August/NEWTs Readathon Wrap Up

Guys, I did it! I read my nine books for the NEWTs readathon! I’m now a qualified Curse Breaker if someone wants to hire me! Haha, in all seriousness though, I surprised myself there. I can be quite the procrastinator and nineteen days into the month I had only read one book. But I think I’m just so stubborn when it comes to finishing a book challenge (and I really can’t do anything in life without an imminent deadline that I’ll almost certainly miss) that with ten days left of the readathon I just read like hell and did it! And some great books I read too:

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali – Sabina Khan

A YA contemporary that I couldn’t stop reading. On my latest trip to Gay’s the Word in London, I saw this book in three separate sections of the shop! How could I say no? My interest was fully piqued. Moved into action by the deaths of numerous openly gay people in Bangladesh, Khan has fictionalised an American Bangladeshi coming out story. It’s heartbreaking and well as heartwarming. Learning about cultures different from your own is always fascinating and I loved how the simple parts of a culture were also present: food and clothes etc. Whilst I thought the end was a breakneck change from the start, I still enjoyed the journey.

The Easter Rising: A Guide To Dublin In 1916 – Conor Kostick, Lorcan Collins

A book that I stole from my dad and has been on my shelf for years! It’s no secret that I love Ireland. If you didn’t know that about me then, hi my name’s Sarah and I most definitely prefer my Irish heritage to my British. I traveled to Dublin in 2016 on one of our many trips to the capital city. This one was pretty special though. We went at Easter, an April that marked 100 years since the Easter Rising. The rebel’s goal? To demand an Irish Republic separate from the British, in simple terms: freedom. This book takes you on a tour of Dublin through all the significant buildings and landmarks of the Rising. It also introduces you to all the keep players. Very informative and has lovely little human anecdotes to compliment the facts. Also, the writers curate an actual walking tour in Dublin if you’re ever there!

The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One – Amanda Lovelace

The last book in this poetry series and I’m honestly gutted. These collections have been amazing and are books I’ll keep coming to again and again. They are not for the faint-hearted. But if you want to get uncomfortable and become a better ally or friend or if you want to work through your own demons then read this. It’s quite honestly perfect. Poems will leave you hollow inside whilst others will steal a smile from your lips. To do both in consecutive pages is a real talent.

The Testament of Mary – Colm Tóibín

I love a good recommendation from a friend. Occasionally they can come with a lot of pressure because what if you don’t like it? Is the friendship over? Fortunately, I won’t find out today as I loved this book. It takes a look at Mary’s life after the crucifixion of Jesus. And damn, this Mary is cool, why does nobody talk about her? She’s strong willed but quietly so. She’s empty after the loss of her family. However she doesn’t believe her son did these miraculous things so she’s finding it very hard to consider him the messiah. Mad right? Just read it.

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson

I was supposed to read this book in uni. I wish I had. A lot of the books I chose to read this month had heavy themes of religion. Which is odd as I am an atheist. However, each is uniquely critical of certain aspects of religion. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not actually anti-religion. If it works for you that’s cool. But what these books I’ve read show is how people twist the definition of god with power. They’re not a synonym; at least they shouldn’t be. People abuse the bible and what they think is a good way to live simply so they can have power. In this particular book we’re focusing a lot on homosexuality. Knowing it’s a semi-autobiographical text wounded me a little. I’ll simply never be able to understand why people must try to oppress other people’s right to be authentically themselves.

Women Talking – Miriam Toews

For two years in a Mennonite colony, hundreds of women were drugged and attacked in the night. They were told they were being violated by demons who had come to punish them for their sins. In actual fact they were being raped by a group of men from the colony. This is a real thing that happened. This book is a fictionalised tale of the women’s response and how they fought for their freedom back. It was narrated really interestingly through the minutes of a meeting of eight women from two families. Their friendships and rivalries will restore your faith in the human spirit.

