Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Gender Games - Juno Dawson // Book Review

I'd heard about Juno's books a few years ago on Booktube, and was mainly aware of 'This Book is Gay' and a couple of her fiction books - but this was the first of Juno's books I actually got around to reading - and what a great place to start!

Juno's personality shines through in this book incredibly, and although I'd followed her on Instagram for a while and enjoyed those glimpses into her personality, reading this has really solidified my love and admiration for her. I went to see her in the Edinburgh International Book Festival recently, too, which again just made me love her more - she's really a fantastic person, and was engaging and entertaining to listen to.

The Gender Games is also a fantastic read to expand your knowledge on gender identity and transitioning, and has joined my list of books that I think everyone ought to read (and sooner rather than later, given the terrible way mainstream media has been treating the trans community lately).

Having also since read Juno's first novel Hollow Pike, I'm definitely a fan of her writing and look forward to reading more of her books in the future!
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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Mini Book Reviews - Part Two

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race - Reni Eddo-Lodge
I went to see Reni Eddo-Lodge in the book festival, which was a fantastic experience. There isn't a lot to say about this book, aside from the fact that I think everyone (especially, of course, white people) should read this and learn. I definitely don't know a lot about racism in Britain, or the history regarding race and racism, and I think it's important that everyone does learn more about it since we can't learn from history if we don't pay attention to it.

The Island of Dr Moreau - HG Wells
I really was only interested in this because of the references to it in Orphan Black, and I honestly wasn't that impressed by it. It was interesting to read it while thinking about how it connected to Orphan Black, but I just couldn't really engage with the characters or the world enough to really care about finishing it, and it became a bit of a chore to go back to it. I can see it being the kind of book that becomes more interesting to me when I read more literary criticism of it, but purely at face value I just couldn't really get into it.

Are You My Mother? - Alison Bechdel
I felt fairly let down by this one, at least compared to her other graphic novel Fun Home. It was interesting in parts, but at times it just felt circular and repetitive, and I just wasn't that engaged with it.

Ghosting - Jonathan Kemp
I picked this up on a whim from the library without knowing anything about it going in, and I'm really glad I did -- it was a brilliant book, and I really enjoyed the plot and the writing style. It was also wonderful to read a book with a compelling female lead character written by a man, as I don't feel like I come across it often.

The Doll Funeral - Kate Hamer
I downloaded this on the Overdrive app one afternoon so I'd have something to read on the bus home (as I'd just finished Ghosting on the bus to work, and didn't have another book with me). I didn't even realise when I picked it off my 'wishlist' that it was by the same author who wrote The Girl in the Red Coat, which I read not too long ago. I liked The Girl, although it did disappoint me at the end, as the ending felt rushed and kind of unfulfilling. However, I did think that I could see Hamer becoming a strong author in future books, and I do think this was a stronger novel, although I didn't find the premise quite as interesting as The Girl. I don't know if it's just because I read another novel earlier this year, Himself, which had a similar premise, but I just wasn't entirely on board with the premise. It was executed well enough, though - but the real stand out for me was the plotting, and the way Ruby's family history and her mother's story was woven together. I don't want to say too much about my slight criticisms, as it would essentially give away a major plot point - although I would say that while it felt stronger and more complete than Hamer's first novel, I did feel like there were a few of the non-fantasy plot points that were more difficult to believe. Still, it was an enjoyable read, and I think I would be interested in reading Hamer's future novels.
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Saturday, 23 September 2017

Mini Book Reviews - Part One

I've read quite a few books recently that, although I have some thoughts on them, didn't really resonate with me or impact me enough (positively or negatively!) to be worth writing a full review on them. So instead, I'm going to do a sort of 'wrap up' of some books I finished reading in the last 6 weeks or so. This is going to be part one of two; the second part will be up about a week after this one!

A Little Gay History: Desire and Diversity Around the World
I saw this one on Goodreads, because Hannah Witton had added it, so I was intrigued. This was an interesting book, but it wasn't the one I'd expected it to be when I reserved it at the library. I expected it to be more of a narrative history discussing key points with links to the cultural references to homosexuality of different eras, but this was a bit more like a written tour of a museum of artefacts and art that could be interpreted as 'gay'. Some of the older pieces in particular were a bit tenuous, but as they moved towards more modern history it did definitely get quite explicit and undeniable, the most memorable being some Japanese art from the 18th century. It was definitely a great little book and a fantastic insight into the art history side of things, but I think I'll need to keep looking to find a more definitive history!

