Tag Archives: Books

The Pisces – Melissa Broder

I reeealllly enjoyed The Pisces by Melissa Broder. It’s very funny, I loved the main characters voice. It also contains quite a lot of erotic scenes, yey! It’s also dark. Very dark about love and obsession. The perfect triad of words to describe a book: funny, erotic, and dark.

… the darkness that inevitably fell when you spent too much time basking in the sun of a man.

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Our main character is Lucy. She is struggling to finish her PhD on Sappho when she has a devastating break up with her long term boyfriend. It causes her to spiral into a breakdown and she ends up recovering at her sister’s beach front house, in Venice CA, where she house sits and looks after her sister’s precious dog. She also has to attend group therapy where she meets other love obsessives in various states of control over themselves and their love lives. Lucy then meets a Merman, obviously, and falls for him hard.

I instantly fell in love with Lucy’s voice. The Pisces starts with her musing about picking up dog shit and I was with her. And it was gross. Lucy is wry, and sarcastic, and funny, and makes excellent observations about the people she meets.

On the therapy group she’s required to attend:

There were four women in the group, plus the therapist and me. But they all blurred together into a multiheaded hydra of desperation.

I identified with a lot of  Lucy’s situation, not all of it, thank god. But she is the same age as me. She is dating for the first time in a decade. Snap. She has PhD problems – mine are very historical, but snap. She is completely not in control of herself when it comes to men. Erm.. thankfully I’ve got a slightly better handle on this one! I agreed with a lot of her thoughts and observations. If you’ve read The Pisces, you can judge me accordingly!

On the outcome of a quite bad date:

Sure, the experience itself had been disappointing and gross, but at least it was different from the disappointment I’d grown used to in my years with Jamie.

She also makes quite a lot of references to Homer and the classics, but she is a PhD student studying Sappho, so it completely fits. Also, obviously she has met a mythical creature, so references to this type of thing is also to be expected. It fits in quite well with my summer reading of The Iliad. Serendipitous, you could say. As well as all the classics chat there are quality sentences like:

“The universe is a wanker,” she said

Clever things + swearing. I’m in heaven.

and if you’re in any doubt about the tone of The Pisces, I’ll end with this quote:

Didn’t we all just want a thousand hard cocks attached to the bodies of boys who have died for us, still warm, to plug our infinite holes?

I dunno this just seems appropriate to leave here…

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Still Me – JoJo Moyes

I’m not going to say a lot about this book. I am definitely not the right person for the series of books this is part of (though I enjoyed the first one, Me Before You). Many, many people love this series, and that is great. They aren’t wrong, this book just isn’t for me.

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I ended up reading it because it was chosen for book club. I had already read the first in the series, but clearly I couldn’t skip the second book (After You), so this as a book club book, actually meant I had to read two books! Two books I didn’t like….. urrrghhhhhhhh…

Our main character is Louisa Clark. While still grieving for Will, and drifting aimlessly, she takes a job in New York as an assistant to a rich lady. We meet her as she arrives in New York having friendly banter with an immigration officer. Because that’s what immigration is exactly like in the USA.

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I did this one as an audio book.

She becomes the assistant of Agnes. I won’t give away the rest of the plot, but she is concerned about men a lot. Then things happen where she feels sorry for herself, but then magical amazing things just land in her god-damned lap.

I get irked by the number of characters who are basic stereotypes, and I don’t really like Louisa either, though her character develops in this book to be more like I wanted her to be from the start!

The saving grace of Still Me is old lady Mrs De Witt. Fiesty, fashionable, ferocious Mrs De Witt. Thank you Mrs De Witt.

The End.

Books Bought and Read – June 2018

Books Bought

Firstly I visited Foyles on a trip to London, and even though I wanted to buy ALL THE BOOKS, I limited myself to two. I got Heartburn by Nora Ephron, and To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell.

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The next book I got this month was a copy of Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller. This is exciting because it was sent to me by Penguin, and I never get books sent to me. This is the first one, so I’m pretty excited about it.

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Later in the month I visited Oxford and went to the Oxfam books there. I got Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn – I had a copy that I lent out years ago and never got back, so I’ve been waiting to replace it! I also got Interpreter of  Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, and Girls in their Married Bliss by Edna O’Brien.

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While I was in Oxford I was staying at Christ Church College. I was literally having breakfast in the Great Hall at Hogwarts, and let me tell you I was beyond excited about this. I know I don’t look it in the picture, but it was very early, and very busy, and I was trying to take my photo without looking like too much of a knobhead. Also, the stairs up to the hall are a Harry Potter location. Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hogwarts!

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The final purchases of June, were part of my Happy Pay Day celebrations. I bought myself four books: I Hate the Internet by Jarett Kobek, The Boy With the Top Knot by Sathnam Sanghera, Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, and The Bricks that Built the Houses by Kate Tempest.

