Books I read in July 2021

This is posted so last minute, mainly because this month I found out that I’ll be working from home for a year which is always something I’ve said I would absolutely hate hahaha. So, I took a while to process, but now trying to make the most of it and be thankful in a time where so many are struggling for work. In book related news, I remembered that libraries are a thing and once again opened, and I got so many good books to read! Honestly such a good resource, good for the planet and also a much-needed money saver, I love libraries! Also, looking at the list there are probably a few trigger warnings for most of the books I read, so please look them up before reading these books!

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (physical book, new read)

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

I always love reading new Scottish literature and I don’t shy away from harsh realities or bittersweet stories: I love Irvine Welsh’s writing for example. This story was so poignant and moving, made more impactful by the fact that I’ve been to most of the places. Whilst I’m lucky enough never to have lived in poverty, I recognise some of the elements of this Glaswegian lifestyle even in some of my older family members, as well as direct parallels to the lives of some of the children I have worked with. My favourite stories have themes of family, love, loss and grief and it felt so important to read a Glaswegian book with these themes. Whilst I’m extremely lucky never to have experienced the poverty so many Scottish people face, I related to Shuggies unconditional love of his family after losing my dad at a young age, and the impact of mental health, grief and love on family dynamics. I also enjoyed the interlinking LGBT themes and like to think that Shuggie will live a true and fulfilling life as his story continues. Such a poignant Scottish story!

Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow by Banana Yoshimoto (physical books, new read)

‘’Kitchen juxtaposes two tales about mothers, transsexuality, bereavement, kitchens, love and tragedy in contemporary Japan. It is a startlingly original first work by Japan’s brightest young literary star and is now a cult film. When Kitchen was first published in Japan in 1987 it won two of Japan’s most prestigious literary prizes, climbed its way to the top of the bestseller lists, then remained there for over a year and sold millions of copies. Banana Yoshimoto was hailed as a young writer of great talent and great passion whose work has quickly earned a place among the best of modern literature, and has been described as ‘the voice of young Japan’ by the Independent on Sunday.’’ (Kitchen synopsis)

I love Japanese literature so much, honestly can’t even explain what it is about it but it’s so dreamy yet so focused on almost mundane details. This book focuses on themes that I’ve found to be key in the Japanese stories I’ve read- grief and relationships, but whether it’s the writing, translation or philosophies surrounding these books, such common themes just feel so different, magical and new compared to a number of British or American books I’ve read. This book is quite sensory as we follow the main character around at their daily pace, for example, hearing her slow thoughts on the weather, things she’s eating, furniture she sees, but I never felt bored because I felt immersed in her story and surroundings. I don’t think some of the terms used to describe the transgender character are now appropriate at this time, but I loved the interactions between the characters and ways in which the themes were explored.

As this book is so short, it featured another novella at the end called Moonlight Shadow, which again focuses on themes of grief. I actually think I preferred this story. I loved how dreamlike it was and the characters written- it almost felt like the episode of Black Mirror called ‘Be Right Back’ which I also loved. Sadly, I read it a while ago now and can’t remember more (need to stop being so lazy with blog posts haha) but I usually hate novellas and short stories, so the fact that I loved this so much sums up how I feel about Yoshimoto’s writing. I’d love to read more from her, if you have please recommend any of her books that you like! 😊

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (physical book, new read)

‘’It is July 1962. Edward and Florence, young innocents married that morning, arrive at a hotel on the Dorset coast. At dinner in their rooms they struggle to suppress their private fears of the wedding night to come…’’ (On Chesil Beach synopsis)

Before I start, since reading this I’m sure I’ve heard something about Ian McEwan having a transphobic past? I’m not sure what happened, but it’s definitely not something I condone or want to align myself with. As with so many others, this will sadly have to be a case of separating the art from the artist. I think I’ve read three of his books now and enjoy the themes of morality/ethical questions, and the way that these are weaved throughout the story we’re learning so that we reach the end of each book contemplating our own stances and opinions. With sex and sexuality as a key theme of this story, I’ve read reviews where it has brought up interesting discussions and reflections surrounding asexuality; some readers believe that the main character is asexual, some believe that past trauma has instead impacted her reactions, and others discuss the point that for some (not all, of course!) a person can experience trauma and be asexual. Trauma and asexuality definitely don’t have to be linked, and this link can be very damaging for what is already a very misunderstood sexuality. I’m finding it hard to really vocalise what I mean here; I think what I’m trying to say is that unfortunately lots of people who dismiss other sexualities than their own often reject asexuality (or being gay) as a real sexuality and assume that it is a ‘choice or response’ as a result of trauma. I think this results in these sexualities being dismissed or diminished, and I also think that it can make it difficult for asexual people who’ve experienced trauma to discuss their trauma without fear that ignorant people will state that this ‘explains’ their sexuality. Asexuality is real and valid, and definitely not a ‘problem’ or ‘trauma response’.

