June Reading Wrap-Up

Following straight on from my mid-2018 reading update, here are the books I read in June!

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

22484241

I would never have picked this up myself, but I read it for book club and I’m so glad we picked it! It’s completely melodramatic, funny and trashy in the best possible way. Perfect sun-lounger material if you’re going on holiday this summer…

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

864890

No comment needed, really. I’ll be re-reading these ’til I die, and probably after that, too.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

35898777

The eventual winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018, this was undoubtedly a very accomplished book, but I wasn’t wowed by it. Sometimes the structure felt a little forced and the relationships a little untrue, perhaps because it’s an adaptation (of Antigone). The ending was very powerful, though.

Sight by Jessie Greengrass

36212526

Also shortlisted for the Women’s Prize, Sight is a novel about becoming a parent and being a child. I found it intensely introspective, in a way that didn’t quite work for me; I really liked how the three parts of the novel interacted with the three respective scientific strands, but it didn’t all come together as a whole.

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

36382002

My second Discworld novel, The Light Fantastic follows straight on from The Colour of Magic, continuing Rincewind and Twoflower’s mad adventure as they race to save the Discworld from an apocalyptic collision with a malevolent star. A lot of fun.

Fierce by Gin Phillips

39345060

Fierce takes place over the course of three hours one evening, after Joan finds herself trapped in the zoo after closing time with her four-year-old son. Confronted with a horror she can barely let herself imagine, she must listen to all her instincts in order to keep her son alive. I read this incredibly fast – it was as close to unputdownable as I could manage whilst also, y’know, actually having to go to work, eat, sleep etc.

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

561371

Another book club read. We’re discussing this one tomorrow and I’m really intrigued to hear other people’s thoughts on it. I definitely enjoyed it, and I think Margaret Atwood is a brilliant writer, but it felt slightly rushed and perhaps even a little insubstantial to me. I thought the chorus’s parts were very strong, though.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

24965395

I didn’t read this when the whole world was swept up in the hype surrounding it a few years ago because someone accidentally spoiled the ending. Not ideal for a thriller. But I enjoyed Into the Water so much, and I figured enough time had probably passed to make the details hazy… And I really enjoyed it, although probably less than I might have done had I read it with zero prior knowledge of the plot. If you’ve also been resolutely ignoring the book buzz around this one, I definitely recommend giving it a go!

Snap by Belinda Bauer

35407278

Dark, complex, a little bit fairytale-esque, funny… Basically a properly excellent crime novel and a real page-turner. Jack is eleven years old when the family car breaks down on the motorway and he is left in charge of his two younger sisters while his mum walks to find an emergency phone. Only she never comes back, and three years later her murder remains unsolved and Jack is doing whatever it takes to support his siblings. So it’s a surprise when a police investigation into a spate of burglaries starts to uncover darker secrets….

*

Phew! I feel like June has been a bit of a whirlwind month, but I’m always glad to squeeze in time for reading. I’m starting a new bookish job tomorrow and couldn’t be more excited (I’m also a bit nervous, but I think that’s normal!), and I’m also going on holiday this month, so will try to put some travel content together when I’m back. I’m looking for some book recommendations for my trip, so please let me know if you have any favourite summer reads!

Advertisements

2018 Mid-Year Reading Update

With time evaporating like puddles on a hot pavement, I wanted to reflect on my reading year so far, including my favourite books from the last six months.

I’m in a good place with my reading habits at the moment, although I would like to break out of the cycle of only reading on my way to and from work. (Currently blaming Love Island for occupying my every thought evenings.) I definitely feel like I know what I enjoy, which has translated into a record number of 4- and 5-star reads this year, and has I think helped keep me feeling motivated and excited to pick up the next book…and the next…

And while it’s not really about numbers, in the last few years I’ve found the Goodreads Reading Challenge to be a great way of keeping track of my reading and encouraging myself to read more – I am nothing if not competitive with myself, after all! I’ve read 56 books out of my goal of 70 so far this year, so I’m pretty sure I’ll pass that sooner rather than later. Anyway, enough rambling – here are my current top ten books of 2018, in the order I read them. I’ll keep it brief, as I’ve already mentioned all of these in monthly wrap-ups, but I’ll be interested to see how many make it into my overall favourites at the end of the year!