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Books Read

Everyday Sexism – Laura Bates

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A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf

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Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

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Little Black Book –  Otegha Uwagba

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Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting – Robert McKee

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How to Stop Time – Matt Haig

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Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

I’ve seen a few other blogs doing this book tag and thought I’d join in as a little halfway through the year review of what I’ve been reading this year. I’ve read 31 books so far, not bad. Click on the book titles I mention to go to my reviews of the books.

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2018?

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Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. Out of all the books I’ve read this year, this is the one I’d read again, and the one I’d most want other people to read.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2018?

I’ve only read one real sequel this year – After You by Jojo Moyes – and I didn’t really enjoy it. So I’m going to cheat a little bit on this one and choose:

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Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi. Not really a sequel, but a re-imagining of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The Frankenstein character and the people who encounter him are used to explore how a community continues despite horrific conditions of war going on around them.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to?

There are three books I really want to read that have been released in the first half of 2018, that I haven’t got round to reading yet. Even worse, I have copies of all three through NetGalley, I just haven’t had time. The three books are:

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The Pisces by Melissa Broder. “Profoundly modern, deeply disturbed and darkly comic, The Pisces is about a heartbroken PhD student who over one summer falls in dangerous, ecstatic love with a merman.” I’m reading this next. I need to.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Yes, I am the only person that hasn’t read this yet. Aaarrghhh.

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne. The first book aimed at adults by Holly Bourne. I’ve read a few of her YA books and have really, really liked them. Excited!

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year?

I haven’t spent much time looking at what is going to be released later in the year… but going off my NetGalley queue I am looking forward to:

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Fight Like A Girl by Clementine Ford.Fight Like A Girl is an essential manifesto for feminists new, old and as yet unrealised that will give them new language to articulate their experiences.” I’m sold.

5. Biggest disappointment?

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After You by Jojo Moyes. Despite my misgivings, I really ended up enjoying Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. So I had some hope for the sequel, but I really didn’t enjoy it at all.

6. Biggest surprise?

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A recent one for biggest surprise of the year so far, Story by Robert McKee. I really wasn’t expecting a lot from this book about writing screen plays, but it was a really enjoyable, informative, interesting read.

7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you)?

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This year I read A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. Surprisingly, this is the first Virginia Woolf I’ve ever read. I obviously now want to read more.

8. Newest fictional crush?

I don’t really do crushes from books I read. Perhaps I’m reading the wrong books! Recommend me some?

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The nearest I can get will have to be Achilles from Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles. But it will have to be Achilles from the end of the book, when he’s an actual adult of 27 years old. Hahaha. He is the greatest Greek warrior, beautiful and a half God, after all.

9. Newest favourite character?

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I’m picking Default Man from The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry. Not because I like Default Man, but because I like the idea of the character of Default Man and how he’s used throughout this book. If you want to read some more about Default Man, there’s an article here, if for some strange reason, you don’t want to read the whole book (which you should).

10. Book that made you cry?

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It has to be The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I loved this book and I was sobbing by page 30!

11. Book that made you happy?

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I will have to pick Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher because it’s really, deeply funny. I haven’t reviewed it yet, but should get round to it soon.

12. Favourite book to film adaptation you saw this year?

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I’m not sure I have. Number one question about books I get from friends is ‘How do you manage to read so much?’, given I work full time as a teacher, and have 2 smallish kids. Obviously, neglecting my kids is top, but I also don’t watch a lot of TV (ok, this is the main one really). So I haven’t watched much this year. I’m going to go with Rick and Morty, totally cheating, but I loved it, hadn’t watched it before this year, and there are comic books based on it.

13. Favourite review you’ve written this year?

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Strangely, I’m going to put my review of After You by Jojo Moyes in here. I just scrolled through all my reviews from this year and it’s one that stood out! I think probably because I used a couple of good gifs in it that I find pleasing.

14. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)?

Definitely this copy of Heartburn by Nora Ephron. It’s gorgeous and has lovely shiny dimples.

15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Oh god… so many. I’ve just had a quick look over my bookcase and pulled out this pile that all shouted ‘read me!’ at me the loudest:

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We have:

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 by Brian Vaughan and Joss Whedon.
  • Our Mathematical Universe by Max Tegmark
  • Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh
  • The Dark Dark by Samantha Hunt
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (though will probably need to read Jane Eyre first, right?)
  • White Line Fever by Lemmy
  • Nina is Not Ok by Shappi Khorsandi
  • Feynman by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick
  • The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius by Graham Farmelo
  • Heartburn by Nora Ephron
  • A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
  • Pathfinders: the Golden Age of Arabic Science by Jim Al-Khalili
  • I Hate the Internet by Jarett Kobek
  • Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Quite science heavy and also only one crossover book with my 20 Books of Summer List (though I’ve now finished five from the original list – more about that later!).

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Red, White and Blue books covers.

Ok, I know it’s not Tuesday. I’m always a bit slow doing these things. I don’t take part that often, so just to explain, every Tuesday That Artsy Reader Girl does a top ten themed blog post. Lots of other people do too and you can find the links to all the others over there.

