Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Reading Rush 2019 Results

Hello! So just over 3 weeks ago I shared my TBR for The Reading Rush 2019 (formerly BookTubeAThon). And then the following week, when I planned to write up my results I got sick with a throat infection. Which turned into a cough and is now a streaming head cold. Hurrah! Nonetheless I want to share which books I read and if I managed to do all the challenges. I'm forever posting the beginning of something on here and then getting too distracted to follow through.

If you didn't read the original post or you're too lazy to click through and read it now, I'm going to share the photo of my TBR that would have fulfilled all the challenges.

And the grand total of books I read from this pile? Two! However I must say now, spoiler alert, that I did read more than one book and I did complete all the challenges

Cover of graphic novel Sweet Valley High: Academic All-Star? by Katy Rex
The first book I read was Sweet Valley High: Academic All-Star by Katy Rex and Devaki Neogi. I've been looking forward to this read for a while now, ever since I first heard about it. I read it on day 1 and day 2 in bed to satisfy Read a book in the same spot the entire time. I started just after the midnight on the Sunday and finished it that Monday night.

Photo of book Like Water for Hot Chocolate by Laura Esquivel amongst potted plants and an ornamental sugar skull
I then read a lot of other books in different formats. A physical book, an ebook and an audiobook. Between working and then travelling to London to visit friends on the Thursday night, I finished the next book Saturday morning! Like Water for Hot Chocolate by Laura Esquivel was one of the books I was thinking of in my previous post when I said I had changed by mind about the TBR 30 mins after taking the photo. This book fulfills multiple challenges. Read an author's first book. Pick a book that has 5 or more words in the title (the book does seem to commonly go by Like Water for Chocolate but my copy specifically says Like Water for Hot Chocolate). Read and watch a book to movie adaptation. I haven't watched the movie yet, I had plans to watch it the following week when I got back from London but felt so crap. I'm rubbish at watching films anyway but I promise I will get to this one! This book was also a pick for Book Riot Read Harder 2019 for the challenge An #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory book cover
Sunday morning I finished The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory. I read this as an ebook and for the Read a book with purple on the cover. Online the colour looks anything from pink to purple. I think it looks more purple to me, at least the ebook I had did. So I'm counting it!

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett cover of BBC radio adaptation audiobook
Sunday evening I finished the audiobook I was listening to, the BBC Radio adaptation of Good Omens. I was given the book years ago by a friend and have attempted to read it 2 or 3 times but never got into it. This adaptation was really good, I loved that it was done by a cast and that there's added sound effects. This one covers Read a book you meant to read last year as well as Read a book with a non-human main character (the two main characters are an angel and a demon).

I also listened to parts of two other audiobooks. The second chapter of Good Omens hadn't downloaded on my phone when I was at lunch one day so I continued listening to Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. I also listened to some of James Acaster's Classic Scrapes by James Acaster in the car with my partner on the Monday.

I'm happy I did The Reading Rush this year and completed it. Ok, *almost* completed it, I will watch that movie! Usually I would read a book for each challenge task but seeing as I was working full time and away on holiday I'm pleased I managed to complete it with 4 books. Also by completing it I managed to maintain my streak of completing/not completing every 2nd year 😆 I also managed to complete some of the Instagram challenges at the beginning of the week, including the picture above of Like Water for Hot Chocolate. You can check out my Bookstagram here @rareopalreads.

Did you do The Reading Rush too? Let me know in the comments below how you got on!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers Book Review

 Thanks to massive advancements in science and technology, Ariadne and her 3 colleagues are sent to study 4 habitable planet and their ecology 15 light years away. Somaforming is the means that allows them to do so, a process where the astronauts are put into a sleep-like state while travelling, that slows down their aging and delivers synthetic biological supplements to their bodies to help with each different environment. The novella chronicles their journeys and the problems that arise for the explorers. What it's like to leave your family and loved ones behind on Earth, how much will change while they're away, will their work still be relevant, will they be remembered? I really like Chambers' sci-fi, how things work and their descriptions. It's so believable and intriguing.

The heart of the story for me is the characters and their relationships. Chambers is so brilliant at writing characters, just like her other books these didn't disappoint. The smallest nuances and interactions speaks volumes. I swear she can express so much with just just a pat on the back as another author would need a whole paragraph to convey. I would have loved a longer book to explore Ariadne and the others more, both before and after their trip. That's the only reason I gave this 3 stars (really 3.5), because I selfishly wanted more! It is still satisfying for a novella though, perfect for the summer.

One of my favourite quotes from the story is

'This is what a forest is, after all. Don't believe the lie of individual trees, each a monument to it's own self-made success. A forest is an interdependent community. Resources are shared, and life in isolation is a death sentence'

Becky Chambers has such a beautiful way with words and the scene this quote comes from is beautiful. Becky Chambers could write a shopping list and I'd be clamouring to read it! The novella is out August 8th.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan Book Review

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan book cover

Colgan's books are like a mug of hot chocolate by a fire on a stormy day. They're very cosy! This one is no exception. Single mum Zoe and her 4 year old selectively mute son Hari are struggling big time in London. Hari's father is no help whatsoever and Zoe is being to drown. So when an opportunity comes along to work as an au pair and part time bookseller in the Scottish Highlands, Zoe decides to take the leap of faith and give it a go. She arrives at The Beeches, a big Scottish house surrounded in mystery. Here 3 children and their father live and Zoe is to be nanny number 7. And she soon finds out why, as the children are not the easiest to get on with. And there's so much mystery and unanswered questions that Zoe can not get answers to. Struggling to coax the children into behaving, keeping the bookshop van afloat and Hari's well being has Zoe exhausted. Can she pull it all off?