After Dark – Haruki Murakami

I loved this book. I’m not sure it’s going to be for everyone. If you love heavily plotted books with explicit, explained endings then don’t read this. If you like something just a bit bizarre but fascinating then read it. Set in a Japanese city, it explores what happens on the streets when the last train ends and before the first one begins. I think I just really felt affinity with the night people because I’ve always been a night person. I can pin point the moment when I was fourteen and messaging a boy I liked on msn; since then I’ve been staying up past four am. The night is quiet and full of magic. I don’t know, I just liked it.

Neverseen – Shannon Messenger

I’m really getting into this series and I love seeing the characters grow as the books go on. The blossoming moments of friendship are some of my favourite parts of the novel. I don’t read many series so it’s hard to tell you anything about this that isn’t a spoiler (this is the fourth book to the Keeper of the Lost Cities series). However, I enjoyed the change of location for this book as well as the new characters. And that’s all I’ll say..

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life – Hector Garcia Puigcerver, Francesc Miralles

A solid 3.5 book for me I think. I found it very slow to get into, often getting overwhelmed with references to other works instead of making its own point. I enjoyed the parts about finding your ikigai or your passion/reason for existing/etc., and it was quite inspiring and renewed my own goals for my own life. But ultimately the endless focus on being 100 years old put me off. Getting to that age is amazing but it’s not what makes a happy life and I don’t think ‘being old’ is what we should be aiming for. Life is fleeting and we don’t know when it’s gonna end so I’d say don’t even plan for your golden years, just live the ones you have right now.

And that’s it! I’m moving into September with five books left on my yearly Goodreads challenge! Let’s go 📚

Under A Dome – Of Monsters And Men

June/July Wrap Up

Bit late on the uptake here, what’s new. I apologise. Haven’t written much recently. Easing in with a wrap up. You might be wondering where June’s wrap up even was? There wasn’t one. I read one book in the entire month of June. Oops. Let’s start with that one:

Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher

I actually really enjoyed this book. Fisher has a way of bringing to life the most absurd anecdotes with a biting self-deprecation. Her life is one hundred percent different than mine but I think that’s part of the fun. Getting a look into this supposedly glamorous Hollywood landscape was cool.

In July, I had a slow start but made it up by reading seven (YEAH, SEVEN) books in the last week as part of The Reading Rush. I also got myself a three month cheaper membership to Audible and have become an audiobook fanatic. Here’s the eleven books I got through in July! (We’ll keep it short.)

Keeper of the Lost Cities – Shannon Messenger

Recommended by Regan at Peruse Project, I’ve started listening to this series through audible. The sense of community and adventure if excellent so far. Can’t wait to keep going.

From a Low and Quiet Sea – Donal Ryan

Some parts of this I loved and some parts I didn’t. When I read the back of this book it sounded like three very different people where going to find their words collide. If that happens in the last ten pages I don’t think it counts. More like three short stories where I hated one.

The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One – Amanda Lovelace

The second collection I’ve read my Lovelace and again it ripped me apart, blew me away and comforted my soul. Go and red her poetry. RIGHT NOW.

Exile – Shannon Messenger

Second audiobook in the series, love Keefe.

Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin

A reread from uni. If you haven’t read this, please do immediately. It’s fast-paced, sarcastic and relentless. It’s a San Franciscan soap opera with heavy LGBTQ themes, what more do you need to know?

If Cats Disappeared From The World – Genki Kawamura

A charming little story about discovering what is important to you at the end of your life. Touches on grief in a realistic way and well as moments of loneliness.

Felicity – Mary Oliver

Some love poetry by Oliver and I was there for it. Give it a read, not much more to say!

George’s Marvellous Medicine – Roald Dahl

Quick little read to push my readathon numbers up! Always meant to read it. Enjoyed it. Liked how his stories actually cover serious topics like neglect and mild emotional abuse.

Rubyfruit Jungle – Rita Mae Brown

Had this lesbian classic on my tbr for years. Whilst it is that, it’s so much more. There’s harrowing moments of sexism, poverty, homophobia. Not a light book but manages to make you laugh all the same.

