Tuesday, October 29, 2019

NonFiction November Challenge and TBR

This will be my 3rd year doing NonFiction November. I participated in 2016 and last year. What's NonFiction November you ask? Run by Booktuber abookolive, the aim isn't to read only nonfiction but to read more nonfiction than you usually do. So if don't read nonfiction, then reading just one nonfiction book will suffice. If you read one a month, try to read two and so on and so forth. There are also 4 one word prompts for you to try complete as well. The beauty of the one word prompts is that it's open to interpretation, you can bend the meanings to fit your own reading habits and likes. Olive does a great job of going through the prompts and their meaning so you can check out her video here if you'd like. The prompts are as follows:
  1. Design
  2. Sport
  3. True
  4. Voice
Here are some of books I'm thinking of reading for these prompts


-Semicolon is unsurprisingly a book about the semicolon, one I wanted to read a few months ago as it was a Book of the Month for the Rick O'Shea Book Club. I thought it suited the prompt as punctuation is a design element of language.

-Microtrends Squared is something I'm kinda twisting to fit the prompt to be honest. Mainly because I'm reading it for Book Riot Read Harder and need to get it finished by the end of the year! But economics and trends can shape the world we live in the how things are designed to work.... yeah it's a stretch but I'm keeping it!

-Sex on the Moon is about breaking into a NASA centre to steal moon rocks, I'm sure there's plenty about the lead up and design of the heist!

-Toast and Marmalade is by Emma Bridgewater, who designs pottery. The cover has some of her designs on the front too!


-Not going to lie, this is the hardest one for me as I'm not a big sports fan and while I had a few ideas, I ran into hiccoughs like the books being hard to get or the reviews not being great. While making my list the other day I Am the Secret Footballer went on sale on Audible for 99p so I decided to just get it!

-Inverting the Pyramid is one of the only sports books I own, purely because the book was on the free book table at work. I'll either find this book on football tactics incredibly interesting or really boring!

-Walking's a sport right? I'm counting it! London Overground is a walk around the Overground system in London. If it's not counted as a sport in the physical sense, then it most certainly is in the adventure/fun sense.

-If walking around London doesn't tickle my fancy then maybe Circle Line, a book on sailing around London will appeal to me?!


-The Library Book is about an arson in a library, I picked it mainly because I need to read a nonviolent true crime book for Book Riot Read Harder (Sex on the Moon will also count for this)

-Something I can not get enough of is stunt journalism, doing something for the pure fun and thrill of it. I picked up A Chip Shop in Poznan while in London back in July.

-I already have The Book of the Year 2019 on preorder and can't wait to listen to all these true facts!

-If you're a book lover and haven't heard of Educated then you're head must be in the sand as it's such a hyped up book, the true story of Tara Westover and her family


-Last year I read Feminists Don't Wear Pink and this year I'm thinking of reading It's Not OK to be Blue, essays and accounts about depression and mental health

-No One is Too Small to Make a Difference is such a great book for this prompt, one person's voice on climate change, that inspires people and proves that one person can make a difference

-Notes to Self are essays from Emelie Pine which I've heard so many good things about and I've really been enjoying reading books about women and their life experiences

-Talking as Fast as I Can is a memoir from Lauren Graham and I liked the fact that it had talking in the title too!

Obviously I won't be reading all these books in November, I'm good at reading but not that good! I chose these books most because I own them! But also because they fit some other challenges I'm doing and I think there's a good mix of different types of nonfiction. I have other books I might chose instead, especially audiobooks as I love them when I'm commuting and crafting. I also have some books due to come in to the library but I don't think they fit these themes.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Downstairs Girl by Stacy Lee Book Review

Set in 1890's Atlanta, Jo Kuan is a 17 Chinese-American girl who lives with Old Gin, who took her in and raised her after her parents abandoned her. By night, they live secretly in the basements beneath newspaper publishers. By day they both work for one of the richest families in Atlanta; Jo as a lady's maid for the daughter of the house and Old Gin in the stables. When she overhears the publishing family saying they're struggling with all their competition in the market, Jo secretly pens an advice column for them to print under the name Miss Sweetie. As she comes up against all sorts of racist and sexist struggles in her personal life, she uses Miss Sweetie to channel her frustrations and shake up what society thinks of women and people of colour. But the overnight success of Miss Sweetie soon becomes a problem for Jo, as people are dying to find out who Miss Sweetie is, for better or for worse. Can she risk being found out?