It's easy to dismiss books like this as flight, fluffy and frothy. Yes, this book has its light moments but there are some serious issues dealt with in here and I think Colgan managed them well enough. It certainly brought tears to my eyes! While there is a romance, it isn't the centre of the book, the real centre seems to be Zoe and the children. I loved seeing her encourage them and letting them blossom. There's some touching moments, I especially liked Shackleton's arc. The story was good, I do think it kinda meandered in spots and could have been edited a bit tighter. But overall it was enjoyable, like most of Colgan's books!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Reasons to Be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe Book Review

Three years on from the events in Paradise Lodge and Lizzie Vogel is now 18. She's managed to get a job as a dental nurse, living in the flat above the Leicester. Lizzie should be having the time of her life, she's young and living a city. But Lizzie is a bit homesick for her home in the country with her alcoholic eccentric aspiring writer mother. On top of that Lizzie hates the dentist she works for, a xenophobe who's obsessed with becoming a Free Mason and who is also in a relationship with another woman who works in the dental clinic . Lizzie starts seeing Andy and in true Lizzie fashion things are never quite clear. Are they seeing each other, is he more into in bird watching than having sex? Things get even more complicated when Andy becomes a lodger at his mother's house.

The book is very much character driven, there is a story arc but it's quite slow. The main focus are the characters and simple observations made throughout the book. Stibbe has a knack for mentioning things that might seem mundane or rambling coming from other people but from her they are charming and sometimes hilarious. There's nice descriptions and touches for life in the early 1980s, nostalgic without being over the top or too schmaltzy. I really enjoy the characters and how they interact with each other, Lizzie and her dysfunctional family are very entertaining. In Man at the Helm, Lizzie was this perfect mix of childhood innocence and maturity for her age. In Paradise Lodge, it's a coming of age story where Lizzie is trying to get to grips with getting older and being a teenager. In Reasons to Be Cheerful, we see Lizzie becoming an adult and trying to find her groove in life. I love her quirks, she's very endearing and it was a pleasure to see Lizzie bloom and grow into the woman she wants to be. I found myself rooting for her. I love Stibbe's writing and look forward to her next book.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Reading Rush Readathon 2019 TBR (formerly BookTubeAThon)

The BookTubeAThon was a week long readathon that originated on YouTube in 2013, founded by two BookTubers Ariel and Raeleen. This year it's got a revamp and is known as The Reading Rush. The premise is still the same: a week of reading, 7 reading challenges to try complete, daily photo challenges on Instagram, video challenges on YouTube and fun things like book chats and reading sprints on Twitter. It runs this year from midnight 22nd July finishes midnight 29th July (though I used to just start it Monday morning and if I was still reading past midnight the Sunday night into Monday morning I counted it). It's a great way to challenge yourself and find other people online who are interested in the same things as you. 

I did the BookTubeAThon every year except last year. You can see my results for 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 by clicking through. Last year I just didn't feel very motivated by the challenges that were set and was going through a really bad reading slump. I wasn't sure if I'd do The Reading Rush this year but I liked the look of the challenges and I've since stated a bookish account on Instagram so thought it would be fun to join in there too. I took a picture for the Instagram account of my TBR pile for the challenges and decided I'll talk through the choices here.

A stack of 7 books from top to bottom: No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann, Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, a Kindle Fire with a black book cover

I have picked 7 books, one that will suit every challenge but a lot of them work for more than one challenge and the likelihood of me reading 7 books in the week is slim with a full time job and the fact I'm going away for the weekend too! I'm going to write all the 7 challenges below and put the applicable books under them. The book at the bottom of the pile is my Kindle and I can pick books from there

1. Read a book with purple on the cover
-The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (it has the TINIEST amount of purple on the cover but it counts!)
-Another book from my Kindle, I'd have to look. I struggled a lot with this actually! I don't have many purple books

2. Read a book in the same spot the entire time (doesn't have to be all at once, as long as you read the book in the same location every time you read it)
-No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
-Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
-Sweet Valley High: Academic All Star? by Katy Rex (on Kindle)

3. Read a book you meant to read last year
-Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
-A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

4. Read an author's first book
-Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (it was Gaiman's first book)
-I had put Convienience Store Woman in the pile partially because of this challenge but it's not the author's first book. It is the first one translated into English (I think) so I might possibly count it if I'm in a pinch

5. Read a book with a non-human main character
-Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann (this will also count as a book for Book Riot Read Harder so I'm delighted!)

6. Pick a book that has 5 or more words in the title
-Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
-The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie 
-No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg

7. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation
-Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

If I'm being honest, 30 minutes after choosing these books I changed my mind! 😆 Though I think that's the beauty with this, I can change my mind. You'll get to see what I actually picked to read and if it was any of these books!

Are you going to do The Reading Rush this year? Let me know below or come say hi on Instagram

Friday, July 12, 2019

Meat Market by Juno Dawson Book Review

When 16 year old Jana Novak is spotted by a Prestige Models scout on a school tour, her life is flipped upside down. Never mind the fact that Jana has never worn a pair of heels before, in a matter of weeks she's walking London Fashion Show and shooting campaigns for high street stores. Life is a whirlwind for Jana as she quickly learns that while modelling has it's perks (free swag, flying around the world, fun parties in New York), it's not all glamour. Jana struggles with the two versions of herself- Jana Novak, child of immigrants from a South London housing estate and Jana, the supermodel. Can Jana keep her feet on the ground or will the seedy underbelly of fashion and modelling sweep her away and change her for good?

