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!

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 practice.in 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.

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