The Trick is to Keep Breathing - Janice Galloway
I think this was just one of those books that was always floating around in the back of my mind as something to read because of the Scottish connection. I imagine this is something that is true of book lovers of any nationality, but I do always feel a bit of a pull to read books by Scottish writers, and feel a little bit of pride whenever I come across a particularly successful and talented Scottish writer. I got this from the library, but I might invest in my own copy one day, because I think it's the kind of book I'd like to reread. It's described on the back of the Vintage edition as being like Sylvia Plath meets Tristram Shandy, and although I haven't read the latter, I am a fan of Plath and I can understand the comparison. I usually prefer books that have a clear plot as well as strong characterisation, but there does just seem to be something about books like this that really sucks me in. It's a similar experience for me to reading books like Housekeeping and Play it Like it Lays. I can't pinpoint now, despite reading both of those books a few times, what it was "about". But I can remember how it made me feel, and I can still see the images in my mind -- and I love rereading books like that.

Hollow Pike - Juno Dawson
I picked this up at the Edinburgh Book Festival last month, on the day I went to see Juno and CN Lester talk about their books The Gender Games and Trans Like Me. I haven't read the latter yet (although I want to!) but in the bookshop tent, I spotted Hollow Pike on the shelf next to the huge display of The Gender Games, and I decided to pick it up. It was the first of Juno's fiction books that I've read, but I loved it -- and I'm even more impressed by it being her first novel. It's quite enviable to have your first novel not read like a first book. I'm really interested to get into some of her other novels too now, as from what I've read of her work so far, I think I'll really enjoy them.

The Wonder - Emma Donoghue
I kind of love Emma Donoghue. It was quite a good month for reading in August, actually, although things have been a bit patchier more recently - but this was definitely fantastic, and might even be up there in the top ten books for this year. I think Donoghue's novel Room is absolutely incredible, and I adored her collection Kissing the Witch when I read it last year. It took me a little time to really get into The Wonder, but once I did I was obsessed with it. I was mostly reading it on bus journeys, and I kept getting into work and feeling the need to update coworkers about the story and talking about what I thought was happening and how the book would end. Indeed, the ending was brilliantly unexpected (while not feeling so unexpected as to be unbelievable - but I don't want to give anything away) and I even loved it so much that I bought it as a gift for my grandma earlier this month! I want to get around to reading the rest of Donoghue's books in the not too distant future, too, as she's definitely up there as one of my favourite authors.
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Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters // Book Review

Before this, my only experience with Sarah Waters's writing was with her first novel, Tipping the Velvet. I enjoyed it, but I did feel like I would probably prefer some of her later works and to see the development of her writing style. 

I think I picked up The Little Stranger in the Oxfam bookshop, in like-new condition, and I'm fairly sure I must have bought it before I'd actually read Velvet. It wasn't until I was actually reading this novel that I realised that it departed from Waters's usual LGBT themes. However, I was still interested in the plot. The Little Stranger dwells on some interesting themes about the decline of gentry and the changes to society post war, and I was interested to read a ghost story too, as it's not something I've really read before.

I really wanted to like this book more, and a lot of the story was fantastic - but having to read from Faraday's point of view was draining, and really hampered the story at times. As the novel went on I started to resent Faraday, in a way that was definitely intensified by being stuck inside his head. 

There were so many instances where Faraday would say something like "and anyway, I wasn't there when this dramatic thing happened, but let me recount it for you, based on how they recounted what happened to me". It removed any tension or excitement at key plot points, because it was all coming to you third hand. I don't see there being any strong case against telling the story in third person instead, even in parts - I could have seen it working well as a combination of omniscient narrator for the ghost story combined with Faraday's diaries. 

I think I can understand why Waters's focalised everything through Faraday, and I'm fairly confident that Faraday is intended to be disliked by the reader - I just didn't like the impact it took away from the ghost story element of the book. The ending, in particular, was kind of brilliant in its ambiguity and the implicit meaning that we could take from the final words - I just don't think the whole book needed to be told by Faraday to achieve it. 

All in all, I wasn't in love with this book, but I am still keen to go on and read her other novels as I'm sure I'll enjoy them!
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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Modern Romance - Aziz Ansari // Book Review

I'm not sure how I've managed it, but aside from various clips from Parks and Recreation (which is something I keep wanting to watch but never get round to) this is my first real experience with Aziz Ansari. I've never seen him in anything, never seen any of his standup, and generally don't know anything about him. Maybe it worked out for the best that I went into this book without really knowing Ansari as a comedian, though, because I had absolutely zero expectations going into this and I loved it.

