Tag Archives: review

The Mid Year Freak Out! Tag

I haven’t been tagged by anyone to answer these questions. I have just seen the tag and liked the idea of summing up my reading for this year with these questions 😀
So far this year I have read 42 books – way above my target, and around double what I have managed for the last few years, each year. I’ve managed this by just fitting in a bit of reading where I can: waiting for the kettle to boil, 20 mins in the morning, a bit at lunchtime etc. and I’ve been watching less TV! Not none… I’ve had to watch American Gods and The Handmaid’s Tale, and University Challenge and Only Connect obvs. 

1. BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2017?

Impossible to pick one, and difficult to narrow it down because I’ve really enjoyed a lot of books I’ve read this year. The top ones have to be the ones I gave 5*s to. You might not believe it, but I’m quite stingy with my 5*s!!! (click through for reviews):

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2. BEST SEQUEL OF 2017 SO FAR?

I’ve not strictly read anything that’s a sequel so far this year. I’ve been meaning to read Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword for a while after reading Ancillary Justice a few years ago. I’m going to have to pick John Le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from The Cold. I’m on a (very slow) mission to read all of Le Carre’s books. So that’s book 3 done… in 4 years. Might need to get a few more out of the way soon!

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3. NEW RELEASE YOU HAVEN’T READ YET, BUT WANT TO?

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ I’ve had my eye on this all year but haven’t got a copy yet.

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Out of the books I own, that I haven’t read yet, that are also quite new, these are the ones I most want to try but haven’t got round to yet:

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4. MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASE OF THE SECOND HALF OF 2017?

One book I’m looking forward to is The Book Of Joan – Lidia Yuknavitch although I don’t think it’s out in the UK until 2018? It’s been described as:

a genre-defying masterpiece that may very well rewire your brain

See? sounds awesome!

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Also, The Mother of All Questions – Rebecca Solnit, a follow up collection of essays, on feminism, to Me Explain Things To Me. 

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5. BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT?

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor. Click through to the review if you must! I much prefer liking books!

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6. BIGGEST SURPRISE?

Frankenstein – Mary Shelly. I really enjoyed it, and I didn’t mention it in my review, but reading a bit about Mary Shelly herself was fascinating.  I really want to read Romantic Outlaws – Charlotte Gordon now too – especially after a friend also recommended it to me a while before I  read Frankenstein. It’s about Mary Shelly and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft.

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7. FAVORITE NEW AUTHOR (DEBUT OR NEW TO YOU) ?

I’m going to choose Celeste Ng and Lauren Berry. Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You is just beautifully written and I can’t wait for her next book Little Fires Everywhere. Lauren Berry’s Living The Dream was hilarious and one of the funniest, most relatable books I’ve read in ages.

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8. NEWEST FICTIONAL CRUSH?

Hmmmm might have to be Shadow Moon from American Gods, probably more influenced by the TV show than the book!

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He’s no Rupert Campbell-Black or Richard Sharpe though, obvs.

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9. NEWEST FAVOURITE CHARACTER?

I’m going with Francie Nolan from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith. She’s a strong and determined character and she grows into a kind and thoughtful woman over the course of the novel. Also, she loves books.

10. BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY?

Without doubt this award has to go to Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. I sobbed through the last 20 pages and wasn’t much better at various other stages of the book. There was something about the main character having my name, probably being around my age, and being unable to get on with a career as a scientist… also trying to make sure your female children aren’t held back by societal sexism, while trying to not damage them and also not ignoring your other kids! Such a good book.

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Runner up for this has to be Beloved – Toni Morrison. Such a beautiful, moving book.

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11. BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAPPY?

I’m not sure about any of them making me particularly happy, but plenty made me laugh.

I’ve read two of David Sedaris’ novels this year: Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Holidays On Ice. He can be completely hilarious. One part of Me Talk Pretty One Day had me uncontrollably laughing.

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Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut made me smile a lot. And Bel Canto by Ann Patchett was the novel that made me feel the  happiest, I guess.

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12. FAVOURITE BOOK TO MOVIE ADAPTATION YOU’VE SEEN THIS YEAR?

 

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13. FAVOURITE REVIEW YOU’VE WRITTEN THIS YEAR?

I’m going with Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit. I loved the book, I loved the artwork in it by Ana Teresa Fernandez – some of which I included in the review, and I loved using this gif:

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14. MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK YOU BOUGHT OR RECEIVED SO FAR THIS YEAR

I’ll just put these beauties here with a gorgeous peony.