Top 10 January–June

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes PBK mech.indd

A macabre yet laugh-out-loud funny memoir recounting the author’s first steps in her career as a crematory technician and death industry shaker-upper.

Winter by Ali Smith

34516974

Real world events and politics set the tone for this wonderfully clever novel about time and truth.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

35004343

A magical, fantastical continuation of an already brilliant series, this novel combines history with folklore against the backdrop of snow-covered medieval Russia.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

36859561

Fast-paced, original fantasy that draws parallels with slavery and contemporary racial oppression.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
35967101

A classic murder mystery with a sci-fi twist. Full review here.

Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman

34930873

The best sort of coming-of-age story – evocative and piercingly tender. It would be a brilliant lazy summer read!

Home by Amanda Berriman

35103181

A moving and uplifting novel about poverty and family, told entirely from the perspective of four-year-old Jesika. Three months on and I’m still thinking about her…

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

39081183

Timely, painful and beautiful. A novel about family, race, history and time, with a helping of Southern Gothic for good measure.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

33398807

A properly dark, gripping thriller set in the northeast of England, where everyone seems to be involved in the secrets of the Drowning Pool.

When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy

38821165

An incredibly powerful account of surviving domestic abuse. Tough to read, obviously, but also thought-provoking and, in a strange way, inspiring.

*

Which books have stood out for you so far this year? I’d love to know what you thought if you’ve read any of these!

May Reading Wrap-Up

Yesss it’s late again, but I read some good stuff in May!

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

25443854

I promised my friend on New Year’s Eve that 2018 would be the year I finally made a start on the Discworld novels, and where better to begin than at the beginning? I really enjoyed the madcap humour, and it was fun to pick apart the more mockable tropes of high fantasy. I’ve already started book two.

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

36048256

I wasn’t expecting to love this as much as A Court of Mist and Fury, and I’m glad my expectations weren’t high. Because this book was not great. Fluffy, sure, but it definitely read like SJM writing fanfic of her own novels.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

35103171

Hats off to the Vintage design team, because this is one pretty book.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock was one of my most-anticipated new releases of the year, and while I wasn’t completely blown away by it, there was still plenty to praise. Taking place in 18th century London, the novel follows the somewhat hapless Mr Hancock, a merchant who finds himself in possession of a strange creature that everyone in the city who is anyone is desperate to see. Catapulted into high society, Mr Hancock meets Angelica Neal, a beautiful courtesan who is in need of new connections…

A bawdy, perfectly evocative book that will make you think.

The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

35842338

I know! More mermaids! These ones are much more your typical story book sea nymphs, though. The Surface Breaks is a retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson tale ‘The Little Mermaid’ – with a feminist twist. Sometimes I felt the feminist angle was a little clumsy or overdone, but the ending was so strong, and the overall atmosphere was dark, chilling and powerful i.e. my cup of tea.

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

35627164

I haven’t read anything by Sophie Kinsella for years and don’t often reach for chick-lit, but I actually really liked this one. Light and fun with a surprisingly substantial second half and some really satisfying character development.

The House Swap by Rebecca Fleet

39774688

If, like me, you like slow-building suspense and domestic thrillers, this one’s for you. There’s no one major twist, but it will keep you guessing, and might make you think twice about renting out a stranger’s home for your next holiday!

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

34068664

“Young man,” he said, “understand this: there are two Londons. There’s London Above – that’s where you lived – and then there’s London Below – the Underside – inhabited by the people who fell through the cracks in the world. Now you’re one of them. Good night.”

I was drawn to this book by its promise of multiple Londons, hoping for shades of magic V. E. Schwab, and while Neverwhere is incredibly imaginative and I really do love Gaiman’s writing, the story didn’t really hold my interest.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

33398807

“It was a place to get rid of troublesome women.”

This was absolutely my kind of thriller: multiple narrators (some more reliable than others), themes of gender and sexuality, a strong sense of place and history, witches! I loved the feeling that practically the whole town is involved to some extent, much like with the witch trials that begin the history of the Drowning Pool. All the characters are linked by stories of sexuality and misogyny, spurred on by fear and a need to point the finger.