Lately, I've been really craving non-fiction books without really knowing what it was I was looking for. I've got a few non-fiction books in amongst the rest of my ever growing to-be-read piles, but aside from one or two that I'm intentionally putting off reading right now, nothing was really appealing to me. I can't even remember why I thought to reserve this one from the library, but I did, and I ended up reading half of it in one sitting the very first night I had it.

The focus of the book is on how romance, relationships and sex have changed since the mid 20th century, albeit mainly focused on heterosexual, middle class relationships, with considerations of things like online/internet dating, infidelity, casual dating and marriage amongst others (Ansari does explain why the book is primarily about cis/straight relationships). I expected this to be mainly opinions, but it was well researched and must have taken significant work -- there's numerous interviews and group discussions, as well as bringing in research from other people.

Being recently single after a (very) long term relationship, I haven't experienced dating so it was definitely interesting to me to get more of an insight into the dating process, but although dating seems to be the biggest focus it was also interesting to see how society has changed in the last 50-60+ years, such as the shift towards finding that 'perfect' someone, the desire to keep looking instead of settling down with someone 'good enough', and the difference in how relationships develop and work.

Ansari's writing also made the subject even more interesting and engaging, and I'm thinking of buying my own copy of this at some point as I think I'd love to re-read it at different stages in my life, as I'm positive it would be useful to me again and again as life goes on. I'd thoroughly recommend this book to anyone, no matter relationship status, age, or gender, and I'd definitely be interested in reading more on this subject too!
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Sunday, 20 August 2017

A Fresh(er) Start

It's been a long time, or it least it feels like it, since I did anything with my blog. I've made a couple of draft reviews in the past 8 weeks or so, but I've just not felt inspired or excited about blogging.

However, having finally got the hang of coding far enough to get everything set up the way I had imagined it, it's time to get back to business! I've also updated the aesthetic a bit (mainly colouring wise) since I was a bit fatigued with the monochrome I had before, and I'm busy thinking about different widgets I might add and planning on some new blog photos to jazz up old posts, to use in new posts, and to improve my existing pages!

I'm also kind of optimistic that I might finally branch back out content wise and post more than book reviews -- probably starting out with a couple of film reviews, since those aren't such a bold step compared to book reviews to begin with, and then some personal 'journal' style posts and opinions!

I don't know if I'll have any kind of schedule going forward (probably not, I've got a terrible habit of throwing myself into something for a week and then losing my way for a while before working back around to something a bit more consistent - see: going to the gym, posting on Instagram, working on my novel, writing short stories, etc, etc, etc!) but I'm hoping that now I've got things looking better, I can get back to work on posting!
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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Power - Naomi Alderman // Book Review

As always, I made it my goal to read as much of the shortlist as I could before the announcement. I am a little disappointed that I only read two of the books before the winner was announced, but - for once! - the winning novel was one of my picks.

Naomi Alderman's The Power was the first one off the list for me - although I already had an ebook copy of Stay With Me (review of that to come) thanks to netgalley, this was the book that excited me most on my initial impressions of the long listed titles, so I reserved it at the library straight away.

The main premise of The Power is that women develop a power, something like an electrical charge that they can express, which comes from a skein they have along their collarbones. Generally speaking, only women have skeins, and so only women can have the power. On that note, I want to get into my only real disappointment for the novel and talk about that first, so I can move on to focus about what I loved about the book.
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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Stay With Me - Ayobami Adebayo // Book Review

The thing I always love about the Baileys prize (and other prizes - but more so this one) is that it introduces me to books I might never have heard of otherwise, might never have even been interested in. I would quite like to be a bit more experimental with my reading choices one day and work on reading things that I've never heard of more often, but as there's so many books out there that I do know about - and know I want to read - I usually just go for what's that bit safer.

What I find quite interesting about this book in particular, though, is that not only did I come across it many months before it became longlisted (and then shortlisted) for the Bailey's prize, but I wanted to read it then too - without having heard anyone else talk about it before. I saw it on Netgalley, and although I don't remember what my first impressions were now, they were positive enough that I requested - and then received - the ebook of this last August.

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Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The Book of Memory - Petina Gappah // Book Review

This review has been sitting in draft form for ages now, so it's about time I finally edited and polished it up and posted it! I borrowed this one from the library a while ago now, although I can't remember now what motivated me to choose this one over other books - my memory isn't the best!

But onto the book: I definitely found this book well written from the point of view of the prose; I liked the author's writing style, her language and so on. I think Gappah is a great writer, and I would be interested in reading more of her work.