Anyway, I really hope I articulated what I meant to say properly there, I did not mean to ramble but I like books that make me think and that evoke strong discussions. Other than that, however, I found this book quite boring and didn’t really connect to/like the characters. I’m honestly starting to think I should avoid books set in this time period haha because I always seem to be complaining! I would like to see the film though, I love Saoirse Ronan as an actress and feel like she would bring the character to life 😊

The Returnees by Elizabeth Okoh (physical book, new read)

‘’After a bad break up, 25-year-old Osayuki Isahosa leaves behind everything she holds dear in London to return to Lagos, Nigeria: a country she hasn’t set foot in for many years. Drawn by the transformations happening in the fashion industry in the city, she accepts a job at House of Martha as their Head of PR. While waiting at Milan airport for her connecting flight to Lagos she meets Cynthia Okoye and Kian Bajo. After the plane lands at the Lagos airport, they all go their separate ways but their lives will intertwine again and change the course of their lives forever.’’ (The returnees synopsis)

This book was very fast paced with fairly likeable characters, so for this reason is was a quick and easy read. Unfortunately, though I got bored quite quickly and felt like the story lacked something. I can’t tell if this is YA or pitched at adults, maybe that’s why I felt this way (although, some YA books are incredibly detailed and interesting). I really enjoyed learning more about different parts of Nigeria and Nigerian culture, something I knew very little about before. I think, however, what frustrated was really interesting elements were touched upon but never given depth or detail; for example, the characters mention the stereotypes they perceived about Nigeria before living there, and the ways in which people of colour can experience negative perceptions or isolation on returning to their birth country after moving and being perceived as being ‘Westernised’. I’d love to have read a book focusing on these issues, however, a lot of the story instead focused on some elements that I never really like such an insta love, relationships that feel co-dependent and some twists that were not very surprising. I’m sure lots of people loved this book and enjoyed the main themes but sadly I am always very critical of insta-love tropes, maybe because I am a cat lady hahaha. If you have read any books focusing on the elements that I did find interesting, please let me know! 😊

Georgia Nicholson books 1 and 2 by Louise Rennison (e-books, reread)

‘’Brilliantly funny, teenage angst author Louise Rennison’s first book about the confessions of crazy but lovable Georgia Nicolson. Now repackaged in a gorgeous new paperback and looking even fabber than ever. Louise is an international bestselling author and her books can’t fail to make you laugh out loud. Follow Georgia’s hilarious antics as she tries to overcome the dilemma’s that are weighing up against her, and muddle her way through teenage life and all that it entails: how to replace accidentally shaved-off eyebrows; how to cope with Angus, her small labrador-sized Scottish wildcat; her first kiss with Peter – afterwards known as Whelk Boy; annoying teachers; unsympathetic friends and family, and how to entice Robbie the Sex God! Phew – she’s really got her work cut out!’’ (Angus, thongs synopsis)

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again- sign of my impending breakdown: childhood books hahaha. These, like many others of the time have not aged well, but I love the nostalgia and the way these books bring me back to some of the funny times me and my friends had in our early teen years (although I was very shy and awkward, my diary would not have made a good book series!). I read these through the kindle app, and if you haven’t I’d honestly recommend reading some of the silliest books on public transport through the inconspicuous comfort of your phone haha (this is how I got away with reading 50 shades in public when I was about 15).

I always leave these blogs too long and think I’ll have no thoughts then I end up absolutely rambling hahaha. I think my favourites this month were Kitchen/Moonlight Shadow and Shuggie Bain. I hope you’re well, please let me know what you’ve been reading or what you’d recommend- I genuinely love reading comments and learning about more books haha. Also, if you do comment, I’d be interested to know where you live (in a non-creepy way, more of a how far across the world are those of you I’m talking to hahaha).

Sexuality (Part two I guess haha)

So last July (I think), I wrote a rambling stream of consciousness thing about sexuality and starting to come out as a lesbian (pls see that if you’re interested in the rambling). As of today, I’ve come out to my mum and sister and most of my friends. Everyone has been so incredibly nice (again see last post where I talk about my mum and sister) and I’m so thankful for the reaction.