Protip: the audiobook edition is excellent and helps avoid confusion over the many different narrative voices.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

39081183

Continuing my mission to read the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist (even though the winner has already been announced!) I picked up Sing, Unburied, Sing. And I loved it.

Bleak and beautiful, this is a novel about family, grief and hope, about being haunted literally and metaphorically by the struggles of the past, the present and the future. There are obviously parallels to be drawn with the likes of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, but it also feels totally its own story. TWs for racial violence, child neglect and drug use.

*

That’s all, folks! As ever, feel free to leave your thoughts, feelings, recommendations etc. down below. Happy weekend!

April Reading Wrap-Up

Well this is rather later than intended, but sometimes life gets in the way of even the best of intentions… I was going to combine my April and May wrap-ups, but that would have a ridiculously long post, so, for the sake of continuity, here are the books I read in April!

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

35967101

This book combines all the tropes of classic murder mystery (serious Agatha Christie vibes here) with a little bit of time travel/magic. It sounds bonkers, but I found it really gripping and completely original. You can read my full review here.

NW by Zadie Smith

13537891

NW follows Leah, Felix, Natalie and Nathan as they navigate adult life in, around and away from the northwest London council estate where they grew up. I read this for book club, and there were parts that I found vivid, immersive and familiar, but I found the shifts in style and form quite jarring.

Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg

31501679

A curious and charming coming-of-age tale set in rural Poland in the 1970s and ’80s. Wiola’s journey through childhood and adolescence is told through a series of vignettes. It’s peppered with little nods to folklore, and describes the tensions between communism, Catholicism and pagan traditions. Unusual, but I really enjoyed it.

Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman

34930873

I had really high expectations going into this book, having enjoyed the film so much, and it didn’t disappoint. It captures such a wide range of emotions and sensory experiences, from the scents of a heavy summer’s day to crushing, desperate need to the acute melancholy of a love that can only exist in the past. As with the film, there were a few wobbly moments that took me out of the narrative a bit, but I’m happy to overlook them because it was such a joy to be so wrapped up in a book.

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

34846987

I so wanted to like this, having seen it compared to Erin Morgernstern’s The Night Circus, but I really didn’t get on with it. The synopsis promised a really imaginative, perhaps magical, world, but I didn’t connect with the story or the characters and it honestly felt like a chore to finish. :/

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

824054

Another book club read, and one I loved! Into Thin Air is a moving and considered account of the 1996 Everest disaster, told by a survivor: journalist and climber Jon Krakauer. The author is a gifted storyteller and the narrative is well constructed (difficult given how many names, backstories and parallel timelines needed to be woven together). I learnt a lot about the realities of climbing at altitude: Krakauer’s frank account is harrowing, gripping and profoundly reflective.

Home by Amanda Berriman

35103181

I want everyone to read this! Please read this!

Told entirely from the perspective of four-year-old Jesika, this is a novel about family, friendship, trust and what it means to have a home. It’s equally heartwarming and horrible to read:  Amanda Berriman perfectly captures the innocence of childhood, even in situations that would try to corrupt it. Jesika is brave, curious, perceptive, and you just can’t help rooting for her.

Some magazines I love

As a teenager, I loved reading magazines and drew so much inspiration from anything from Vogue to Lula to National Geographic. I sort of stopped buying them when I started university (the trials and tribulations of being a poor student…) and it’s only in the last few years that I’ve started collecting them again. My favourites offer a mixture of creative inspiration and thoughtful writing, so I thought I’d share a few in case they appeal to anyone else!

The Happy Reader

Bridging the gap between books and magazines, The Happy Reader is one for anyone who loves reading and all things bookish. It’s really beautifully and simply designed and features a combination of interviews and opinion pieces on various aspects of popular culture. It’s also great for a commute – small, light and it comes with its own matching bookmark!