I loved this book! It's such a smart and funny YA book that can be enjoyed by everyone. Jo is such a dynamic interesting character and I loved seeing her channel Miss Sweetie into her own life and push herself to do more. The secondary characters felt well thought out too. There's so many different plots going on that all feed into each other and never get too complicated or felt like too much. This book highlights feminism but highlights how white feminism was in 1890s. It's a great book for younger readers to highlight racism and sexism in those times as it's done so well. Despite these heavier themes, everything is nicely balanced by the wit and humour. Refreshing, informative and fun historical YA novel.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Filter This by Sophie White Book Review

Book cover of Filter This by Sophie White
I read Sophie White's first book Recipes for a Nervous Breakdown earlier this year and loved it. It's part memoir, part cook book, you can check out the review here. So when I heard she was writing a novel, I couldn't wait to read. I listed it on my Most Anticipated Book Releases for September to December and was thrilled when I got approved on NetGalley.

Ali Jones is stuck in a job with a boss she hates, her father is ill, her relationship with her mother is strained and the most meaningful relationship she has is with a bottle of wine. She joins Instagram as a way to escape life and channel her creativity and soon becomes hooked, obsessing over the number of followers and likes she gets on her posts. She looks on in envy at some of the big names in the Irish scene, wishing that could be her.

Shelly Devine is THE biggest influencer in Ireland. Beautiful, an actress on a popular soap with a gorgeous successful husband, and cute baby daughter. Not to mention big stylish house and all the brand deals, her life looks complete. But underneath this shiny Instagram portrayal is a different story, with her husband Dan slowly becoming disillusioned with the whole thing and sick of brand Shelly coming before the real Shelly. Can Shelly and her assistant keep the cracks from showing?

When one day Ali leads her followers to believe she's pregnant when she's not, she goes from an up and coming influencer to an overnight success. Ali decides to continue on with the facade but as the time goes on it becomes harder to keep the house of cards from tumbling. Can she succeed in pulling this off?

Filter This is a sharp look at Instagram culture and the influencers behind it. Ali is an anti-heroine, you find yourself rooting for her even though you know what she's doing is wrong! The writing style is very down to earth and very Irish when it comes to dialogue and turns of phrases, something I love seeing in novels. While some of the other influencer characters we see seemed a bit of a stereotype in one sense (peaceful earth mother of a brood of kids who's secretly a nightmare to deal with, a friend who only seems interested in you because your star is rising), they didn't feel forced or farcical, they felt believable. This book made me laugh and cry. Having read Recipes for a Nervous Breakdown, you can really tell that Sophie is writing from the heart and past experiences during some of the sadder scenes, they made me choke up. The humour was right up my alley too, I laughed out loud several times. Looking forward to seeing what happens in book 2!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

American Royals by Katharine McGee Book Review

American Royals by Katharine McGee Book Cover
American Royals is the first in a series from Katharine McGee. It's America as we know it, but instead of a President ruling the country, a king does. One in a long line of successors from America's first king George Washington. And for the very first time, thanks to a change in the successor's act, America is to have their first Queen, Princess Beatrice. While still young at 22, she has trained to be a queen since the day she was born. She understands there is Beatrice the person and Beatrice the queen and knows the sacrifices that come with her crown. So when her parents pressure her into dating some eligible bachelors she agrees, even though her heart isn't in it. She's secretly in love with someone else.

