reading this, please let me know if you’ve read any of these 🙂 also please feel free to rant with me about Twilight, it’s honestly so fun

Weekly books- April 8th to 14th

Girl, Woman, Other-  Bernardine Evaristo (physical book, new read)

‘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.’

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’

Good Omens- Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett (audiobook, new read)

What if, for once, the predictions are right, and the Apocalypse really is due to arrive next Saturday, just after tea?

It’s a predicament that Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a fast-living demon, now find themselves in. They’ve been living amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and, truth be told, have grown rather fond of the lifestyle and, in all honesty, are not actually looking forward to the coming Apocalypse.

Now people have been predicting the end of the world almost from its very beginning, so it’s only natural to be sceptical when a new date is set for Judgement Day.

You could spend the time left drowning your sorrows, giving away all your possessions in preparation for the rapture, or laughing it off as (hopefully) just another hoax. Or you could just try to do something about it.

And then there’s the small matter that someone appears to have misplaced the Antichrist . . ‘

I do like a story with sarcasm/black humour- especially because I read lots of heavy stories with sad themes or dark characters. I wouldn’t say I naturally gravitate towards ‘funny’ books, but I do enjoy reading a book like Good Omens every once in a while. 😊 I enjoyed this book and found it to be funny with a good pace and balance of humour throughout- I also appreciated Crowley’s admiration of Queen and Bohemian Rhapsody. I listened to this audiobook which I think worked well for this book- although half with through I did lose the thread a little bit, sometimes an issue with audiobooks is my attention can drift. Overall, I don’t have too much to say, but I’d recommend this book if it sounds like something you’d like, and I’m excited to watch the tv programme at some point (I think this might be a rare occasion where the show is just as good/better than the book).

Favourite/meaningful quote:

Most books on witchcraft will tell you that witches work naked. This is because most books on witchcraft are written by men.’

Thank you for reading, please let me know if you’ve read either of these books 🙂

Books I read in March

Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel (physical book, new read)

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk, and later his successor.

Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion, suffering and courage.’

In March I began to see this book everywhere, and with an interest in the time period and Tudors I decided to try it- I was panic buying books in Waterstones on my last day out with the idea that lockdown was soon impending. I never purposefully read books based on book prizes such as the man booker, but I watch lots of book videos on youtube and the interesting ones tend to come up a lot until I become curious. I enjoyed this book and the atmosphere, particularly the later sections when Cromwell had more interactions with Anne and Mary, however, it felt too long when I was reading it and at times I lost the thread a little bit. In the past I’ve read about the tudors through the Alison Weir series The Six Tudor Queens and I love these books, but I feel that it would have been beneficial to know more about the time period and Thomas Cromwell before reading this book. This is something I could have researched as I read the book, but as I grew closer to the end I wanted to finish the book. I didn’t feel very connected to Cromwell due to the writing style, and I think I’m more interested in continuing to learn about the six queens. I don’t think I’ll read the rest of the trilogy, but I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the Tudors. P.s I feel like this is a good time to mention that I’m obsessed with a song if ice and fire and always looking at parallels haha, I was interested in the Littlefinger/Cromwell parallels that I noticed 🙂

Favourite/meaningful quote:

I was always desired. But now i am valued. And that is a different thing, i find.’

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara (physical book, new read)

I wrote a whole review/rant about this haha so please go there if you’re interested in my rambling.

Lovely War – Julie Berry (physical book, new read)

‘Thirty years after four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.’

I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about it because I love everything to do with Greek mythology and I was interested in the narration. This book felt lighter and cheesier than I expected it to be- although I didn’t know going into it that it was young adult so that’s maybe why- and I didn’t feel strongly connected to the characters, although I liked the secondary love story more so than the main one. I enjoyed the story and the elements of music throughout, but I don’t think it will stick with me and it wasn’t a favourite. The narration style was very cheesy but interesting, the Gods and Goddesses reminded me a bit of the humorous depictions such as in Good Omens and Supernatural. I’d maybe recommend this for people who enjoy young adult historical fiction, but I prefer othr young adult books when depicting mythology.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

If music stops, and art ceases, and beauty fades, what have we then?

Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman (physical book, new read)

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.’

This is the first book I’ve read about Norse mythology and I really enjoyed it! This was a good book to start with as it was very easy to read and although I don’t typically like short stories I found the characters and stories interesting- although I need to get used to the names as I doubt I can pronounce any. Being Scottish, I enjoyed learning about Norse mythology as it is probably the mythology most closely related to Scotland- I know they are fictional myths hahaha, I’m very bad at explaining what I mean- and I enjoyed reading about the gruelling hardships faced by the Gods that are very different to Greek and Roman mythology (although Greek is still my favourite). I’m not intrigued to read more about Norse mythology so if you have any recommendations please let me know! 🙂 In terms of ASOIAF parallels, I love the elements of Odin/Ragnarok/symbolism/prophecy that GRRM has been influenced by when writing about the wall/Bran/the three eyed raven/Jon. I’m definitely going to read more about the parallels and influence, these are the things I do at 2am.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

‘The Norse myths are the myths of a chilly place, with long, long winter nights and endless summer days, myths of a people who did not entirely trust or even like their gods, although they respected and feared them.’