91 Magazine

An independent magazine with a focus on lifestyle and interiors, this one is newer to me but I’ve been really enjoying reading it over the last week or so. Perfect for flicking through when I’m feeling uninspired, it covers a range of shops, designers, Instagram accounts and creative spaces, and has a very calming feel to it. They also have a quarterly E-zine that you can access when you subscribe to their newsletter.

Laine

DSC03340

A really high-quality knitting magazine that spotlights gorgeous, Nordic-inspired designs from some incredibly talented makers, as well as interviews, recipes and travel guides. The magazine itself is beautifully published and the photography alone makes me want to make e v e r y t h i n g. Check out their Instagram for sneak peeks of the next issue, which will be out at the end of May.

DSC03342

Pom Pom Quarterly

Another crafty favourite, Pom Pom designs are colourful, lighthearted and fun. I’m currently knitting my sea green version of the Soirée pullover from issue 21 – just half a sleeve and the neckline to go!

DSC03349

 

So those are a few of the magazines that I’ve been enjoying lately – slightly heavy on the knitting front, but I hope you can forgive me for channelling my inner granny/Dumbledore…

99709236a59b8025cc264da51c739fc1--knitting-books-vogue-knitting

Are there any magazines that you read regularly? Feel free to leave me some suggestions if you think there are more that I’d enjoy!

The Read to Sleep Challenge

Katy of The Book Matchmaker has created a reading challenge to coincide with Stress Awareness Month. After reading about a 2009 study from The University of Sussex that showed reading for just six minutes can reduce stress by 68%, Katy organised this challenge to encourage reading before bed as an aid to reducing stress and improving sleep quality.

I’ve caught on to this a little bit late given that the challenge officially started on Sunday, but I thought I’d take part anyway, and maybe some of you will too. I know I’m not alone in suffering from periods of stress and generalised anxiety, so I’m interested to see if I feel any different at the end of the week.

The Challenge

It’s very simple: read for six minutes or more last thing at night before bed. It can be any genre and any format (although Katie suggests trying to avoid your phone). And while the challenge officially runs Sunday–Sunday, I started a day late and it’s definitely something that you could do for as long as you like, whenever you like.

I read quite consistently every day for at least an hour, but almost always on my way to and from work. At home, I’m much more likely to reach for my laptop than my book, and I’m certainly guilty of a last-minute scroll through Instagram before I go to sleep.

So here’s to a week (or more) of less stress and better sleep! I might need to find a more relaxing book to read, though – the 1996 Everest disaster is definitely more stress-inducing than stress-relieving…

IMAG1131

Let me know if you’ll be participating in #readtosleepweek and please leave me some relaxing reading recommendations! (Accidental alliteration.)

The London Book Fair 2018

Last week I attended the London Book Fair for the first time, and thought I’d share some of my thoughts and experiences for anyone interested.

IMAG1104

Held at Olympia London, the Book Fair is one of the biggest events in the calendar for many people working in the book industry, both in the UK and further afield. For most who attend, it’s a work-focused affair: agents, editors and publishing sales professionals hold back-to-back meetings, network, buy/sell international rights and maybe even broker a few high-profile book deals.

But while it’s primarily a trade event and not a chance to book-shop-til-you-drop (sadly), there’s also a huge amount to see and do if you’re just interested in the book industry and not there specifically for work.

seminars and events

The programme of talks and seminars is SO GOOD! I was only at the Fair for an afternoon and so only made it to two, but could happily have double- or even triple-booked myself every hour. The two I went to were Trailblazer Panel: The Future of Publishing: How to Thrive in the Evolving Book World and How to Get Ahead in Publishing.

imag1107.jpg

The Trailblazer panel discussion centred around some of the present and future challenges facing the book industry, from the increasingly important role of data when commissioning titles to literacy and how to engage young readers. The panellists had varied and interesting experiences of the trade and I came away with a lot to think over.

How to Get Ahead in Publishing (run by the lovely folks at the Society of Young Publishers, who also run a seminar for those looking to Get Into Publishing every year) also dealt with some of the future challenges facing the publishing industry, but from a more personal perspective: what can we do, as publishing professionals at the beginning of our careers, to navigate some of these challenges? If you’re interested in what was said, on topics from the gender pay gap to peer support, you can check the hashtag #SYPahead18 on Twitter.