Her younger sister Samantha feels like she's nothing, forever to be Beatrice's younger, wilder sister. A spare part, 2nd in line. She envies her sister and the way America adores her. A chance encounter with a handsome stranger at a party has a spring in her step, though trouble is always around the corner with Samantha.

Samantha's twin brother Jeff has split from a 3 year relationship with Daphne and is now falling for Nina, Sam's best friend and daughter to the Minister for Treasury. Nina is hesitant though. Despite knowing the Washingtons since she was 6, she isn't ready for a public relationship and all the pressures that come with it. Daphne is also determined to get back with Jeff but to what ends?

The book was a fun YA book, a little bit too long considering there are multiple points of view (Beatrice, Samantha, Nina and Daphne). It doesn't get confusing but I think having 4 POVs did slow down the pacing at times. It also meant that you'd just be getting into one person's narrative and looking forward to what was happening and then it would change. The tones never changed that much either and I do think it might have benefited from having the POVs from the men in the book. Perhaps that will happen in the next book in the series? Part of me likes the idea of reimagining American history. There were hints to the troubled past America has, such as slavery, and while it wasn't expanded upon, I'm glad it wasn't erased entirely. It does raise a question of the idea of a white monarchy in a country that already had native peoples and the fact that the whole point of the American Revolution was to get rid of a monarchy. That's the part of me that didn't like the reimagining part. However I did manage to cast that aside while reading it, as what the book does well is that it's like a soap opera. I could easily imagine it as a TV show. It was a very entertaining and light read, a fun YA novel that teenagers will enjoy.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Wych Elm by Tana French Book Review

The Wych Elm by Tana French being held in front of a Irish hillside scenery with blue skies and white clouds
Toby considers himself a fairly lucky guy. He has a job working for an art gallery with a campaign that's going really well, a girlfriend who's mad about him, his own apartment. Then one night he awakes to find the place being burgled by two men, who viciously beat him. As Toby struggles to recover from the attack that almost left him dead, he goes to live at his family's homestead to look after his dying uncle Hugo. The respite is interrupted when a human skull is found in the wych elm tree in the garden. Suddenly Toby and his family find their lives upside down as detectives investigate the mystery behind this skull. With Toby's memory being patchy since the attack and as tensions heighten, Toby is forced to reevaluate his life and if the past is everything he thought it was.

Be forewarned going into this book, it's long and slow moving. Knowing that meant that I could enjoy the book and anticipate what was going to come. It helps that Tana French is a favourite author of mine and that I knew everything would come together nicely. I enjoyed her wording and scene building, she has a lovely way with words. I was hesitant going into this because it isn't part of the Dublin Murder Squad series but honestly it felt like it was, the only difference being the point of view is from a suspect rather than a detective. And with the suspect's memory not being up to scratch, it was a mystery to us as we read it, as he was finding out as it went along what actually happened, so it was like a detective piecing everything together. I wasn't a massive fan of the ending, for something that was so slow it felt a bit rushed or something. That said, despite how slow moving it was at times, every time I wasn't reading it I was dying to pick it up and I read the 500+ pages quickly over the weekend. So that's a good sign! If you've not read Tana French before, I would not recommend this as the first book. But if you have and you're a fan, pick this up!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Anticipated Book Releases September-December 2019

In my Anticipated Book Releases May-August, I said I'd have a post up in August for my September-December Releases and I've actually managed to keep my word! Not going to lie, the idea of writing this post, getting the photos ready for this post seemed like such a hassle. More so because Blogger just doesn't seem to co-operate with me when it comes to photos. Anyway, there's lots of great books upcoming that I wanted to share which motivated me to get everything sorted!