This novel was my first by Juno Dawson and I was very impressed! Jana is such an interesting character, I loved her story arc and how she found her voice. I found myself rooting for her. I wanted her to succeed, felt for her when she was lonely and exhausted, cheered her on when she started standing up for herself. The book touches on a lot of dark topics. With a book about models, eating disorders and diets is of course touched on as well as body shaming, drugs, sexual harassment, misogyny, sexual assault. None of it felt like it was used for shock value though, it all felt natural to the story. Something I'd credit to Dawson and all the research that was done for this novel. I wasn't sure what to think before I picked up this book, I thought it would feel cliched, instead it was compelling and in the end of was dying to pick this up and finish it!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

When All is Said by Anne Griffin Book Review

When All is Said by Anne Griffin UK book cover
Maurice Hannigan has lived a good life into his 80s. As he sits at the bar in the Rainford House Hotel, he orders 5 different drinks. With each drink he toasts one person that has shaped and influenced his life: his older brother, his daughter, his sister-in-law, his son and his wife. Each toast tells us the story of Maurice and how each of these people impacted on Maurice and his decisions through his life. This story is woven into another story, Maurice's complicated relationship with the Rainford House Hotel and a certain gold coin.

This was a very poignant story, I found myself crying several times throughout the book from the beginning. It's nostalgic without being overly so, there's a certain bittersweet quality the whole thing. Griffin has a way with words that really pulled on my heartstrings. The book has a certain shade of Irishness to it, found especially the early years of Maurice's life, as well as simple turns of phrases throughout the whole story. Maurice could easily be someone you know, an old man full of proud moments and regrets, unable to say how they truly feel to their loved ones, not used to showing their emotions.

I did find that even though I really enjoyed reading it, I wasn't compelled to pick it up and devour it. I don't know if it's because I simply wanted to savour it, if it was a reading slump or if it was because I found it rambled on a bit. I think the secondary story with the gold coin made it drag a bit. If there was a tighter edit then this mightn't have been the case (speaking of editing, it did crack me up a bit to see Dunnes Stores edited to Dunne's Stores). Overall though, it's a book I can see myself thinking about quite a bit over the next few weeks, I feel like it's stuck in my head! 

Friday, July 5, 2019

Pulp by Robin Talley Book Review

Pulp is told with dual narratives. In 1955 Washington D.C., 18 year old Janet Jones is coming to terms with her sexuality and love for her friend Marie, an awakening that occurs after discovering romance books about women loving other women. But this is not the time or place for gay people, where you can easily lose your job and be blackballed, accused of being a Communist or sent to hospital to be 'fixed'. Yet Janet yearns to write her own romance novel, an ambition that may expose her secrets with dangerous consequences for her and Marie.

Fast forward to 2017 and 17 year old Abby Zimet is having a tough year. After what she thought was a temporary break while her girlfriend Linh was visiting relative abroad for the summer, Abby is heartbroken that they haven't gotten back together. And that Linh doesn't seem interested in doing so. Her home life is a mess, her parents have seemed to schedule their work travel trips so that one of them is away while the other is at home and if on the rare occasion they are together the tension is unbearable. To make matters worse, Abby is procrastinating with her college applications and time is running out. The only thing she is interested in is her senior year project on 1950s lesbian pulp fiction and in particular one title written under the pseudonym of Marian Love. Abby is obsessed with finding out the true identity of Marian Love.

I enjoyed this book, mostly the timeline set in Janet's era. I thought it was well developed and I could feel the fear the characters felt about being outed in a time that was dangerous to show your true identity. I didn't really connect with Abby, I felt she was a bit too chaotic for me in her obsession and didn't feel that fleshed out. Though when it comes to reading YA, I can sometimes dismiss this as a criticism because I'm no longer a teen. There's a possibility that I might have connected to Abby more if I was still a teenager and/or had gone through some of the issues she went through in the book. The book is a bit slow at times too, possibly because of the length. There's also one or two details near the end, inconsistencies that I disliked that I won't go into here but that I did mention on my Goodreads review if you're interested.

I liked the contrast of the 1950s repression to the 2017 era where Abby and her friends her are very openly LGBTQ+, to see the progression that has been made (and highlighted that there is still progress to be made, especially when it comes to trans people). We get some intersectionality with some black lesbians and the additional problems they faced under Jim Crow law. I think the best thing about the book is how educational the book is in terms of LGBTQ+ history, it also touches upon the Lavender Scare, gives nods to Harvey Milk and Frank Kameny and of course there's so much about the lesbian pulp fiction scene. It's a great place to start to look into more queer history, which I'll probably do after this as I want to educate myself more. The book is well researched which adds to the pleasure of reading it. And it's great to have a YA book that openly has a f/f romance mentioned the blurb, I have seen recently that some books don't bring up this up and market them as f/f books. Especially since m/m YA books seem to get marketed heavily. Katytastic on YouTube did a good video about this.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Anticipated Book Released 2019 May-August

Don't mind me, I'm just late as per usual. Better late than never I guess! Some of the books have already been released (I've even read some!) but thought I'd post them anyway to show what I was excited about before they came out. I've already started keeping track of the late releases for 2019 so hopefully that post will be on time!