The talks on offer are a great way to learn something new and find out about current trends. Here are some other talks from this year’s programme that caught my attention: AudiobooksSticking to the Facts: Translating NonfictionPoet of the Fair: Imtiaz Dharker in conversation with Jen CampbellPoetry for Children: Hooking the Next Generation, A Bookish BrexitRethinking Inclusivity: Ideas for Change…I could go on!

Networking

There were lots of networking events taking place over the three days of the Fair, some more ‘official’ than others. I went to an SYP social, but there were also events hosted by BookMachine, Byte the Book and loads more. The seminars and programmed talks are also a potentially less daunting way to chat to some new people in a more structured environment than just walking up to them at a stand.

IMAG1106

Just soaking up the atmosphere

The Fair is busy and buzzy and can be pretty overwhelming, especially when so many people are there to do a really specific job. But it’s also quite exciting to just see what’s going on in the book world – which titles are being most heavily promoted? Can you spot any recurring themes? I found it helpful to follow along with some of the biggest updates on Twitter, and the daily updates from The Bookseller were great for going into more detail.

*

Have you ever been to the LBF? Let me know your thoughts and experiences!

Book Review: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

“Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.”

*

If Groundhog Day, Inception and an Agatha Christie country house mystery (take your pick!) were to collide at speed, this book would be borne from the resultant explosion. But while there’s no shortage of familiar tropes here, Stuart Turton has created a debut novel that is both brilliantly original and dizzyingly complex. Here are some of my spoiler-free, rambling thoughts on The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

35967101

I think this is probably a book to pick up without knowing too much about it; I could recommend it as an intelligent murder mystery with a hint of sci-fi and leave it there. But at the same time, there’s so much to unpack that it doesn’t seem fair not to go into a little more detail! Here’s the Goodreads summary:

How do you stop a murder that’s already happened?

At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed—again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend—but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

As I said before, there are many familiar elements of classic murder mystery here: an eccentric mix of characters (each with hidden secrets aplenty) has assembled at an isolated, crumbling manor house to attend a ball. So far, so Christie. But throw into the mix a dash of time-travel/body-swapping logic and the story spirals quickly out of the realm of the familiar. Aiden has eight days to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder, but not eight consecutive days. Rather, he must inhabit a different ‘host’ each day, seeing the same events unfold from the very distinct perspectives of eight of the people assembled at Blackheath House: a doctor, a butler, a playboy, a banker, the leering son of a rich widow, a lawyer, a policeman and an artist. And circling ever-closer to Aiden are a psychopathic footman, an accomplished blackmailer and two rivals equally desperate to escape Blackheath.

One of the reasons this book feels so ingenious is that the different personalities and perspectives of Aiden’s hosts come together to help solve the puzzle, in a way that just wouldn’t be possible with the more traditional lone detective figure of classic murder mysteries. The complex nature of the plot does mean that Seven Deaths requires a certain amount of surrender from the reader – it’s a roller coaster of twists and turns, in the best possible way – but there’s also scope to do a bit of detective work yourself.

I’m reluctant to say much more about the book for fear of introducing spoilers, but I’ll finish by saying that I was surprised and intrigued by the way Turton addresses the idea of retribution and the potential for recidivism (or not) towards the end – it definitely gives some pause for thought after so many pages of fast-paced thrills.

*

I’ll leave it there for now, but do let me know if you’ve read Seven Deaths, or if I’ve somehow convinced you to pick it up!

March Reading Wrap-Up

Hello and Happy Easter! I hope you’ve had a restful long weekend if you were lucky enough to get the time off. I’ve been reading, knitting and going on exceptionally muddy walks – it’s been dreamy.

Thanks to the multiple snow days we experienced in March (seriously though, Spring, feel free to drop by any time. aaaaany time) I had a pretty cosy reading month. For me, that means fantasy and children’s, so if that sounds like your cup of tea, read on! Here are the ten books I read in March.