Everblaze – Shannon Messenger

Third audiobook in the series, think they’re getting even better!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J K Rowling

Nothing realllly needs to be said about this one other than I actually finally got round to reading my illustrated edition. The artwork is honestly lovely and adds that little extra to the story. Got me feeling so Fall as well! Okay, turns out I had lots to say about that one!

Phew, we got there eventually. Was quite nice to have a super productive month after such a shocking June. June was my downfall last year and I just didn’t read anything for months after that so I was worried history was repeating itself! I think I’ve managed to push through now and will be spending the last few days of August cramming in my book for the NEWTs Readathon!

Happy Reading!

Vulture, Vulture – Of Monsters and Men

 

Hay Festival + Book Haul

At the end of May, we drove down to Hay-on-Wye – a quaint market town on the Welsh/English border that is notable for its bookshops. Why, I hear you ask? Cos, for their less than two thousand inhabitants, there is over twenty bookshops! Often crowned ‘the town of books’, it’s been on my list for forever. We picked a nice weekend in May to go (in hopes of sun, lol jk) as we decided to do a combination trip of endless book perusing with intervals of camping and hiking in Brecon Beacons National Park. The week I planned to go just happened to also be the world renowned Hay Literary Festival. Serendipity! We decided to risk the crowds, invited my dad who loves a book, and headed down.

The festival itself was really cool. The festival bookshop, don’t even get me started, huge. It’s free for anyone to enter the site and then you just buy tickets for individual events. We decided to see a Q&A with Anna Burns, the award-winning author of Milkman. She had such a quirky, amusing manner and read her book extracts with such animation it actually really helped me understand the novel’s tone. We also saw Stephen Fry. He was due to read a couple of extracts from his books Mythos and Heroes but instead decided to do a reading from the third book he is currently writing in the series, unbeknownst to his publishers! The real treat to that event was the outstanding illustrator Chris Riddell was there live-illustrating the session! He was very impressive and hilarious.

On another day, we went for a walk at Henrhyd Falls which was a bit treacherous from the recent rain but completely picturesque and tranquil. Easily satisfied my hiking fix. Also visited the town of Brecon which was quiet and cute. Had a lovely vegan daal in an indie coffee shop there!

Hay, the town, was just lovely. It was everything you want from a small market town. It had a couple of delicious food places with great veggie options, and more importantly it had a cosy little pub, The Blue Boar, that became our local for the weekend. The atmosphere was electric with booklovers visiting from far and wide. But enough of all that, on to the bookshops!

They were everything I hoped and more.

We grabbed a little map of the book tour that most shops carry and got on our way. The second we saw a book in the display window we were in there. There was such a variety of genres, I was in heaven. There was an entire poetry shop where I wanted to purchase every single book. There was a bookshop called Murder and Mayhem which, you guessed it, was entirely crime-based. There was a bookshop with all sorts of old editions of my favourite modern classics. I found an edition of 1984 that was truly magical to find. There, simply, was too many to mention. My favourite booksellers included Addyman Books (and their Annexe), Richard Booth’s Bookshop, The Poetry Bookshop and Green Ink Booksellers.

I completely shattered my 2019 book buying system cos I just could not contain myself. I came home with fourteen books.. My five gifts from Danny (that I won from reading the entire Mistborn Trilogy in April) and nine from myself! Oops. Here’s a quick book haul, one line about each though or we’ll be here forever, kids!

Animal – Sara Pascoe

A recommendation from my mate. Quite scientific so far, as well as funny.

Felicity – Mary Oliver

Read Blue Horses and needed to devour more Oliver, especially a love poem collection!

#MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology – Ed. Deborah Alma

Speaks for itself: brave, boss women who I’d like to learn from.

Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher

A very self-depricating, endearing memoir.

The Beauty Myth – Naomi Wolf

Quoted it in my dissertation, liberally. Yet to read it.

Emma – Jane Austen

The last to complete my Austen’s. Needed the old black Penguin Classics editions as a rule.

Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell

An edition that’s very special to me, to match some of my mums favourite books from her collection.

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Just have been meaning to read it. We all know the story.

The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

Ditto. Also had a boss cover.

The Sonnets – William Shakespeare

Wanted for ages, found in an edition I enjoy. (Running theme?)

Peril At End House – Agatha Christie

Continuing my Christie journey with another Poirot!

After Dark – Haruki Murakami

Constantly hear about Murakami and haven’t read him! This one sounds mysterious and mad.

Pachinko – Min Jin Lee

When purchased was Our Shared Shelf’s pick of the month.

Silence – Erling Kagge

A little cute one Danny picked up that I know nothing about. Honing mindfulness skills I think!

All in all, a fabulous weekend. Cannot recommend Hay enough. Will be going back ASAP.

Come Alive – The Greatest Showman Soundtrack (Me and Danny had this album playing in the car all weekend. Also books make me come alive so that’s a nice little coincidence isn’t it?)

May Wrap Up

So it’s been a hot minute there. Sorry, I don’t want to force posts when they’re not coming cos I want this to be fun! But here we are back again with another book wrap up! Who doesn’t love talking about books? Clearly I love it.

Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars – Kai Cheng Thom

Like nothing I’ve ever read before. I heard of this book a couple of months ago from Emma Watson’s book club, Our Shared Shelf. When I saw it on the shelf in Gay’s The Word I knew it must be mine. I loved the fantasy and magical realism elements. The fierce ties of sisterhood were heart-warming to read. I enjoyed having the chance to read a trans-themed book from a trans author, something we’re still very much missing in the book world. Also, those bees? Love those bees. Would definitely recommend.

Book Love – Debbie Tung

This book is perfection. Read it. She has a way of drawing and expressing exactly how I feel about almost everything in life! I loved her first book about being an introvert in an extroverted world although I understand how that may not have landed if you are in fact extrovert. It’s not insulting, you might just not understand the exhaustion you feel when you get home from being ‘social’. But fear not. If you’re reading this post I assume you like books. This new book is completely devoted to books! (I’d say the name is pretty apt then.) The illustrations are beautiful and I love their greyscale colouring.

We Are Okay – Nina LaCour

I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time. I thought it was a heart-warming look at grief and loneliness and finding yourself. I thought the plot built up a little too much to uncover something a little mediocre but aside from that I enjoyed it. I didn’t need a ‘big reveal’ to enjoy the book. I thought it being a close and sometimes painful examination of the rubble of someone’s life was amazing enough. It was nice to see a lesbian relationship in a ya as well as a wonderful story of friendship and chosen family. A small thing, but I found the stark contrast of weather in the present and flashbacks really interesting. Weather definitely links to emotion there!

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference – Greta Thunberg

A lovely gathering of Greta Thunberg’s public addresses to date. I enjoyed reading them as opposed to hearing them because you can really appreciate how cleverly crafted her speeches are. Got a little repetitive but that’s the fault of the publisher, not her. Perfect gift for a young, budding activist in your life.

A Happy Death – Albert Camus

As always, Camus explores some excellent concepts. The idea of happiness; how you achieve it; can you find it if you’re looking for it? Can you die a happy death?Personally, I preferred his later, similar work, the much more well-known The Outsider. I did find a lot to like (Zagreus, his experience of travelling alone, the heat of Algiers) although I occasionally found some of these characters a little nauseating, possibly that was the point. Either way, I think the overall ability to make me think deeply is what will keep me coming back to Camus.

The Other Side – The Greatest Showman

April Wrap Up

So back in the innocent days of March, Danny was reading Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy trilogy, Mistborn. Now each of these books is around 700 hundred pages but I said I thought he was reading them quite slow and that I could of course do it quicker. A bet was born. He was reading them in about three weeks, perfectly reasonable, most would say. I thought I could do all three in a month. The wager then turned out like this: if I read all three novels in the month of April then Danny would buy me five new books of my choosing. And so the page adventure began.