I guess the main reason for writing this is almost like my own wee diary to look back on and reflect on the progress. It might not naturally seem like it to some, but I think coming out is a moment to be proud of, it’s an incredibly hard scary thing to do, and as an anxious person, it’s something I’ve at times believed I’d never manage. As well as reflecting on my own sense of achievement I guess, I’m maybe writing this update to readers of the last post and any LGBT+ people out there; I feel an overwhelming sense of relief and almost weightlessness, freedom, and I really think it’s important to hear of other’s positive stories and reactions.

I think with having anxiety I tend to catastrophise (although I’m simultaneously an incredibly chilled out person, so it’s a very unusual mix haha), and this is one of the main reasons I struggled to come out. I mentioned my perceived worries in telling friends in the last blog- friends potentially feeling uncomfortable or assuming that I like them etc, but my friends were ridiculously kind. Yesterday we went for covid walk 1817364783 and I mentally prepared myself to finally tell them, revealing the big build up that has led to the brink of many a panic attack. I should also mention that I was also contemplating jumping in the loch and swimming away from my problems hahaha. However, after giving myself time to reflect more on my identity, and some of my family knowing, I knew that yesterday was the time. It felt almost like a gut reaction that now was the time to come out, and regardless of any potential negative reactions that I may have received, I knew that I’m at a place where not talking about and being myself is worse. I mention this because I know how hard it is, and I do not feel that you should have to come out if you are not ready (or ever come out). I believe you need time to yourself and you will know when it’s right. Once you know, and once you come out, you will feel a sense of freedom, a sense of relief. But you will also feel a sense of, not being underwhelmed that’s the wrong word, but normality, continuation. I spent so long catastrophising that the reactions of my friends were so incredibly minor, so incredibly ‘normal’ that I almost couldn’t process it for a wee while hahaha. I don’t mean to say that coming out cannot be scary and I understand that people unfortunately experience reactions far less positive than mine, and I appreciate how lucky I am. However, what I’m really trying to say here is that if you are similar to me, please know that the stress and panic you are putting on yourself is likely causing far more anxiety than coming out as yourself.

This leads me on to internalised homophobia, something I’ve been reflecting on over these months. I’ve naturally gravitated to books and videos that discuss this and reflect on the self-inflicted struggle that LGBT+ people can experience due to the homophobia in the world. One definition I found is: ‘internalised homophobia is both a conscious and an unconscious reaction to external negative attitudes toward people within a sexual orientation minority.’ This may appear to make little sense to people out with LGBT+ communities, however, the homophobia that is in the world can filter into your brain, especially when you are contemplating coming out, and can be difficult to overcome . This can lead to a lack of self-acceptance. I have always been incredibly accepting of others and I’m proud to say that I try to be as non-judgemental as possible, however, I am often very hard on myself and factors like homophobia that I have witnessed (towards others or through media) has affected my self-esteem and self-image. This has in turn led to the catastrophising of coming out and being open about my sexuality. I’m also a very shy person in general and do not really like to talk about myself- although that’s all I’m doing here hahaha- so knowing that being LGBT+ still draws lots of attention and opinions from some is a little bit stressful to me. However, I have reflected that I managed to convince myself that I would not be accepted, something that is my own doing and which does not reflect the caring nature of my family and friends. Ps. When I say my own doing, I really mean the doing of those in society who are unfortunately homophobic and who create this sense of discomfort and a lack of safety.

The relief and happiness I feel today are not to say that I will never struggle with my sexuality again; I know that I will still find it hard, for example, to tell colleagues over the years and there are definitely some members of my own family that I am still very unsure about telling. These family members *cough* grans *cough* are good people and love me very much, however, have made openly homophobic comments about people on tv etc without being aware of my sexuality (which has actually been quite funny and had a strong sense of dramatic irony). I am not necessarily upset on my own behalf, but upset that homophobia continues to exist, and sad that people believe that their comments on social justice issues that don’t affect them are more important than the extreme sense of anxiety and guilt they can cause for the people taking in these comments (I also refer here to sexism and racism, although this is not an area which I have the right to discuss, being white and very privileged). I hope that the more people that come out, who look after each other and who treat each other with kindness (everyone, not just LGBT people), the easier and kinder the world will be. Who knows what will happen next, what will happen with the people I’ve yet to tell, will I look into counselling for anxiety/internalised homophobia (maybe I’ll write a part 3 hahaha), but I feel free and I feel happy just now.