Here’s my top ten books with red, white and blue covers (click the book title to go to my review, if it exists!) :

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1. Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet by Dallas Campbell. A really fantastic book all about getting up into space. There’s history, funny stories, facts, and plans to make!

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2. Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada. A fictionalised account of a real story of a working class couple who carried out small acts of resistance on their own in Berlin, 1940.

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3. Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy by Kip S. Thorne. This book was EVERYTHING I wanted from a book when I was 17. EVERYTHING. Physics, black holes, discussion of time travel *swoons*.

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4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. A classic and one I genuinely, truly loved to read.

 “That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed. “It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.”

If you haven’t read it, but want to, I urge you to bump it up your to read pile.

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5. A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit. I haven’t actually read this one yet. But it will be brilliant. Oh yes, it will be brilliant.

 

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6. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. One of those books that I find myself thinking about every now and then, even though it’s been years since I read it. It’s about artificially increasing intelligence, and the consequences of that.

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7. The Great American Pin-Up by Charles G. Martignette amd Loius K. Meisel. Just a massive cheap book shop type of book full of illustrations of pin-up ladies by different artists. Full of happy, saucy ladies.

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8. Pretty in Punk: 25 Punk, Rock, and Goth Knitting Projects by Alice Benevides and Jaqueline Milles. Why would you not want this book? Please someone knit me the camo arm warmers 😀

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9. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I adored this book when I read it. I loved the love story set across time. I loved the crazy, disjointed time line that takes a long part of the book to properly figure out.  Also tears and sobbing (yes!).

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10. Rebel Voices: the Rise of Votes for Women by Eve Lloyd Knight and Louise Kay Stewart. This beautifully illustrated book covers how and when women got the vote in different countries.

 

So that’s it. My top ten books with red, white and blue covers. That I could also find on my book shelves!!!

 

 

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

A really engaging read about eight generations of a family, starting with two sisters, Effia and Esi, one sold into slavery, one becoming a slave traders wife. We follow each side of the family by generation, in turn. This means we have what is essentially fourteen short stories about (mostly) new, but connected characters each time.

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Great read.

From the back of the book:

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow: from thr Gold Coast of Africa to the plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem. Spanning continents and generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel – an intense, heartbreaking story of one family and, through their lives, the story of America itself.

The first stories take place around 1770, on the African Gold Coast, the final stories take place in modern day United States, and also back on the Gold Coast. One side of the stories follows the family into the United States and into slavery. The other side of the family stay in Africa, and only in the final generation make the journey to the United States.

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Classic book and beer combo.

The book read, to me, very much like a collection of short, connected stories. Almost every story has a new setting, new characters, and a new focus. Each chapter was written so well, I quickly cared for and got involved in the new story. This is almost miraculous to be able to keep this up through fourteen chapters, and is a real testament to the excellent writing and the engaging stories.

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Such a beautiful cover

I have read quite a lot of books about slavery in the United States (notably The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Beloved by Toni Morrison), and I really liked how in parallel to the United States experiences, you get stories of the same time period on the Gold Coast. It’s a perspective I’ve never read about in fiction before.

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What book are in your bag today?

I don’t want to get into describing the individual stories – we would be here for a while! It is a great read. Really interesting to get the different aspects of the slave trade on the two different continents, and I would really recommend it. I read this for a book club I’m in, and it was overwhelmingly loved!

A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf

A short classic of feminist literature. A Room of One’s Own is an extended essay, based on lectures Woolf gave on Women and Fiction to two ladies colleges, at Cambridge University, in October 1928.

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Woolf uses a fictional narrator to explore her ideas about women and fiction. The main idea being that historically women haven’t been given the physical or mental space to be able to write. Access to education has been severely limited

She gets us to think about Shakespeare’s hypothetical, equally talented sister, Judith.

This may be true or it may be false—who can say?—but what is true in it, so it seemed to me, reviewing the story of Shakespeare’s sister as I had made it, is that any woman born with a great gift in the sixteenth century would certainly have gone crazed, shot herself, or ended her days in some lonely cottage outside the village, half witch, half wizard, feared and mocked at. For it needs little skill in psychology to be sure that a highly gifted girl who had tried to use her gift for poetry would have been so thwarted and hindered by other people, so tortured and pulled asunder by her own contrary instincts, that she must have lost her health and sanity to a certainty.

It’s also funny in places. There are some snarky comments that I very much appreciated:

I had been drawing a face, a figure. It was the face and the figure of Professor von X engaged in writing his monumental work entitled The Mental, Moral, and Physical Inferiority of the Female Sex. He was not in my picture a man attractive to women.

Woolf talks about how women who appear in literature, written by men, are so completely different to women in real life, and how they were allowed to live:

A very queer, composite being thus emerges. Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced
a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read, could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband.

She ends by reminding young women that education and more professions are now available to them and they must make the most of it. She encourages them to have a few children, rather than 10 or more, and to go and write!

I would say it’s really worthwhile to go and read A Room of One’s Own, if you haven’t already 🙂