A spot of bother – Mark Haddon (physical book/new read)

At fifty-seven, George is settling down to a comfortable retirement, building a shed in his garden, reading historical novels, listening to a bit of light jazz. Then Katie, his tempestuous daughter, announces that she is getting remarried, to Ray.

The family is not pleased, as her brother Jamie observes, Ray has ‘strangler’s hands’. Katie can’t decide if she loves Ray, or loves the way he cares for her son Jacob, and her mother Jean is a bit put out by the way the wedding planning gets in the way of her affair with one of her husband’s former colleagues. And the tidy and pleasant life Jamie has created crumbles when he fails to invite his lover, Tony, to the dreaded nuptials.

Unnoticed in the uproar, George discovers a sinister lesion on his hip, and quietly begins to lose his mind.

I’m still addicted to buying new books but for the most part I am reading a very random collection of books with the aim of no longer owning at least 50 unread books. I read this book with no real expectations as I knew little about the plot and vaguely remember buying it from a charity shop a long time ago. I really enjoyed this book! I love black humour and sarcasm, and the spiralling turn of events that make the world seem a little bit like an apocalypse really relate to the current state of the world (I will say here, I am taking what’s happening very seriously and understand the severity and tragedy behind it, but on things like social media I try to keep things as normal and light at possible because I think a little bit of humour and joy is helping everyone). I really liked the main character in the story and enjoyed the spiralling of events and pace of the book. I’d recommend if you enjoy sarcastic humour and stories about family 🙂

Favourite/meaningful quote:

The secret of contentment lay in ignoring many things completely.’

The Wouldbegoods – E. Nesbit (audiobook, new read)

‘Sent away to the country after a particularly unruly episode, the well-meaning but wayward Bastable children solemnly vow to reform their behavior. But their grand schemes for great and virtuous deeds lead to just as much mayhem as their ordinary games, and sometimes more.’

I decided to listen to this audiobook in my quest to read the books I’ve owned for a, long long time. I didn’t have a great interest in this book and it hasn’t really stuck with me. I also found some parts to be stereotypical or sexist, I think maybe because this book was written in 1899. I wouldn’t recommend this to children for these reasons, however, I’ll always keep this book and appreciate it due to the sentimental value of being given it by my dad as a wee girl.

When God was a Rabbit – Sarah Winman (audiobook, new read)

When God Was a Rabbit is the story of a memorable young heroine, Elly, and her loss of innocence; a magical portrait of the pull and power of family ties, of loss and life. From Essex and Cornwall to the streets of New York, from 1968 to the events of 9/11, When God Was a Rabbit follows the evolving bond of love and secrets between Elly and her brother, Joe, and her increasing concern for her best friend, Jenny Penny, who has secrets of her own. Funny, quirky, utterly compelling, and poignant, too, When God Was a Rabbit heralds the start of a remarkable new literary career.

Another book I found at a charity shop a good few years ago, I enjoyed this book and the flow of it and I liked learning more about the characters lives over time, however, this was another book I didn’t really connect with or care deeply about. I like to get extremely invested in a story and it’s characters (I think this is why I love long, character driven stories) so it can feel a bit sad when this doesn’t happen. I will say though, I don’t know if this was due to reading this at a time when I wasn’t really in the mood for it, or listening to the audiobook instead of reading it. I’m not normally so fussy with books but March seemed to be a month where I didn’t find anything I really loved, and maybe this is why I’m often drawn to rereading old books instead of reading new ones. I think this is also because I’ve been trying to read a lot of the books I own already, so I bought them long ago.

Favourite/meaningful quote:

Memories no matter how small or inconsequential are the pages that define us.’

Our Stop – Laura Jane Williams (audiobook, new read)

Nadia gets the 7.30 train every morning without fail. Well, except if she oversleeps or wakes up at her friend Emma’s after too much wine. Daniel really does get the 7.30 train every morning, which is easy because he hasn’t been able to sleep properly since his dad died.One morning, Nadia’s eye catches sight of a post in the daily paper:

To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime?

So begins a not-quite-romance of near-misses, true love, and the power of the written word.