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15. WHAT BOOKS DO YOU NEED TO READ BY THE END OF THE YEAR?

So many… here’s a shortlist:

and I have started, but need to finish:

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If you want to do this tag? Consider yourself tagged by me and just get on with it!

Let me know your answers to these questions in the comments or leave me a link to your post.

Thanks for reading!

Book Review: Nasty Women – 404 ink

Nasty Women is a collection of 21 short essays by women about life in the 21st century. It’s interesting and wide ranging and I really enjoyed reading it.

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There’s so many subjects covered, from being Puerto Rican and living under a Trump presidency, to being a fat person and taking a flight. There is being a black woman in Scotland, brexit, pregnancy, contraception, class, immigration, loving Courtney Love, and much more.

The very first story is from an American, living in America. Combined with the Hillary Clinton reference in the title, I assumed it was a collection from mostly American writers. I was very wrong. A lot of the writers live in Scotland, and this makes a nice change from being London-, or US- centric.

There are several stories about women and punk rock and I particularly loved these because I completely recognised the issues in them. The stories are so wide ranging though, that there will be something for everyone in here. These just happen to be the stories I could identify with the most. From Why I’m No Longer a Punk Rock ‘Cool Girl’ by Kristy Diaz:

Let that shit go. Never deny yourself the music you enjoy. Sing and scream along with every breath. Collaborate with women and other marginalised groups in punk, rally around each other, protect and support each other and invest energy in creating. Never apologise for an inch of space you occupy and answer to no-one. Fuck it up at DIY shows and dance to pop music recklessly, wearing heels and glitter and jeans and cut up T-shirts, Be taught nothing. You know everything.

– Kristy Diaz

I particularly loved the story ‘Touch Me Again and I Will Fucking Kill You’: Cultural Resistance to Gendered Violence in the Punk Rock Community by Ren Aldridge. Ren is the singer in the band The Petrol Girls. I haven’t heard them before so I looked them up and they are BRILLIANT.  Perfect, especially considering I’ve been looking at my own sexist listening habits recently. The gendered violence she describes is something I’m familiar with from being involved in the punk rock community. Her explanation of her use of the term survivor is great, using it rather than victim, and giving permission to use the word with a Destiny’s Child soundtrack, which I’m sure everyone does mostly anyway, right? Understanding that there is a continuum of gendered violence is also important, from everyday harassment to sexual assault and rape. An important observation is

…as one survivor quoted in Salvage points out ‘I think with radical circles, 9 times out of 10, it’s just a microcosm of what already exists, just with different haircuts.’ Activist and punk circles claim to counter mainstream society whilst reproducing the exact same power dynamics, focusing their efforts outside whilst not considering what’s happening inside.

-Ren Aldridge

There’s also the fact that the scene is

completely dominated by white people, despite anti-racism being a core of punk and other radical left groups’ politics.

I love that the essay goes on to detail some action that is being taken to try and address gendered violence in punk rock. The article is so quotable, I’m trying really hard to limit myself to just a few here. Instead, here is the fabulously appropriate and great song, Touch me Again, referenced in the title to this essay in Nasty Women:

What a bonus. Reading a great book, through it discovering a great band, and finding that they are playing a festival I’m going to in 2 weeks! I had already made it my mission to seek out and support female and BAME artists at the punk festival. I now especially can’t wait. 😀

Other highlights in Nasty Women include Black Feminism Online: Claiming Digital Space by Claire L. Heuchan, and Lament: Living With the Consequences of Contraception by Jen McGregor. The contraception story reminded me a lot of the issues in Inferior by Angela Saini:

I didn’t realise, back when I embarked on this journey at the age of 18, just how far contraception and women’s health still have to go. I learned that the hard way. Whether that’s the result of institutional sexism in the medical profession or simply a matter of where we are in the timeline of medical developments may be debatable, but the fact remains that there are plenty of women out there in my situation, with messy and uncontrollable bodies and situations, for whom ‘woman’ feels more like a diagnosis than a sex category.

– Jen McGregor

The Trump election was the trigger for Nasty Women being created. You find out in the afterword that the day the US election result was announced they put the idea together. Within 17 weeks it was published. My only criticism is that some of the stories seemed rushed. Overall it’s a great collection and I really highly recommend reading it, but a few stories fell a little flat. I’m not going to single them out, especially as the ones that didn’t work for me might just be the ones that sing to you. It’s just that when I read at the end that it was put together quickly it gave me an ‘oh, I seeeeee’ moment.