Did I do it?

Of bloody course I did it!

The Final Empire – Brandon Sanderson

I’ve been trying to think since I finished the trilogy about which is my favourite. It’s super close but I think it’s this one. There’s just something magical about the beginning of an adventure. Strangers coming together to become family. This book is the most epic revolution you’ve been looking for. The magic system is so unique and boss. I get a lot of Oceans Eleven vibes from this but like fantasy. Fucking read it already.

Blue Horses – Mary Oliver

Fit a sneaky extra book in when we were away in Paris. I’ve been trying to read more Mary Oliver since she died and I didn’t know who she was. This had all elements of Oliver I’ve come to love: nature, feminism, simplicity, love, animals and the everyday. We did read this to each other whilst we were drinking red wine though so I think I need another flick through, the end is a bit hazy.

The Well of Ascension – Brandon Sanderson

Loved this second instalment to the Mistborn trilogy. There’s a charming naïvety to the first book that is completely crushed in this one. It’s brutal, it’s war, it’s twists and turns and sneaky politics. It’s fascinating and delves so much further into the world than I even knew was possible. Some boss new characters as well as more detailed narratives of our favourites.

The Hero of Ages – Brandon Sanderson

Man. This book gave you all the answers you could have dreamed of for a final book in a trilogy and then some. A perfect instalment that takes us to new places in the world. New systems of magic are discussed and I could not stop turning pages. I really didn’t want it to end. 720 pages simply wasn’t enough. Even twenty pages from the end you’re questioning how the fuck it’s going to tie up. You won’t be disappointed.

So yeah, if you think you even slightly like fantasy (and I know all you fuckers watch Game of Thrones) then I implore you to read these books. They’re mind blowing, one hundred times over. The big question is, shall I just buy another five Brandon Sanderson books with my winnings?

Pink Tiger – Flizz

March Wrap Up

We all know why we’re here, let’s get going.

The Woman Who Walked Into Doors – Roddy Doyle

This book has been on my shelf for literal years. And I have no idea why. I read the Barrytown Trilogy when I was a teenager and loved Doyle’s writing. It’s dry and he perfectly portrays family life. I’m so glad I picked this book up because it was excellent. It’s the story of a woman who’s in an abusive marriage. It’s about her childhood, her kids, her relationship and her drinking. Her story is brutal but I think it’s an important one to read. It presents many stereotypes of abuse (ie. a drunk woman cannot be a victim) and throws them on their head to show their absurdity. Paula is failed in so many ways by so many people. There are some endearing moments mixed in too though. Some of the sisters arguments made me laugh because they were so accurate.

The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

This one I’ve seen floating around the internet for a while so picked it up from Waterstones. I loved it. The story follows for siblings as they grow up together. The twist? As children they visit a psychic and are told the day they will die. Would you live differently if you knew? The mystery and mysticism of the plot is enchanting. It makes you feel at home in both New York City and San Francisco due to its beautiful imagery. I learnt a surprising amount about Judaism. The magic elements are captivating, as are the intricacies of each sibling friendship.

Conversations With Friends – Sally Rooney

I’ve been trying to read more current adult fiction recently and my dad actually got me this for my birthday last year. I’ve heard a lot about Normal People recently but figured I’d read the one I had first. I liked it. I think. It was an interesting look at a relationship that starts as cheating. Yet we’re supposed to root for them. I think I felt left wanting more because although this ménage a quatre is vaguely implied there’s no explicit conversation about an open relationship. I would have liked to see that. Although it’s not a conventional love story so I did appreciate that. However I found the characters a little nauseating at times. I think that comes from their privilege. I enjoyed the writing elements of the narrative but found her opportunities a little too easy at times. A solid book though. I’d still recommend it.