Toffee by Sarah Crossan

Sarah Crossan writes beautiful YA books, they never fail to bring a tear to my eye. Allison has run away from home and is squatting in the shed at the bottom of an abandoned house. However when she goes to take a closer look at the house, she finds it isn't abandoned and that an elderly lady called Marla lives there. She mistakes Allison for someone for Toffee and so Allison, who is used to constantly hiding who she really is, pretends to be Toffee in order to stay. May 2nd

I Heart Hawaii by Lindsey Kelk
The I Heart series is one of my favourites, I love seeing what Angela and Jenny are up to! This is the 8th and last week in the series and while I still have to read the 7th, I Heart Forever, this one looks like such a fun summery read. I bet it'll have me dreaming of sandy beaches, cocktails and pineapples! May 30th

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan
Speaking of favourites, Jenny's books are always so feel good and cosy! And this is a bonus as it's about books! Set in the same world as The Little Shop of Happy Ever After it sees single mother Zoe, living in London and desperate to make ends meet for herself and her 4 year old son Hari, who decides on a whim to take a job as a live in nanny in the Scottish Highlands. Jenny's books always make me want to go off and live in these dreamy locations she creates, they're always so idyllic. Perfect sunny summer reads. June 13th

Sweet Valley High: Academic All Star? by Katy Rex
I think I've been waiting for this book for over a year! It's a graphic novel edition of Sweet Valley High. What's not to love?! July 9th

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory
You may be noticing a theme by now and that's books that some might call 'chick lit'. I love a good funny romantic book for summer, something that sweeps you away when you can't get away yourself. This will be the 3rd in The Wedding Date series, which focuses on different couples with some overlapping characters. I won't say too much about the plot in this but if it's anything like the others I'm expecting good fun and lots of amazing food descriptions! July 16th

To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers
Becky Chambers' first novella following the previous 3rd novels in the Wayfarers universe. I don't know if this is in the Wayfarers universe but I'm still excited as Becky writes such amazing character driven sci-fi stories. Following a break through in science, humans can travel and survive far from earth in hostile environments. Adriadne is an explorer using these methods, 15 light years away from Earth, which has changed since she left. Tasked when heading back to a planet that may have forgotten those that left, she chronicles her journey. August 8th

Perfect Sound Whatever by James Acaster
January 2017 found James Acaster hungover and freshly single. In an attempt to comfort himself, he decides to buy as much music from 2016, before things went to shit. I'm sure this'll have the same zany James Acaster stories I know and love. I've already preordered this as an audiobook as I listened James Acaster's Classic Scrapes by audiobook and never laughed so much before in my entire life. August 22nd

Sex Power Money by Sara Pascoe
Animal by Sara Pascoe was one of my favourite books the year it was released and I was hoping Sara would release another book! Sex Power Money is a study of who we are and what motivates us, all from a from a feminist angle. August 27th

There's some good books here but I can't wait for the releases from September! There's some cracking books from some of my favourite authors coming out then. Hopefully I'll have the post up in August!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy Book Review

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy book cover
On the first page we discover that in the space of a few months, Ariel Levy has lost her son, her marriage has fallen apart and she's lost her home. Levy then builds up to these events, recounting tales from her childhood and early adult life.

I loved the writing style, I really connected with it and liked how it flowed. I enjoyed the first half of the book and the stories told (which can be hit or miss when you don't know anything about the person before picking up the book). But towards the second half it fell apart a bit for me. It felt a bit chaotic, which is a bit understandable as there's a lot of grief and coming to terms with big changes. However this meant that there were times when something was mentioned but not expanded upon until a bit later, meaning things felt a bit inconsistent and confusing. There is a lot of privilege and entitlement that seeped through too that made me disconnect with Levy. Especially when she talked about money. I go into that in more detail in my Goodreads post which you can read here.

That said, I did enjoy the writing which is why I gave it 3 stars. I probably would have given it 2 if I didn't. 

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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Cruel Acts by Jane Casey Book Review

Leo Stone was convicted a year ago of murdering 2 women and sentenced to life with no chance of parole. However his original trial is deemed a mistrial as it comes to light the jury, against advice, looked up Stone's previous criminal convictions and clouded their judgement. Stone is released and it's up to Detective Maeve Kerrigan and her colleagues to reexamine the evidence for a pending retrial. There is also a potential 3rd victim, who's body was never recovered and was only linked to Stone in a dubious manner which Maeve is determined to investigate more thoroughly.

I read the first chapter as a sample on another website and couldn't wait to get my hands on this. I was hooked from the word go! I love Casey's writing, about midway through the novel I thought I had it all figured out perfectly but there were more layers and surprises to go. Everything feels right, there doesn't seem to be shocks or twists just for the sake of them which I find happens sometimes with this genre. I enjoy Maeve and Josh Derwent's relationship most of the time, it's interesting and there's a chemistry there that is laced with love and hate. It shows how easy it is to trust someone's instincts or respect their work manner but at the same time be absolutely driven mad by them! I do wish we saw a bit more of Maeve's personal life. I know work is pretty much her life in some sense but I think Maeve could do with loosening up a bit. That said, it's a cracker of a book and I'm already looking forward to book 9!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Recipes for a Nervous Breakdown by Sophie White Book Review

Recipes for a Nervous Breakdown by Sophie White book cover
I'll admit, my Irish Authors Month in March did not go well. At all. I finished two books in March, with only one of them being Irish (Things in Jars by Jess Kidd). Nothing from the TBR took my fancy. And then I remembered this book. I was at the Irish Book Awards when it was nominated in 2016. And Chloe from NurseFancyPants rated it highly too so I decided to get it from the library in a bid to break my reading slump.