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The overarching message from Nasty Women, is be a ‘nasty women’. Stand up for yourself and look out for each other. *group hug*

p.s I received a review copy of Nasty Women from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks NetGalley – I loved this one.

 

Book Review: The Unseen – Roy Jacobsen

A Norwegian translation about life on a remote island, Barrøy, inhabited by one family, the Barrøy’s. There are other islands nearby and a mainland with a village. It’s an enjoyable read as we follow the family like through around 20 years. Their life is tough and they can’t escape the elements. They fish and farm and have a constant struggle between life on the sea and time on land. The text is poetic and lovely. The translation is by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw.

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The family are Hans Barrøy, his wife Maria, his father Martin, his sister Barbro, and daughter Ingrid. Ingrid is three when we meet her and she becomes an adult over the course of the story and truly this is her story. People come and go – don’t worry, I’m not going to be writing any spoilers about how their lives change here.

…three-year-old Ingrid with the long, tarry-brown hair and bright eyes, and feet that probably won’t see a pair of shoes before October; where did she get those eyes, so devoid of that lethargic stupidity engendered by poverty?

It took a while for me to place the novel in time. The Barrøys lead a traditional life and this means they could be living 100s of years ago, or be in modern times but shunning modern technology. There’s one reference to something being on the beach for 100 years that they discover in the story. So it’s set 100 years ago!

Barbro has some learning difficulties and several times she is supposed to go to the mainland to work as a maid, but it doesn’t work out. The pull of the island on the family is one of the themes running throughout The Unseen. As is the role of women and men. There are challenges to traditional gender roles, both overt and more subtle. It is revealed that the reason Barbro carries her chair around with her is because a generation before women weren’t allowed chairs! And she enjoys work that is considered ‘mens work’, but it is convenient for her to carry on with it to help the family.

From that day on Ingrid cards much faster than Barbro, who is thereby relieved of this drudgery and can be in the barn or the boat shed repairing fishing nests like a man.

Hans also went into the cowshed, a man in the cowshed. Martin had never heard or seen anything so ridiculous.

Mostly it’s about the changing relationships between the islanders as they age, and as events occur to change them.

One of my favourite things about this translation was the conversations between islanders. They have a broad, obviously Norwegian, dialect… except that in my mind it is broad Lancashire. I just can’t help it, it’s all dropped ts!

“By Jove, A can see th’ rectory too” Hans Barrøy walks past him and says: “And from hier tha can see th’ church”

It’s not often this difficult to understand:

“So hva’s wrong?” “It’s nothin’. Hva’s tha babblen’ about?” “A see hva A ca’ see.” “An’ hva ca’ tha see?”

This is how these Norwegians sound in my head:

I enjoyed The Unseen and it’s look at like on a Norwegian Island. I don’t read many translations and think I should try some more.

p.s I was definitely drawn to the book initially because I love a punk band called The Unseen. This got me to read the book description, and *this* is why I actually read it 😀

Here’s there cover of Paint It Black. Don’t listen if you’re of a delicate disposition 😉

p.p.s. I received this review copy of The Unseen from NetGalley.

Family Film Time June 2017

Every week we have enforced family film watching time. Its partly to try and have a couple of hours down time, partly to be able to share our love of film with our kids, partly to have a tradition we hopefully will continue in the future. We take turns to pick. The participants are currently 39, 37, 7 and 4.

Wow! First real failure month. We have had a birthday filled weekend and missed a week! Shameful!

 

Tinkerbell and Secret of the Wings

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ZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

 

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We all really enjoyed this. I thought it would be a bit scary for the littlest one, but she seemed fine 🙂

The Game Plan

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The Rock + cute ballet loving daughter he never knew he had = family film perfection

20 books of summer – 1 month in update

I joined the 20 books of Summer Challenge and wrote a list of 20 books I would try and read. They are the first 20 books on this list. I already know I’m no good at planning my reading to this degree, but didn’t think I’d go off plan so quickly! 3 books out of 6 I read this month were off list! I’m clearly a mood reader or something.