The story itself unfortunately wasn't as strong for me. I was interested, but I felt that it took too long to get to where it needed to be. So much time was spent on the present - the prison, the people in it - and she kept teasing and hinting at Lloyd and what happened without ever really getting there, which became frustrating. The aspects of Memory's childhood were good, though, and I can understand why the reflection on her first nine years was punctuated like that - but it just went a bit too slow.
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Saturday, 8 April 2017

March Wrap Up

I've had a bit of an unplanned hiatus from blogging this past month, but should be getting back into the swing of things this month - starting with a wrap up of what I read in March.

The Method - Shannon Kirk
I started this one in February, but finished it in March in time for my blog tour post on it! I enjoyed this book and it was a good one for the beginning of this month - check out my review for more.

Saga Vol 4 - Brian K Vaughan
I've definitely got to try to pace myself more with these, because I'm going to run out of new Saga issues soon and have to wait a while for more! Love this series though, and would highly recommend, especially to someone who isn't really much of a comic/graphic novel reader.

It's All Absolutely Fine - Ruby Elliot
I love Ruby's work and follow her on Twitter and Instagram, so it was about time I picked up her book! I think this is the kind of book I'll want to re-read again fairly regularly, so it'll probably be going on my wishlist (I borrowed it from the library as I'm trying not to spend money on books until I get through my slightly excessive TBR pile!)
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Monday, 6 March 2017

The Method - Shannon Kirk // Blog Tour

The premise of this novel had me hooked as soon as I read it - a pregnant teenage girl is abducted, but they made a mistake in abducting her. The novel's narrator is a bit of a shrunk down Sherlock Holmes, crossed with a slightly more emotive Amy Dunne; coldly brilliant and in control, tactical and measured and ready to do what it takes to save her life - and more importantly, the life of her unborn son. Thus we find her as the novel begins, telling the story of her abduction and her method for escaping.

I don't want to give away any of the plot aside from what would be evident from the beginning pages of the novel. As such, it's not spoiling anything to say that our narrator (at least most of the time, but I'll get to that) has to survive her kidnapping, because she's telling her story a number of years later, when she's in her thirties. However, everything else about what happened after her abduction unfurls more slowly, at least to begin with. She is just as methodical in telling her story as she was in living it; focusing on the keys days of her captivity, highlighting her "assets", the tools she might use in her escape plan. Small glimpses into her own life, her past and relationships - with her family, the father of the baby, her pregnancy before her abduction, her childhood - all developing the character.
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Friday, 3 March 2017

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep - Joanna Cannon // Book Review

I didn't really know much about this book when I requested it on netgalley - if anything, it was the title and the cover art that caught my interest, and in this case first impressions paid off. I only regret not reading this sooner (it's been waiting on my Kindle app for ages), because this was a fantastic read.

It didn't turn out exactly as it seemed like it would - in many ways I was expecting this to be a thriller, an Agatha Christie style mystery. While the mystery still played its part, and was still exciting and engaging, this was more an exploration of a community - of mob mentality, of society and humanity and relationships, all packaged up in a sweltering 1970s summer and a 1960s winter.

It's difficult to go into the finer details of the plot without giving away too much of the story, but the characterisation here was definitely the finest point of the book. Although none of the characters stood out to me as particularly likeable or favourable, this was more because everyone had their own flaws. It wasn't so much that I didn't like the characters but that they felt like real, complicated people with hidden lives, dark secrets and regrets. Even the children, Grace (our frequent narrator) and her best friend Tilly, aren't without imperfections. Grace isn't as good a friend as she could, or should be - Tilly is timid, doesn't stand up for herself as much as she should. Yet it never felt frustrating to follow the characters, to see their complexities.

Another point, which again I won't say too much about as it would spoil the plot, is the ending. The resolution to the historic mystery of that 1960s winter was surprising, but it definitely worked - it was the kind of ending that makes you want to go back and read it again to look for the clues, to pay more attention. I do always worry that even by saying something like that, I give things away, but it's always so fantastic when a writer manages to surprise you and still give you clues at the same time.

Cannon is also a wonderful writer - the prose in this novel was excellent, and the balance of the narration between the youth and naivety of a child and its beauty and intelligence worked well.

All in all, I'd recommend this book and would definitely pick up future books by Cannon!
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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

February Wrap Up

The Encyclopaedia of Early Earth - Isabel Greenberg
The first of Greenberg's works that I read, The One Hundred Nights of Hero, definitely takes the top spot for me; Encyclopedia, which I read at the start of the month, is definitely a close second! I love Greenberg's stories and her art style, and would love to see/read more of her work.