Part memoir, part cookbook, Recipes for a Nervous Breakdown is a searingly honest account of Sophie White's experiences with mental health, her tempestuous relationship with her mother, the devastation of her father being diagnosed with early onset dementia, marriage and motherhood. It genuinely made me laugh, cry and ponder on events in my own life.

We also learn about how Sophie came to train as a cook and each chapter has recipes inspired by the subject of that chapter. I loved this format! For example when it came to the recipes for the chapter on her relationship with her husband, Sophie says she could have picked more traditionally romantic foods but instead chose curries as it sums them up better and honestly, I felt that. I've already earmarked a few recipes I want to try out. The photography in the book is beautiful too which is a bonus. A well balanced book.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd Book Review

Things in Jars in Kidd's 3rd novel. Set primarily in 1863 Victorian London, we follow Bridie Devine, flame haired detective living with her 7ft tall housekeeper Cora. Bridie is still recovering from her last case so she's surprised when she's approached to find Christabel Berwick. But Christabel is no ordinary child, she has teeth like a pike, a burning bite, attracts snails and newts and can pull the deepest of memories out of your mind. Throughout this mysterious case, Bridie is accompanied by the ghost of of a tattooed pugilist Ruby Doyle. Bridie and Doyle takes us around London trying to find Christabel and to discover who and what Christabel is.

This is my first Kidd book and at first I wasn't sure what to expect. There is such whimsy and fun in the writing at times but not too much that it was overly try hard. Once I got used to the flow and bounce of the prose I really enjoyed it. Kidd conjures up Victoria London so well, the sights, sounds and smells of city leap off the page. I loved Bridie. Smart, feisty, complex and quirky without feeling like a stereotype. We learn of Bridie's past too, how she came to possess the knowledge and skill of surgery that would see her working in the medical profession if she wasn't a woman. While there's plenty of fun in the book, Kidd also does an excellent job with the villains in this, the fear was palpable at times.

As someone who enjoys books set in the Victorian times, especially with a female protagonist, it's up there with my favourites. The supernatural, mythical element added something new and fresh. I'd love to see these characters again for another book! Charming, strange but beautiful.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid Book Review

Daisy Jones and The Six tells the history of the rise and fall of legendary 70s rock band. The book's format is very unique, transcribed as oral history from the band's members and other people in their lives such as family, manager and their sound editor to name a few. We hear how The Six formed, Daisy Jones's history, how she came to collaborate with them and how it all came crashing down so suddenly.

This story is the epitome of sex, drugs and rock n roll. The descriptions are so rich and delicious, from the fashion choices (denim on denim for Billy, the long luscious locks for the Daisy along with all her bangles and big hoop earrings) to the simmering and sometimes explosive tensions between band members. There's one scene where they are shooting their album cover and it's clear that the photographer is focusing on Billy and Daisy and while the other band members hate it, there's nothing they can do about it. It reminded me of the Don't Speak by No Doubt music video. Though let's be real, while reading this there's only one band on your mind, Fleetwood Mac. It's so evocative of their story, Jenkins Reid takes elements of it and makes it her own. I liked that there were layers in the band's story. Going in I thought it might be one dimensional but so much is touched on, who despised who, those that had more of a love/hate relationship, who was there for the good times, who loved who. You go in thinking that the downfall of the group is going to be one thing but see that it's a combination of different personal relationships as well as individual demon's that causes the implosion.

The writing style is done where the people are interviewed individually and then the story is told in chronological order. I liked the nuances where one person recounted an event one way only for the next line to be a different character relating it a different way. The only problem I had with this  format is that it would have been cool to have the individual interviews but also have sections where two or more people were interviewed together so you could see more of a discussion between them about the events. It would have added a nice extra layer, to see the characters interact with each other some bit rather than to just hear how they had previously interacted. I also thought the climax would have a much bigger impact, possibly because I was expecting something like The Seven Husband's of Evelyn Hugo so I was a bit disappointed by that. However this book still has me super excited about a number of things

1) the audio book has multiple narrators, one for each character, which I think sounds like such a fun way to consume this book, like an audio documentary. I might listen to it again once it's released.

2) It's being made into a TV series because Reese Witherspoon loved the book so much and if done correctly it'll be such a visual treat

3) The end of the book has song lyrics and if they can nail the Fleetwood Mac vibes then it'll be incredible

4) There's a Spotify playlist to go along with this book which I just love the idea of. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas has a playlist too and I think these touches for books, especially books with music at the centre of the story, is such a cool

You know you've read a good historical fiction book when you want to know everything about what you've just read. Reading this book will make you want Daisy Jones and the Six to be real. You'll want to know everything about them. Unfortunately as they're not real you'll have to do what I'm doing now, Googling 60s Sunset Strip, 70s fashion, delving into the history of Fleetwood Mac while listening to the Rumours album, waiting for the TV show to be released.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

March 2019 Irish Authors TBR

After the incredible 3 month long January and 4 hour feeling Februrary, we're finally in March. And I love to read Irish authors in March. Why this month? Probably because of St. Patrick's Day to be honest. And I like that we're now into the 3rd month of the year and it's a good time to have a themed or set reading month. With all the excitement of new releases and reading challenges with the new year starting, there's no way I'd be able to focus on a themed month in January or February.

I started reading only Irish authors back in March 2014 and since then I pretty much only read Irish authors. Every now and again towards the end of the month I might pick up something else and I like not being too tied down to the theme. I've mainly tried to stick to people born in Ireland but I think after this year I'll start branching out to people of Irish descent too. I have some books I own that I want to try read, I might not get around to all of them but thought I'd put together a TBR list for this month for some of the choices I'll probably pick up. Let's start with the physical books.