Feminism is for everybody: passionate politics by bell hooks

168484

I mentioned in my post on books to read on International Women’s Day that this is a great starting point for anyone interested in reading about feminism and feminist theory. It isn’t completely un-academic, so even though it’s pretty introductory it might not be for everyone, but if you can get your head around the use of terms like “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” then you’re good to go.

The Girl in the tower by katherine arden

35004343

Magical and dreamy and wonderful. I might even have loved this more than The Bear and the Nightingale, which was one of my favourite books of 2017.

Accused of witchcraft and disguised as a young man, Vasya has fled her home in the wintery north of Russia, rejecting the stark choice of marriage or convent in favour of adventure – but she must keep up her deception or risk forfeiting her newfound freedom. Meanwhile, in Moscow, news of bandits burning villages and kidnapping young girls adds to a growing feeling of unrest. Vasya might be the only one who can save the city, but she will need to draw on old magics to do so…

Katherine Arden mixes historical fiction with fantastical, folkloric elements so masterfully. Morozko, Kashchei the Deathless, the Firebird and a host of chyerti all feature, perfectly set off against a wintery backdrop. As with The Bear and the Nightingale, the magical parts are presented as fading beliefs, waning under the power of modern Christianity, so it’s less a case of what’s real and what’s imagined than what’s remembered and what’s forgotten. Truly wonderful, I savoured every page.

the hazel wood by melissa albert

35997403

This is a peculiar book – dark and creepy, but also a very easy read.

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother Ella are always on the go, moving from place to place in an effort to stay one step ahead of the uncanny ‘bad luck’ that hounds them. It seems to be linked to a volume of dark fairy tales, Tales from the Hinterland, written by Alice’s reclusive grandmother. But when Ella disappears under suspicious circumstances, Alice comes to realise that the Hinterland might be more than just a place in a story…

I enjoyed the unflinchingly dark feel of this book, but had a few issues with the writing and the structure. The extracts from the stories-within-the-story really stood out, and I’m glad to see that the author is planning a full collection of them.

the liszts by kyo maclear and julia sardà

28186170

I love lists and I loved The Liszts. This is a funny and fantastically illustrated picture book about a family who make a lot of lists – until one day, a stranger arrives who isn’t on anyone’s list… A great read for humans big and small about embracing the unexpected.

Hortense and the shadow by Natalia and Lauren O’Hara

34640814

A beautiful, dark fairy tale about a brave little girl called Hortense who has a troubled relationship with her shadow. The illustrations are simply stunning – muted yet complex, with lots of hidden detail. For a book with a relatively limited amount of text, this explores some deceptively deep concepts, including self-image and accepting the things you can’t change about yourself.

Madonna in a fur coat by Sabahattin ali

32509890

A short, melancholy novel about a young Turkish man and his relationship with an artist in 1920s Berlin. Full of missed opportunities and terrible timing, this is a very subdued story but nonetheless quite moving.

the wicked cometh by laura carlin

34812995

This gothic historical novel brilliantly evokes the disease-ridden slums of 1830s London.

Impoverished and without family, Hester White finds herself in the middle of a web of criss-crossing connections and that will lead her towards a dark secret.

This book definitely has some issues with pacing, but overall I found it gripping and immersive. I particularly enjoyed the characterisation of, and relationship between, Rebekah and Hester. Recommended for fans of Fingersmith, and anyone who shares my somewhat morbid curiosity about the likes of Burke and Hare and the history of medicine.

a wizard of earthsea by ursula k. le guin

29429788

This middle grade coming-of-age fantasy novel follows a young wizard named Ged as he learns lessons both magical and moral. Simple yet beautifully written, the world-building reminded me of The Name of the Wind (another of my favourite books of last year). I found it a little too moralistic for my taste (think “with great power comes great responsibility” x100), but I still really enjoyed it.

the hobbit by j.r.r. tolkein

289870

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

To me, The Hobbit means comfort: it’s a warm-blanket-hot-chocolate-hug-type-book and I listen to it whenever I need something familiar and fun (that’s not Harry Potter). If you’ve never read it, you must!

children of blood and bone by tomi adeyemi

36859561

I won’t let your ignorance silence my pain.