Five Feet Apart – Rachael Lippincott

This last one was a spontaneous buy after I saw the trailer for the movie version. I haven’t read a nice YA romance for quite a while, however this book was that but so much more. It had all the enjoyable gripes of a high school romance but also wrenched your heart out several times. The story follows two teenagers with cystic fibrosis as they deal with adolescent angst as well as a degenerative disease. The catch? They can never be closer than six feet apart from other people with cystic fibrosis. I learnt so much about CF reading this book, it was fascinating. The book also deals with themes of grief, friendship, mental health, family, and adventure. Made me cry several times.

Blue Monday – New Order

February Wrap Up

Another solid month of reading. Also the most beautiful covers. Serendipity. Let’s get started.

The Sleeper and the Spindle – Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell

I spoke about how much I’d enjoyed this duo in Art Matters with a friend and she told me she had this book! Don’t you just love swapping books with friends? The artwork in this illustrated story is beautifully gothic and incredibly detailed. Probably my favourite part of the book actually. The story is a twist on the well-known stories of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. I enjoyed Snow White ditching her wedding dress on the eve of her wedding for some chainmail and an adventure. Badass woman saving badass woman. But whilst it’s fun to see, I think it left a lot to be desired. I was told there could be an LGBT+ narrative to this book which did not materialise. I think that was a missed opportunity. The execution was just nothing mind-blowing but it was a nice, quick little read.

Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

This was another one of those been-on-my-shelf-for-years-interested-in-it-but-just-getting-covered-in-dust-but-trying-to-change type situation. I’ve also wanted to watch the movie for years but I just cannot watch a movie first when I know a book exists. So it was high time I read this. I’m gonna be brief because I don’t want to give anything away. It’s mysterious, it’s enchanting, it’s captivating. I found it a beautiful exploration of youth and what it is to be human. Go and read.

The Terrible – Yrsa Daley-Ward

I simply can’t get through a month without reading a memoir. I loved Daley-Ward’s poetry collection so much (as you might remember from January, go and read it now!) that I immediately went out and bought this book. It was written equally as beautiful as the poems. She just has a natural flow about her writing that it sounds poetic even when framed as prose. She also uses some experimental formats throughout the book which really add to its uniqueness. Similar to her poetry, the themes of this memoir are not easy to read. The stories will make your heart ache

Vicious – V. E. Schwab

This was the first V. E. Schwab book I heard about on Booktube many years ago. I read A Darker Shade of Magic last year and really enjoyed it so when I saw this stunning edition of Vicious it had to be mine. I definitely wasn’t disappointed. There’s just something about Victor Vale, man. Like I know he’s an anti-hero at best and kind of just a criminal, but I think he’s a really intriguing character. The twist on the traditional superhero narrative was very dark but well executed. The ragtag gang of characters are very endearing if not odd. Made me excited to read more of this author.

The Incendiaries – R. O. Kwon

I saw this book first when it was Belletrist’s book of the month. It was a novel I devoured about a relationship between two college students from very different backgrounds. One thing I found intriguing about the novel is that it’s arguably primarily about Phoebe but it is narrated by Will. So we have this pretty good idea of who Phoebe is but then I realised, is that even how she sees herself? And is this narrator reliable? Is he a caring friend or actually weirdly obsessed after her disappearance? Either way, it’s very fractured. Aside from the love story, the plot actually follows a group of extremists. It was very interesting to get a snippet at a look into cult initiation. Very powerful novel.

Fan The Flames – Sheer Mag

January Wrap Up

So we started January off pretty strong! For my standards anyway. I read six books. And after December’s somewhat cheeky tactics of reading very thin books (don’t get me wrong, I love a book under 200 pages, possibly my favourite), I was ready to get to some more weighty books. I loved everything I read and I just love when that happens.

Boy Erased – Garrard Conley

Having seen the movie trailer, I knew I wanted to read this book first. I purchased it at the end of last year with a gift card from a friend and I couldn’t wait to start it. This memoir tells the story of a young man who is outed to his very religious family and then must agree to conversion therapy or risk losing the only life he’s known. This book made my heart ache. The repeated imagery of disappearing due to isolation and confusion and oppression is explored really well. Conley speaks with conviction as he relives his brutal journey trying to find his place in his community and faith without losing who he is.