Saga Vol 3 - Brian K Vaughn
Another graphic novel, continuing on with the Saga series! I've realised this month that there's not a huge amount more of these for me to read, and the series isn't finished yet either - I should probably slow down, but I don't know how well that's going to work out as I've already reserved Vol 4 at the library!

The Book of Memory - Petina Gappah
Another library book - I picked this up on a bit of a whim, although I had spotted it a few times while I was in the library before. I had heard about this book and been somewhat interested in it, so I'm glad I read it. I'm writing a more detailed review of this, which will be posted at some time in March if all goes to plan!

The Butcher's Hook - Janet Ellis
It took me a long time to actually finish this book - I started it in early January, and only finished it right at the end of February... whoops! It wasn't that it wasn't a good book, so much as I just wasn't really in the right mood or mindset for it most of the time. I think I might write a more detailed review of this, but in the meantime I did write a quick review for it on Goodreads. I'm also really interested to go read/watch other people's reviews and thoughts on this book now that I've read it, as I feel like it's been getting a lot of praise and I'm almost hoping I can be persuaded to be more impressed by it!


As for March, I don't have a particular set TBR. I've gone through a bit of a reading slump lately, and although I think I'm coming out of it more, I know I'm not quite there yet with my drive to read so I don't want to set myself goals I might not keep, or pick books without a strong leaning towards any right now.

I am, however, currently reading The Method by Shannon Kirk for review, as well as Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology and I'm quite happy with my choices now the heaviest of my slump is over. I always find crime/thriller novels a great way to get back into the habit of reading, and as mythology is something I'm really interested in I thought that would be another good read to get into!
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Thursday, 2 February 2017

Echoes in Death - JD Robb // Blog Tour + Book Review

On opening my copy of Echoes in Death it was hard not to be impressed by the number of books following the series' main character, Eve Dallas, there already were - this novel is the 44th in the series (so far!). It might even seem a bit crazy to go into such an established and long running series so late in the game, but aside from a quick glimpse through the Wikipedia entry for Eve Dallas's character to set some context, you really don't need to have read all 43 books preceding Echoes in Death to enjoy it, although that isn't to say that you might not want to!
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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

January Wrap Up

Once again, I've fallen into the trap of reading a lot of books that I can't then photograph at the end of the month for a wrap up - because there's so many library books (and an ebook) on the list for this month! I also started, but have yet to finish reading, The Butcher's Hook and The Book of Memory this month too.

IDP: 2043
This was unfortunately a disappointing start to the month and the year for me. The premise seemed interesting, especially as it was set in Scotland, but ultimately I just didn't enjoy most of it, didn't find the format of the different chapters (by different authors) worked well for me and just generally wasn't impressed by it. It ultimately felt underdeveloped, so I do think it could have had potential if it had been edited better and had more story involved.

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep - Joanna Cannon
I read this for review, although I haven't published it yet - that should be coming some time in February! I will, in brief, say that this certainly made up for my disappointing start and was an excellent book that I'd thoroughly recommend.
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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Burned and Broken - Mark Hardie // Book Review + Blog Tour


There's something quite refreshing for me about reading a good crime thriller book. Unlike most other genres of novels, I can almost always tear through a crime thriller and read it in a short period of time. In the case of Burned and Broken, I read it mostly in one afternoon (with a snack break in between the first and second third of the book) and the rest the following evening.
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Thursday, 19 January 2017

Swing Time - Zadie Smith // Book Review


I was excited by the prospect of a new Zadie Smith book as soon as I heard about Swing Time, but as I'm trying not to buy hardbacks anymore I reserved this at the library so I wouldn't have to wait for it. I did have to wait a little longer to read it than if I'd just bought the book (and I could have just bought it as an ebook) but nonetheless, I finally got to read Swing Time at the end of last year.

Swing Time is about two brown girls, starting in their childhood as they first meet and find a connection and a friendship through their shared brown skin, and progressing through to their adulthood. It's told from the perspective of one of the two girls, who is unnamed, and in a split timeline that moves through their childhood into adulthood, and early adulthood into the narrator's present day simultaneously.
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Monday, 2 January 2017

December Wrap Up

I'm pleased that December looked like such a good month for reading, although most of that is because of how quickly I read some graphic novels! I have been, and to an extent still am in a reading slump and just haven't been as excited by reading and books - hopefully that will change soon!
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