I haven’t planned any of this (evidently hahah) or read over what I’ve written, but the points I want to get across are really that I know how incredibly difficult it can be to be LGBT+ whether you have experienced homophobia  directly or have experienced anxiety due to indirect or unconscious experiences of homophobia. I know how hard people can be on themselves, how much some people are struggling just now. I really wanted to acknowledge these things in this post, and recognise the strength that LGBT+ people have and the hope that things will continue to get better. I want to express that you do not have to come out, but if/when you’re ready you will feel free and you will lose such a sense of the burden that you have been carrying. I wanted to share this positive story because I know there is lots of negativity out there, and I wanted to create a tiny lil space where people can talk to each other (if you want), or just read anonymously and hopefully feel a small sense of comfort. Sorry for the rambles if this makes no sense hahaha.

I truly mean it when I say I am here to speak to anyone who feels like they need someone, if you would like to, please comment here or feel free to message me on Instagram (carlybooksandmusic).

Also, please write your own positive LGBT+ experiences in the comments! They are so helpful! Thank you so much for reading, I hope you’re happy and doing well 😊

Books I read in October

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

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

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

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

Favourite/meaningful quote:

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

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

Meat Market- Juno Dawson (new read, audiobook)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September books (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 🙂

Sexuality

As a warning, this is probably more a stream of consciousness than anything else haha. I’d also like to make a little disclaimer here- I sometimes feel a bit selfish or self-involved whilst writing because there’s no conversation between people (apart from when you comment, thank you because I love reading comments!) so I have to use the word ‘I’ a lot which feels self-indulgent. I know this is kind of the point of a blog post haha but just know that I’m aware of it! This is also just a place to ramble, I am incredibly lucky to been safe and happy with a home, friends and family and there are so many larger issues going on. Lastly, I don’t represent everyone in the LGBTQIA community. That said, I would like to use this post to ramble about my sexuality.

Whilst I have always known that I have no interest in guys, I have also always been very aware of the prejudice, stigma and discrimination that can come with being labelled as gay or a lesbian. Whilst actively doing what I can to support LGBT causes, I have been very hesitant to come out as a lesbian. I have, however, now told my Mum and sister. I have social (and maybe general) anxiety which is maybe not always evident by looking at me- I often get told that I look incredibly laid back or relaxed which I always find amusing as I’m running through a million thoughts in my mind. In general, I am a laidback and chilled out person which makes for a very strange contrast to my simultaneously anxious ways. This anxiety is a combination of lots of things, from my introverted personality to losing my Dad as a child, and I feel like sexuality or relationships in general have contributed a lot to it. It can be very stressful discovering who you are when being gay still creates such an emotive response in society; I have accepted who I am and I would have been able to do this and meet people a lot earlier if it hadn’t been for the prejudice that exists (not by everyone, many people are amazing). In general, society assumes that being straight is the norm. This in itself is not necessarily a problem, however, society (generalising) also condemn people who do not ‘come out’ as lying or concealing their sexuality. In order to live a truthful, fulfilling life that may include having a relationship, LGBT people therefore have to come out, resulting in sexuality (I’m focusing more on sexuality than gender in this ramble) becoming a big revelation. This would maybe be okay if people were accepting; many are, however, there are still significant numbers of people who are homophobic. Therefore, if you are gay or bi, you are either ‘lying’ and hiding something, or you are vocal about your sexuality and therefore face prejudice (from some). This is a very, very difficult situation and has definitely contributed to my anxiety. I have spent most of my life single- in part, I have been very happy with this, I enjoy solitude and the freedom that comes with this. However, there are times- particularly when I think about the future (society also make you feel old by 24 hahaha)- that I feel lonely. I have been able to rid (supress) some of my anxiety in the past by ignoring my sexuality, however, if I do this for long enough I have become depressed. We therefore must do something about the world we live in where people experience anxiety for being themselves, or depression that comes from repressing your sexuality. Thank you so much everyone who is already taking steps to do this and support LGBT rights. My Mum and sister have been incredibly kind and supportive and have been upset only by the fact that they have seen how ill I have made myself in worrying about what to say and what people will think. However, I am still incredibly nervous to tell others and potentially experience prejudice or negative assumptions. There are also a number of men who genuinely believe that some more feminine girls lie about their sexuality to attract male attention, or who sexualise lesbian or bi girls (again, I am not referring to all men, I have so much respect for most people).