Stack of four books. The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir by Lesley Allen, We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan, Beatlebone by Kevin Barry, Solar Bones by Mike McCormack

I own a nice stack of books by Irish authors but these are the ones I think I'll try focus on this month.

1. The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir by Lesley Allen. I got this free when I went to the Irish Book Awards in 2016. I don't know much about it, the book starts off with the main character Biddy ringing in to a TV show on the subject of bullying and she tells her story.

2. We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan. I couldn't tell you what this book is about without having to look it up first. To be honest I don't even know if I looked at what it was about when I bought it! I probably picked it up as I've enjoyed Sarah Crossan's other books One and Moonrise. That and it was a good price.

3. Beatlebone by Kevin Barry. I've read Dark Lies the Island the author, a collection of short stories that were haunting at times. Beatlebone is a fictionalised account set in 1978 of John Lennon going to the island he bought off west coast of Ireland. 

4. Solar Bones by Mike McCormack. Most of the people I follow on Goodreads have said not to read the blurb when it comes to this book which is what I've done. I bought this in 2017 and showed it in a haul post (which also included The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir). I've read half of those books, proving I'm rubbish when it comes to reading the books I buy.

Now on to the ebooks and audiobooks

4 book covers in a row. Things in Jars by Jess Kidd, The Wych Elm by Tana French, When All Is Said by Anne Griffin, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

1. Things in Jars by Jess Kidd. I featured this in my most anticipated reads for 2019 and I'm happy to say I have an ARC and I've already started it. Set in Victorian London with a female detective investigating a missing child, I'm really enjoying it so far.

2. The Wych Elm by Tana French. Another book featured in my most anticipated post, I love Tana French and I'm hoping her first book not set in the Dublin Murder Squad world doesn't disappoint.

3. When All is Said by Anne Griffin. This has been on my radar for the last week or so, mainly because it keeps popping up on the Rick O' Shea Book Club. 84 year old Maurice sits at a hotel bar and orders 5 different drinks, toasting a different person who impacted and shaped his life. In doing so we hear his life story. It's intrigued me so I requested a copy on NetGalley.

4. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. If you haven't heard Sally Rooney's name, then you probably live under a rock. I got this as an audio book during one of Audible's 2 for 1 sales.

There's a few other books I might pick up over the month. I'm mainly hoping I can get an early copy of Cruel Acts by Jane Casey as I've read the first chapter and I loved it. I have no non-fiction here so I might need to find one to break the month up too. 

If you've read any of these books let me know, it might help me pick it up faster!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Anticipated Book Releases 2019 January-April

There’s something about the beginning of the year, new year new book releases new reading challenges, that gets me hyped about reading. I love seeing if any favourite authors have upcoming books and coming across books from authors I haven’t heard of before. I’ve come across so many releases that I’ve split them into different blog posts. This one will concentrate on the first four months of the year.

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus
I really enjoyed One of Us is Lying, which was a murder mystery meets a mixture of The Breakfast Club and Gossip Girl. So I’m looking forward to reading the next book from the same author. I don’t know too much about it as I want to go into it cold. Ellery has to move in with her Grandmother in Echo Ridge, a town that has mysteries (her aunt disappeared from there at the age of 17) and dark secrets (5 years ago a homecoming queen was murdered). Of course, secrets have a way of coming out and causing mayhem. This book is already out, it was released January 10th and I’m on the wait list at the library

Duped: Double Lives, False Identities and the Con Man I Almost Married by Abby Ellin
After discovering that her fiancé was lying about who he was, Abby Ellin explores her own story, looks into the art of lying and talks to other people who have had similar stories. It sounds so fascinating, I’m always floored when I hear stories about people who have successfully lived double lives. January 15th

The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin
Take the story of Henry VIII and his wives, put it in a modern high school setting and you get a story that’s being billed as The Tudors meets Mean Girls. There’s a lot of mixed reviews for it on Goodreads but I’m just hoping for some campy good fun! January 29th

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give was one of my favourite books from 2017. There’s a reason it’s so hyped and it’s well deserved. The story and characters are fantastic and the messages in the book are so so important. I was disappointed On the Come Up was pushed back from its release last year but I’m sure the wait will be well worth it. 16 year old Bri is the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died before he hit it big. Bri really wants to become a rapper and when her mom loses her job and bills start piling up, Bri no longer just wants to hit it big, she needs to hit it big. February 5th

The Wych Elm by Tana French
I mentioned this book in my September to December 2018 Book Releases post. It seems it was released in the US last October, as The Witch Elm, but it’s due to be officially released here in February as The Wych Elm. It’s Tana’s first stand alone novel, it’s not part of the Dublin Murder Squad series. I’ve heard it’s very slow paced and atmospheric but worth reading. As I’m a big fan of Tana, I’ll definitely be picking it up. February 21st

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Written as an oral history of a fictional band, Daisy Jones and the Six, it tells the story of their rise in popularity and why the band split at the height of fame in the 70s. The concept sounds super unique, I’m getting a Fleetwood Mac vibe off the whole thing and it’s already been opted for a TV series by Reese Witherspoon’s company Hello Sunshine. And she has soon good taste in books judging by her book club! If that wasn’t enough, given that The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was one of my favourites last year, it makes me even more hyped about this book. March 7th