You may well have seen this book doing the round. It’s being pushed as the #1 fantasy novel of the year and there’s been a pretty huge campaign around it, from posters on the Tube to Waterstones exclusive editions. I was reading it on my way back from work last week and gradually became aware that the lady sitting next to me was also immersed in it! We shared a conspiratorial sideways look 😏.

I think I’ll review it in more detail when I’ve organised my thoughts a bit better, but in a nutshell this is a fast-paced, original fantasy novel that uses a world stripped of magic to draw powerful and lasting parallels with slavery and racial oppression. Definitely worth the hype.

*

Another month, another wrap-up! What did you read this month? If you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Books to read on International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day!

IWD serves as a prompt to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, whilst also recognising the importance of greater equality, better access to opportunities and the need for independence for women all over the world. Check out the IWD website for some ways in which you can #PressforProgress in 2018: I’ve pledged to challenge stereotypes and bias, but there are so many ways in which we can strive for equality and take action on gendered issues, today and every day.

However you choose to mark the occasion, it can never hurt to pick up a book (unless it’s really heavy??!), so here are my top reads for, by and about inspiring women.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

33871762

I reviewed this briefly in my January Wrap-up, but in a nutshell this is a novel about what happens when the power to electrify by touch is awakened in women almost overnight. Examining the ways in which gender interacts with power, it’s gripping, thought-provoking and a little bit chilling.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

37415

This lyrical and inspiring novel follows Janie Crawford’s journey to finding happiness and purpose whilst navigating the dual oppression of being black and a woman in early 20th-century Florida. Janie is such a strong character, and her conversations with Pheoby highlight some of the best aspects of female friendship.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

20893528

Little Women has been a favourite of mine for so long that it’s hard to pin down what exactly I love about it. Set in New England during the American Civil War, the four March sisters are all very different people, but they’re always supportive of each other and so firm in their convictions. Plus, they have the best role model in Marmee. A heart-warming portrayal of sisterly love and the recognition of creativity and talent at all levels.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

820689

Because sometimes a fictional dystopia does the best job of revealing the more dystopian elements of the Real World™… I’m sure most of you are pretty familiar with this one, but if you haven’t read it I’d definitely recommend picking it up. Set in a near future, in what was once the United States, a fundamentalist religious regime controls all aspects of society. Birth rates have fallen dangerously low, which has led to the control and politicisation of fertile young women’s bodies – such women, including the protagonist Offred, are ’employed’ as Handmaids to the male elite, and the novel explores the ways in which they struggle to regain autonomy and individuality in an aggressively patriarchal society.

Why God Is a Woman by Nin Andrews

23282006

This is a prose poetry collection set on a fictional, fantastical island where women hold positions of power and men occupy the domestic sphere. A satirical, witty and insightful take on traditional gender roles.

Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by Bell Hooks

168484

This is my new go-to recommendation for anyone looking for a short, accessible and engaging primer on feminism. If you’re already well-versed in feminist theory then you’re unlikely to pick up anything new here, but it’s a pretty good introduction, presenting a definition of feminism that is essentially based on common sense, logic and lived experience. bell hooks writes very persuasively about the interconnectivity of gender, race and class, so it’s also a worthy read if you’re interested in learning more about intersectional feminism. It does assume a certain pre-existing commitment to the cause, though, so might not convince any staunch anti-feminists…

Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act Differently by Emer O’Toole

23699151

One of my favourite reads of last yearGirls Will Be Girls is an entertaining and articulate book about gender performativity and the politics of gender. If you enjoy reading non-fiction that balances the academic side of things with personal interpretations and anecdotes then this is one for you.

The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming

29534432

This is a short but brilliantly funny book of cartoons illustrating some of the most perplexing and idiotic theories about women thoughout history. Thoroughly irreverent and thoroughly entertaining.

819pM9qXnGL

 

And here are a few bonus picks that I’ve not read, but hope to get to soon – maybe even today!

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Gender Games: The Problem with Men and Women, from Someone Who Has Been Both by Juno Dawson and Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

*

What books would you add to this list? And if you’re in need of any more recommendations, check out the longlist for the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction, which was announced this morning. That’s my TBR sorted for a while!