Filter This by Sophie White

I read Sophie White's part-memoir part-cookbook Recipes For a Nervous Breakdown earlier this year and loved it. Filter This is her first novel which explores the dark side of social media. Ali Jones craves followers and being an influencer. So when she accidentally leads people to believe she's pregnant and sees a spike in followers, she decides to keep going with this lie. Meanwhile her idol and big influencer Shelly Divine seems to have it all, but we see the big stresses that having this fame brings to her and her family Sept 5th

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

I've read and loved other Gladwell books so I'm excited to see a new release. As the title suggests, it's about talking to people you don't know and knowing Gladwell he'll tell us plenty interesting tales and facts to create his point September 10th

Once, Twice, Three Times an Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen

The 3rd book in the Oh My God What a Complete Aisling series. I'm looking forward to seeing what Aisling gets up to next. They're funny and heartwarming reads September 12th

The Confession by Jessie Burton

I was delighted to see a new Jessie Burton book this year! I enjoyed The Miniaturist and LOVED The Muse. To be honest, I don't know what it's about. I haven't even properly read the synopsis. Nor do I want to, I'm happy going in utterly cold! September 15th

Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake

The final book in the Three Dark Crowns series, set on a secret mysterious island where triplets are born, brought up separately and at the age of 16 fight until one is victorious and becomes the new queen. I'm not super excited about this but it's been an interesting enough series and I want to know what happens September 15th

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty

The 3rd book from Caitlin Doughty, who I first came across with her Ask a Mortician series on YouTube. Caitlin will answer 35 questions that have been put to her by some of her youngest fans. I expect it will be funny, delightful and informative. I have it preordered on audiobook as I listened to her second book this way and love her narration September 15th

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

Jasmine writes adorable fun contemporary romance novels, I've read the 1st three she's written so far. This one will be Christmas themed so I'm going to save it for that time of the year. Again I don't know too much about it but I'm ok with that! October 1st

The Places I've Cried in Public by Holly Bourne

Holly is the queen of contemporary YA and I've enjoyed many of her previous books. She covers lots of serious issues and it seems like this one will be no different October 3rd

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

Sequel to her very popular book Carry On. While I did enjoy Carry On, with Simon Snow and Baz (the story that was the basis of fan fiction in Fangirl), I wasn't bowled over by it like others. But I think I might try and read this one to see where the story goes next October 3rd

It's Not Ok to Feel Blue and Other Lies currated by Scarlett Curtis

I really enjoyed Feminists Don't Wear Pink, essays and thoughts about feminism from all different aspects from different women. This is similar but this time the topic is mental health. This list of people included looks amazing! Names I recognise (I can't wait to see what Naomi Campbell has written!) and plenty I don't but will no doubt be interesting October 3rd

Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay has been a massive success. I read it in July and loved it, it was so funny and sad. This is a shorter book with stories set around being a medical professional at Christmastime. I'm sure it'll be just as funny and sad as the first book October 15th

Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao

I read American Panda by Gloria Chao earlier this year and really enjoyed it, it was a cute contemporary YA novel. Ali, who is the only Asian kid in her high school in Indiana, becomes close to new kid Chase, who is also Tawainese. Though when her mother finds out she forces Ali to end things. Ali uncovers secrets when she digs deeper into why her mum is so reluctant about Ali and Chase October 15th

The Book of the Year 2019 by No Such Thing as Fish

Another book with some of the craziest stories from 2019. As a fan of the podcast I look forward to these and will preorder it as an audiobook when it's available to do so October 24th

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

A new novel by the author of The Night Circus. I don't know much about this book, except there's magic and bound to be so dreamy descriptions of things. That's all I remember about The Night Circus! November 5th

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

A book on feminism and pop culture. If it's anything like Shrill it will be insightful and punchy. November 5th

False Value by Ben Aaronovitch

The latest installment of the Rivers of London series. Though to be honest I'm not keeping my hopes up that it'll be out in November, lately these novels keep getting their publication dates pushed back. One can hope! November 14th

And that's it for 2019! There are of course other books coming out that probably have more hype than these. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, the follow up to The Handmaid's Tale, is out September 10th. I'm not sure yet if I'll read it which is why I didn't include it. Other books may also be announced but I'm hoping I haven't missed anything.

What are you most looking forward to coming out over the next few months? Is it one of these books or something else I haven't posted? Let me know in a comment below or on Instagram!

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!

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