The Department of Sensitive Crimes by Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith perfectly nails cosy crime books with his other series (I’ve read a lot of the No.1 Ladies Detectives Agency as well as some of the other ones too). Scandi-noir crime novels are dark, bleak, moody with serious subject matters. This is being billed as the opposite, Scandi-blanc! Detective Varg and his department deals with cases that the other police deem not worth the time, things that seem strange or inconsequential. Like why the local business owner was stabbed in the back of the knee. It sounds like the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency if it was set in Sweden and I know I’ll probably pick this up if I’m looking for something gentle but different. March 7th

Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman
When Jessica joins a classical music ensemble as a violinist in New York City, she thinks it’s a dream come true. Until she discovers the whole thing is a sham, the microphones are never on and the music is coming from a CD that sounds suspiciously like the Titanic soundtrack. From what I can tell this book doesn’t just centre around the story but is also a memoir of her life. The story alone though as me intrigued as it sounds batshit crazy! March 12th

Microtrends Squared by Mark Penn
I read the original Microtrends book back in college, about 10 years ago. It focuses on how the behaviour of tiny groups of people can have a larger effect on the population (off the top of my head I remember soccer moms being one of the groups in the first book!). With so many changes and advances over the past ten years, it’ll be interesting to see what’s being proposed as the next big small things in society. And it’ll be perfect for the Book Riot Read Harder challenge for a business book as it’s all about microeconomics. March 20th

The Mobster’s Lament by Ray Celestin
The Mobster’s Lament is book 3 in City Blue Quartet. The first book is The Axeman’s Jazz (set in New Orleans) and the second book is Dead Man’s Blues (set in Chicago). I’ve only read Dead Man’s Blues but it didn’t spoil The Axeman’s Jazz for me (I have a copy of this actually, I didn’t know Dead Man’s Blue was the follow up when I started reading it, otherwise I would have started with The Axeman’s Jazz!). The Mobster’s Lament is set in New York City and I plan on picking up The Axeman’s Jazz before this one! March 21st

Reasons to be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe
I’m a big fan of Stibbe’s books and this will be the 3rd book with Lizzy Vogel, the first being Man at the Helm and the second Paradise Lodge. Lizzie is now 18 and trying to be an independent woman. Though she has a lot to learn about the realities of life and love. I’m sure it’ll be a great mixture of Stibbe’s usual charm, dry wit and dark humour. March 28th

Sex Power Money by Sara Pascoe
Animal by Sara Pascoe is one of my favourite books on feminism. It’s not perfect as it doesn’t have a lot of experiences with intersectionality but a lot of it is from Sara’s own experiences and Sara acknowledges and addresses the lack of intersectionality by saying she doesn’t expect her book to be the definitive in feminism, she just wants to be apart of the conversation. I expect this will be a follow on look at feminism and I’m hoping it’ll be just as funny as Animal. The publisher’s catalogue says March 28th but Amazon says 27th August so fingers crossed it’s sooner rather than later! March 28th

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd
I’ve heard of Jess Kidd before and you probably have too (Himself and The Hoarder) but have yet to pick up any of her novels. This caught my eye as it’s a Victorian murder mystery with a female detective. Er, yes please! Sign me up! April 4th

The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion
This is book 3 in The Rosie Project series, book two The Rosie Effect came out 2o14. I enjoyed the previous two books, though as I was unaware this series was to be continued I’m not super hyped for it. However I’m sure I will pick it up at some stage as I am interested in seeing how the story progresses. April 4th

Cruel Acts by Jane Casey
Book 8 in the Maeve Kerrigan detective series and I can’t wait to read it! One of my favourite crime series and this book can’t come out quick enough. I read books 2-7 over the space of a month in 2017 so it really can’t come quick enough! April 4th

I’ve already started to keep tabs on the releases for May onwards but I’m going to wait to post these until the end of March or beginning of April. Let me know what new books you’re most looking forward to reading this year.

On another note, I wrote this post in January but then Open Writer, the programme I use to write and publish posts, developed some issue with Google changing something to do with how photos are uploaded or something. IDK. Anyway, I ended up removing the photos, adding this as a draft to edit on Blogger and then got super frustrated because I can NEVER get my posts to look the way I want them to using the Blogger editor. It took me ages, editing the HMTL to get the post to look semi decent and it makes me regret not choosing WordPress when I originally started the blog. Sigh

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Favourite Books 2018

I read 82 books in 2018, which was more than my Goodreads target of 52. I’ve gone through them and picked my 5 favourite fiction, non-fiction and YA books. As I’ve pointed out in a previous favourites post, I keep YA separate not because I think it’s lesser but because I love reading it and think it deserves its own highlight.
Top 5 Fiction Books 2018

1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I was suffering a horrible reading slump during the summer and this book pulled me out of it! Legendary actress Evelyn Hugo has agreed to do a rare interview. She specifically requests Monique Grant, a low level magazine writer, much to the confusion of Monique and her boss. Evelyn tells her amazing life story through her seven husbands. It’s full of glamour, secrets and drama and I can’t wait to pick up more by Jenkins Reid.

2. From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan. Take three very different men in a small town in Ireland: Syrian refugee Farouk, 23 year old heartbroken Lampy and elderly dying John. They are all struggling with their own lives and pasts. Their stories are beautifully written, so poignant at times. Donal Ryan has such an amazing way with words. And while the characters look like they have nothing in common, their lives are all invisibly threaded together, which becomes clear by the end of the novel. And my heart wrenched when it happened, the same way it happened when reading Ryan's previous novel All We Shall Know. Beautiful in a heart wrenching way.