Weight – Jeanette Winterson

This is a retelling of Atlas and Heracles. The imagery in the book is stunning. I really enjoyed the mythology aspect of the narrative; it’s the old story but told again, still with similar problems we find in today’s world though. The themes of isolation and loneliness are beautifully explored. I found Atlas a really interesting guy. I rooted for him. I found Heracles to be a bit of a dick. Massively so. Oh well, can’t win them all. Definitely worth a read.

bone – Yrsa Daley-Ward

This poetry collection is bloody brilliant. Everyone needs to stop what they’re doing right now and go and buy this book. Daley-Ward’s writing is blunt, it’s raw, it’s poetic, it’s stunning. It hurts but it has to be read. The poems are autobiographical yet she can make you feel them even if they’ve not been your experience. She was a way with words. She explores themes of womanhood, race, abuse, religion, depression, grief and more.

The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly – Jean Dominique Bauby

My brother gave me this book last year for my birthday. We’d never heard of it but he said it sounded interesting. It also had an iridescent cover so I was on board. This memoir is charming and unapologetic. Bauby found himself unable to move or speak after suffering a massive stroke in the prime of his life. He had locked-in syndrome which meant his mind was completely sound. He could, however, only communicate moving his left eyelid and so this book was spelt out letter by letter. He doesn’t hide how horrible his situation is yet he manages to write beautifully about what it is to be human. Read it.

Art Matters – Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell

This short book is a necessary read for any creative. It will inspire you to hone your craft and it will motivate you to lift that pen or paintbrush or microphone, whatever. Make good art. That’s all Gaiman is asking you to do. He tells you it’s okay to fail and it’s okay to not have a clue what you’re doing. Just keep trying. Keep making magic. Riddell’s illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to help convince you to conquer the world.

Astray – Emma Donoghue

I’ve had this book on my shelf for years and I’m making a conscious effort to minimise the old tbr. So I picked this up. Shows how much I knew about it, I assumed it was a novel, it’s actually a collection of short stories. I really enjoyed it. The stories are all based in reality. They are stories of journeys, of departures, of arrivals. They are stories about changing your circumstances and searching for something better. Each story has a page at the end that explains its real life origin, a newspaper clipping, a letter, etc., and I thought that was a nice touch!

Switzerland – Soccer Mommy

December Wrap Up

After slacking from July to November and reading only eight books I arrived in December miles behind my reading challenge for the year. And reading challenges are definitely not everything. They shouldn’t stop you from enjoying reading because what would be the point? But last year I just really wanted to complete mine. And I had can be unrealistically stubborn. I’ve said before I like to set these ridiculous challenges for myself because imagine if they actually happened. The feeling would be magic. And if it doesn’t? That’s okay. I’ll have had fun along the way. But in December? I did the impossible. I read seventeen books. At seven pm on New Year’s Eve I completed my yearly challenge. Easy.

 What did I read? I played fast and loose with the term ‘book’. I enjoyed reading the shortest books on my shelf. There were no other rules than to read the damn things so shush. These will be one line reviews so we don’t implode from boredom. Also, yeah, I’m aware it’s March. It’s fine. Let’s go!

Carpe Diem – Make The Most Of Life

Perfect little book of quotes to spark some inspiration in you.

Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

Jumped at this book after reading Little Fires Everywhere, whilst I didn’t prefer it as much the mysteries and family drama kept me turning those pages.

Quiet Girl In A Noisy World – Debbie Tung

One of my absolute favourite books of the year. This graphic novel was so acutely accurate to my life and those illustrations, man.

The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman

A reread from uni, this short book explores all kinds of themes from women and madness to postnatal depression and oppressive gender roles.

Animal Farm – George Orwell

Need I say more. 

Devotion – Patti Smith

Really interestingly set up book: Smith tells us about what inspires her and how she researches/writes new material and then the actual story she’s referring to is slotted in at the end.