I don’t know why I read romance contemporaries because I always end up moaning that I don’t like cheesy books haha- but I do like to have a nice balance, and funny easy to read cheesy books were DEFINITELY needed after A Little Life. This was particularly cheesy and a lil unrealistic even for the genre but I did enjoy listening to it despite this. There were times where the characters would discuss feminism or gender, but these seemed quote random and I felt a little bit like they were in the book just to add depth when they didn’t really seem to fit in. Not a favourite, but still fun to read. I would recommend Beth O’Leary’s books for this genre 🙂

March Favourite

Norse mythology was probably my favourite book in March 🙂 Thank you anyone who has read to this point, I do ramble haha. Please recommend any books you think I might like and let me know if you’ve read any of these

A little life by Hanya Yanagihara

I read A Little Life this March going into it with absolutely no knowledge about it apart from hearing that it is deeply moving/sad. I didn’t mind this fact and I was actually a bit intrigued because of this, I love books that can make me feel emotional or sad as well as long character driven stories (however, this is not a positive ‘review’ and reading this book was not a good experience). I enjoy watching youtube videos where people talk about adult fiction that they’ve read and enjoyed, and this came up so often that it stuck in my head and intrigued me.

A Little Life follows four college classmates- broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition- as they move to New York in search of fame and fortune. While their relationships, which are tinged by addiction, success and pride, deepen over the decades, the men are held together by their devotion to the brilliant, enigmatic Jude, a man scarred by an unspeakable childhood trauma. A hymn to brotherly bonds and a masterful depiction of love in the twenty-first century, Hanya Yanagihara’s stunning novel is about the families we are born into, and those that we make for ourselves‘.

I read this book over around a month and spent a long time digesting it. For the first half or so I enjoyed the pace of the book and getting to know the characters, who I found (and still find) to be very likeable. However, about half way through the book I realised that I was finding it to be exploitative (these are all my personal opinions, I’m not saying I am right). As I didn’t know the ending at this point and therefore the themes or resolution to come I withheld some judgement, however, since finishing it I can maintain that I held these views and some of the issues became more horrifying or worse. I also researched the author, as I think it would be unfair to say anything negative without knowing her own experiences and reasons for choosing to write this book- I found that she has not experienced any of these issues and has faced lots of controversy on the basis of this book. I wrote some of my thoughts while I was halfway through the book:

I’m finding this to be a bit exploitative and have a lot of problems so far with the way in which this book portrays so much horror and negativity in a way that leaves me questioning the ‘purpose’ behind it. I will say here I know nothing about this authors life and I retract a lot of what I’m thinking if they’ve experienced any of these issues, I’ll research it after finishing the book). Focusing purely on trauma, I’ve worked with a number of children who have experienced trauma, neglect and abuse. I can see elements of realistic portrayals of the ways in which some of these children test people and react to situations throughout their lives, however, I don’t understand the purpose of such a negative account of trauma. At this point, it appears as though rather than portraying the emotions and needs of some traumatised individuals, this has become a story that aims to shock and upset. I have read and enjoyed many stories that are realistic, dark or not necessarily happy- I love reading moving books and frequently gravitate towards books with themes of grief or mental illness- but I feel that these stories bring a ‘message’, educate people or are written in a truthful way to create unity or acceptance that people aren’t alone. I can’t speak for those who have experienced trauma (this is very important, I’d love to see perspectives and reviews of this book from individuals who’ve experienced these issues as they are much more valid), but I have witnessed the volume of what could be called exploitation within media, texts- programmes, books and films- that negatively portray those who experience trauma, mental illness or do not have a family. Stereotypes are used, these children and young people are labelled ‘damaged’ or ‘problematic’, ‘challenging’, and I have seen very little that discusses resilience, the strength of these individuals, the instances where traumatised children lead ‘typical’ lives- I also feel that a number of texts including this one write characters who are passively living through an almost fixed or predetermined situation, without the ability to make choices or decide the life that they would like to live. This book does not negatively portray a traumatised person, but does nothing to balance the horrors experienced or create elements of hope. Again, it’s important to note that I don’t think books have to be positive, but I do feel that we have to think about the response of some readers who frequently encounter negative accounts of their experiences- it is incredibly difficult to come through trauma, and negative stereotypes making up the vast majority of texts are not supportive of the strength and resilience required. I feel lucky that I have a number of well rounded books to comfort or make me feel emotional and that I can relate to, however, had I experienced trauma and felt a desire to find a character who related to this aspect of my life without alienating me, I think I would struggle to do so. I think it is necessary to think about whether a book has been written purely to exploit and ‘move’ the readers.

Again, I would like to emphasise that these are only my opinions and I would love to here the perspective from any one who has experienced any of these themes within this book. I’m not always the best at articulating my thoughts, so I hope what I mean has come across. I’ve been trying to think of some positive accounts of trauma and looked after children within texts- one of the children I worked with loved Tracy Beaker, and I think Jacqueline Wilson books handle different life experiences very well. I also think Harry Potter and Lilo and Stitch are positive accounts for children. It is harder to think of adult fiction, so please let me know if you’ve read any. Books like Girl, Women, Other have been brought to my mind as this book offers a very well rounded perspective of a number of lifestyles and experiences.

I would say A Little Life has a very good flow and it written in a way that reads quickly and easily (although some scenes are incredibly difficult to read), and I loved the characters. Without the issues I’ve outlined I feel I would have loved this book because of the powerful characters.

Favourite quote/meaningful quote:

Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified.’