3. Dear Mrs Bird by A.J. Pearce. When Emmeline Lake takes a job at a magazine, she has visions of being a Lady War Correspondent during World War II. Instead she finds herself working for the formidable Henrietta Bird, typing out response for her advise column. Mrs Bird has strict instructions, any letters with Unpleasantness must be binned IMMEDIATELY. However these letters tug on Emmy’s heart and she finds herself replying to them secretly as Mrs Bird. While this book at first seems a bit like if Anne from the Famous Five grew up (lots of jolly goods and smashings!), underneath the fizzy frothiness is some really heart and bravery. A real feel good charming novel.

4. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. The books opens with the narrator in a different body and has to find out who he is. He discovers that Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 10pm and he has seven days to figure it out. He wakes in a different body each day, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.  A murder mystery with a twist! Full review here.

5. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith. After a 3 year wait, we finally got our hands on book 4 in the Cormorant Strike series! It was a big hefty read (the biggest book I read last year) but it had me hooked and I loved seeing Strike and Robin again.

Honorary mentions to Binti by Nnedi Okorafor and The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory.

Top 5 Non-Fiction Books

1. Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh. A book on the relationship of food, eating disorders, feminism, fatness, class, culture, privilege and pleasure, amongst other issues too. Reading this book was a pleasure and Ruby has such a refreshing attitude when it comes to food. I have a full review on my Goodreads which I’ll probably post here in it’s own blog post.

2. My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen. Lily doesn’t hold back in this memoir, it’s a warts and all book that highlights the highs and lows from her life. I was a big big fan of Lily’s first album, I listened to it constantly the summer of 2006. While I knew bits and pieces of Lily’s life (mostly through the tabloids), it was interesting to hear it from her own perspective. There was a lot I didn’t realise, like the story with her stalker which is terrifying. I listened to it on audiobook and really recommend it this way as Lily reads it herself.

3. I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell. Maggie replays 17 brushes with death that had an impact on her life, from her own childhood illness to being away from home at 18 years old to giving birth and almost drowning on holiday. I decided to listen to this book after seeing Jen Campbell listening to it when going for a walk. Within the first 5 minutes of listening my mouth was agape (first story is the one being 18 years old and encountering a man when on a walk alone). A beautiful and powerful read that will stick with you for a long time.

4. James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes by James Acaster. I love James and his sense of humour so I decided to give this a shot. And boy am I glad that I did. We do get the story of James and his upbringing but mainly it’s a series of hilarious stories (or the scrapes that only James can get himself in to) that will have you laughing til you cry. Another one I listened to and highly highly recommend it, it had me snorting and stifling giggles in the work canteen and in Lidl.

5. From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty. As I’ve stated here before I’m a big fan of Caitlin and her work (her YouTube channel and previous book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes). Caitlin travels the world and explore death in different cultures, which was fascinating. Seeing as I enjoy listening to Caitlin in her videos, I listened this one too as an audiobook. Caitlin now has a podcast too Death in the Afternoon which I also recommend!

Honourable mentions to both of the No Such Thing as Fish books, Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson, Shrill by Lindy West and Feminists Don’t Wear Pink curated by Scarlett Curtis.

Top 5 YA Books 2018

1. Save the Date by Morgan Matson. Set over the weekend of her sister’s wedding, anything that can go wrong will go wrong for Charlie Grant and her family. I really enjoyed how the story was told over a weekend and as Charlie’s mother is the creator of a comic book strip based on the family, we got a comic strip at the beginning of each chapter which was very cute. Coming from a large family, I loved the family dynamic in this and I could see this as a movie.

2. Wing Jones by Katherine Webber. Wing lives with her mother, brother, her Ghanaian grandmother and her Chinese grandmother. Wing doesn’t fit in and spends a lot of time with her brother, his girlfriend and his best friend. When her brother is in an accident, Wing begins to run and discovers she’s pretty good at it. Set in the 1990s, it’s a sweet coming of age story that explores being different, finding your strengths and learning who you are. I loved that the book didn’t shy away from some of the harsh realities of life, like money problems. A slow burner, you’ll find yourself cheering on Wing.

3. Rivals in the City by Y.S. Lee. The last book in The Agency quartet, Mary Quinn is an undercover agent and spy in Victorian times. I loved the series, I enjoy books set in Victorian times and having a spy element just makes it much better. Book one is A Spy in the House.

4. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. The second Matson book on the list, I would have avoided doubling up on authors but this made me feel things. Taylor and her family go to their family lake side house for one last summer together. Taylor hasn’t been to the lake house in years and when last there, something happened that caused a fallout with her best friend and her first boyfriend. Of course both these people are there for the summer and Taylor must come to terms with her past while trying to deal with the future for her family. Poignant novel that made me cry and smile.

5. Obsidio by Aime Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Final book in the Illuminae series, it’s a fun sci-fi series set in space. The books are told through files, transcriptions and the musings of a crazy computer system which is super unique and interesting.

Honorary mentions Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman, a western which was something new for me and To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han, which I read before watching the Netflix film which was super cute and Lara Jean has a fantastic wardrobe.

I read some graphic novels as well this year but unlike my 2016 post I didn’t include any favourites because my favourites were continuations from series that I’m in the middle of and enjoying (Saga, Paper Girls, Ms Marvel) and if they weren’t part of a series I already like, then I wasn’t overly impressed or blown away by them. My library is also behind on these series, particularly Lumberjanes and Squirrel Girl which is such a shame.

While the books avoid were fantastic and I loved them, overall I think my reading year was quite blah. There was a lot of 2 star reads, I DNFd some books and I had a big reading slumping. I’m just glad that there were some highs and that I read these gems.
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