I don’t know where I’m going with this post but in a way it’s allowing me the chance to think about and vocalise some things that I have maybe suppressed. I think one of the things people are usually curious to know is when somebody ‘decided’ to be gay or realised- if I really took the time to think about my sexuality, I probably could have come out at any age. I have a specific memory of being around 6 and my friend talking about marrying a man and having children. Even then, I replied that I want children but don’t want to be married. The first time a guy kissed me I was in panic attack mode for around two days- this was the type of guy who, if I was straight I would have been attracted to. The fact that I felt nothing/anxiety when he kissed me signalled that I would not be able to lie to myself and I found this extremely stressful. I have never wanted a relationship with a man and have thought about it only in the past as a resolution to being forever alone- there were times when I considered pretending to be straight almost to make life easier. However, ultimately, I knew that I would become ill with anxiety and more importantly I could not lie to another person. I would be negatively affecting someone else’s life if I did this and I could not allow myself to do this. This would be incredibly unfair.

 Now that I feel free to admit that I’m not attracted to guys, I have space to think about my feelings. I have liked guys on a surface level before (because I put lots of effort into making myself hahaha, what a disaster) and I still blush or get nervous if an extremely attractive guy talks to me, however, this is the furthest my attraction goes, I have never wanted to be in a relationship with a guy. Interestingly, guys that I have dated in the past are bi or now have boyfriends- I feel like we both instantly felt safer and more relaxed with each other because we knew we were not straight hahaha (this post is probably quite something for a Fredian psychologist). Ironically, I feel like after I come out to everyone, I will be able to have stronger relationships with males. I’ve never really felt very close to guys, and having no brothers, I wish I had close male friends. However, I have always been concerned that if I am very friendly towards guys I meet that they will take it as flirting or assume I like them (not that they’d necessarily like me back, I don’t want to come across as being very vain because that’s not what I mean at all haha). It has been very stressful thinking of 1000000 reasons to reject guys that have asked me out (again, not saying there have been many) without hurting their feelings or being questioned by my friends (I’m honestly so curious as to what my friends think my sexuality is hahaha, my sister said she kind of thought I liked girls but also kind of thought I’d secretly dated more guys and just hadn’t told her, or just haven’t dated many people because I’m so shy/anxious).

 Because I am so stereotypically feminine, people assume that I am straight- despite a few subtle stereotypes such as being a crazy cat lady, loving Hozier, Lana del ray songs, Orange is the New Black, Killing Eve, doc martens and being vegan- also the subtle hint in that I show absolutely no interest in guys (I’d be intrigued to learn if anyone on here thought/assumed anything of my sexuality, I find it interesting to know). This is in some ways a blessing as I do not encounter negativity ort abuse from strangers who assume that I am gay, however, it also means that I will have to consistently come out throughout my life and experience the reactions that may not necessarily be positive.

Anyway, the point was I’m looking forward to hopefully building closer relationships to guys in the future because we will both know that it is entirely based upon platonic friendship. I think I’ll eventually be more confident and more able to be myself in general- hiding your sexuality wears (wheres?) you down over time. I’ve felt tired whilst socialising and spent a lot of time holding back, feeling secretive, or lying about which guys I find attractive. I am now worried that some girls may jump to the wrong conclusion that I must secretly like them, and this is something I find extremely stressful in the prospect of telling my friends that I like girls. I always try to go for the approach of saying nothing about guys where I can rather than directly lying, but as I mentioned earlier, having to ‘lie’ is not something to be ashamed of- it is unfair of society to condemn people for hiding their sexuality when the world can be homophobic.

I’m also excited to now feel able to think about what I want in the future, where before it was an anxious disaster cycle of deciding whether to be alone forever (which I still might be, who knows hahaha, and ps. It’s completely fine if you want to be), being with guys which I know I would not be able to sustain long term or coming out. I think this time to think is necessary, as contrary to what some people believe, coming out does not mean you have all the answers and you are going to be in a relationship straight away. I now have more questions that before, for example, thinking about how I will have children and the issues/questions that will arise from this. However, the point is I am starting to feel free to think about these things, I am beginning to feel excited about the future and it is starting to have form. I believe that in coming out you are gifting yourself the freedom that most straight people take for granted (again, I am not reflecting on a number of important social justice issues here, I understand that there are significant problems and abuse that can take place in heterosexual relationships, I am simply reflecting upon the absence of issues specifically relating to sexuality). I have a long way to go and a lot more stress and anxiety to work through before reaching the ‘other side’ (this is very cheesy) but I feel freer already.

If you are currently in the place that I have been in, please feel free to talk to me (my Instagram is carlybooksandmusic), I will never reveal anything you say to anybody else. Also, please know that you do not have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. Thank you if you’ve read this whole ramble haha, as soon as I post this I will probably be incredibly stressed (good old anxiety hahaha). I hope you’re well 😊 

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 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😊)