The Savage – David Almond and Dave McKean

A fantastical look at grief and family. 

Waiting For Godot – Samuel Beckett

I’m still not sure I understood what was going on.

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

An old story that I’ve seen in many reimagining. Was fun to finally read the original. Buddy read with Danny.

New Erotica For Feminists – Caitlin Kunkel, Carrie Wittmer, Brooke Preston and Fiona Taylor

Everyone needs to read this book. It’s fucking hilarious. And so on point.

Dept. of Speculation – Jenny Offill

First read this at uni in America, beautifully, non-bullshit look at the lifespan of a marriage.

Milk and Honey – Rupi Kaur

Who knows how many times I’ve read this now. If you still haven’t, I have no idea why.

Catcher – Kalyn Nicholson

A really cool first novel; Kalyn’s world building is really detailed and the themes of betrayal are explosive.

Must Try Harder English – A N Teacher

Hilarious little book about stupid answers kids have written in exams. Bit of a cheat book but still good.

Howl and Other Poems – Allen Ginsberg

Howl is a necessary read for any Beat lover. Also included is America which is an excellent look at the state of a nation.

Nina Is Not Ok – Shappi Khorsandi

This book began as a slog for me and I had a massive break. Second try made me see how excellent this book really is. I think I wasn’t liking it because the scenes were making me so uncomfortable but I think that was the point. A very raw look at grief, alcoholism, first love, sexual assault and just really trying to come of age. Not a sentence but oh well.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson

Perfect, well-known little ghost story to end my year off with! I always love seeing how a classic (particularly gothic, Frankenstein, Dracula) is actually narrated when you already know the plot but little else.

And that’s twentyeighteen!

Peace.

December, 1963 (Oh What A Night!) – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons

July/October/November Wrap Up

If you’re wondering why this wrap up is such a mismatch it’s because I read one book in July and then didn’t finish a single other book til October! If you’re wondering why you’re only just getting this wrap up, well, I’m lazy. This can’t be news to you. Okay, let’s go!

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

Totally worth the hype. I took ages to get into this book to be honest. The voice of Eleanor was just annoying me a bit, I didn’t care much for her attitude. But slowly and then all at once you’re sucked into her world and find yourself defending her to other characters. Endearing yet sometimes uncomfortable. Read it.

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

My first Celeste Ng and I won’t be going back. Mysterious and intoxicating, this book had me sneaking pages whenever I could. A brilliant story of family and responsibility and privilege and drama. Another book that is worth the hype.

The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion

A wonderful yet unapologetic look at grief. Sometimes I found Didion was downgrading other types of grief for the loss of a partner but I don’t know if this was her intention. If it’s not been your experience you can’t be expected to feel it. Aside from that, very honest, raw and interesting to delve into the endearing stories of her past.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne

A much darker ending than I ever imagined even knowing it was a book about the Holocaust. I guess it shocks you into remembering and honouring everyone who lost their life in the concentration camps. A beautiful, innocent friendship between two boys set in a world arena too harsh for their eyes.

A Caribbean Mystery – Agatha Christie

My first Marple! How is that even possible? I much preferred it to the Poirot I read, please don’t come for me. I enjoyed Miss Marple’s voice and how she can read people even when they think themselves so above her. Of course I didn’t guess the end but I had a great time conspiring throughout.

Dark Days – James Baldwin

Everything I read by James Baldwin I end up loving. Part of the new Penguin Moderns collection, it’s a small book with three of his essays. A great intro to Baldwin’s non-fiction writing. Presents race in America in a very matter-of-fact, no bullshit kind of way. His ideas on race and education I found particularly fascinating. 

The Robber Bridegroom – Brothers Grimm

A little collection of short stories, a quick read and some unsettling characters. Too many stories ended in marriage though, who are we, a Shakespeare comedy? I’d have preferred something more fulfilling but maybe that’s asking too much of its time.

Seashore – The Regrettes