Books read in red. Links to reviews if they exist. I’ve started Everything I Never Told You as well, and I’m nearly finished with Reservoir 13 on an audio book free trial because I didn’t want to spend £9 on the kindle version or the hardback (it’s for my book club so I needed to read it before the end of this week). Audible it is. It’s taking a bit of getting used to but I might continue to listen to the odd audio book on my commute. I think some comedy would work well and I have a few books lined up to try on this free trial.

I’m keeping good pace especially considering I have summer holidays soon… so catch up will be easy. I also have a few short books ready to go if I need them.

I absolutely loved The Power. I’m recommending it to everyone who’ll listen! and Inferior is a great book about women and science and where the science has often been wrong, wrong, wrong!

  1. The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry (review)
  2. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
  3. Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor
  4. the Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  5. Hope in the Dark – Rebecca Solnit
  6. Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit (review)
  7. Nobody Told Me – Holly McNish
  8. Dear Fatty – Dawn French
  9. Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
  10. The Power – Naomi Alderman (review)
  11. The Lottery (and other stories) – Shirley Jackson
  12. Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  13. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
  14. The Jungle – Upton Sinclair
  15. A Quiet Storm – Rachel Howzell Hall
  16. How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran
  17. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  18. The Girl of Ink and Stars – Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  19. Wonder – RJ Palacio
  20. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  21. Queen of Spades – Michael Shou-Yung Shum
  22. Living the Dream – Lauren Berry (review)
  23. Inferior – Angela Saini (review)

How’s your summer reading going?

Book Review: Living the Dream – Lauren Berry

I loved this book. It’s sharp, funny and sarcastic. The characters are intelligent, if somewhat aimless, women in their late 20s. I hope this book isn’t categorised as chicklit (where good books go to die) because it’s not. It’s the best, easy, funny book I’ve read so far this year.

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The main character Emma has finished uni, got a temp job and found herself nearing 30 without achieving any of her hopes and dreams. She wants to be a writer, but is instead hating every minute of her job in marketing (or is it advertising? I don’t even know if they are different). The corporate bullshit that she has to deal with on a daily basis is grinding her down, but paying her bills.  He inner monologue is hilarious and I totally related to dealing with BS with a smile while inwardly hating yourself and every minute of it!

Her best friend is Clementine. She is the late 20s girl who has shown amazing promise in her career as a film writer. She has been to a well respected film school and her work has been praised by those who need to praise it, but she hasn’t been able to make a living from it yet. She’s waiting for her big break, skint, working in a bar and living with her parents.

They also have a friend, Yasmin, whose life is more together, who grounds them quite a bit in the story.

The fact that the three main characters are at these different places means you are likely to identify with at least one of them.

There’s a lot about not feeling like a grown up yet, and feeling like their peers are more like real grown ups. 30 is looming and it’s the age they thought they would have all aspects of their lives sorted by. They think over 30s feel like grown ups. I can tell you that isn’t going to magically change. I am 37 and I look at world leaders who are the same age as me. They seem like real grown ups. I don’t feel like that. Yet here I am, a fully functional adult with a full time job, husband and kids.  You aren’t going to one day wake up and have a magic ‘I suddenly feel like a grown up!’ moment. There is clearly some impostor syndrome happening here (probably with most of us).

It occurred to her that, on her ascent into adulthood, she might try to act more like a lady – but even the voice in her head said it sarcastically.

There are some hilarious moments in Living the Dream and some wonderful phrases. i’m putting some of them here so I can just keep rereading them.

Adam just sat there watching, like the inanimate knobject he is

She had no intention of putting his limp sadness anywhere near her face,

She stared at the damp meat scarf he called a neck.

Beneath the layers of jealousy, resentment and rejection there lay the blind, unsophisticated rage of PMT.

and my favourite, maybe because I’d quite like a nap time during the day:

Outside, summer was dressed up as autumn and rain hammered at the windows. The sky was a mute apocalyptic grey and the room was too warm. It felt like nap time in an old people’s home

Overall this book is FUNNY and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

 

 

Family Film Time – May 2017

Every week we have enforced family film watching time. Its partly to try and have a couple of hours down time, partly to be able to share our love of film with our kids, partly to have a tradition we hopefully will continue in the future. We take turns to pick. The participants are currently 39, 37, 6 and 4.

Tangled

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A surprising choice from the oldest child. I really like Tangled as far as Disney cartoons go. The horse is great. But the end is infuriating *spoilers ahead* so the whole family got a massive rant about how it was wrong of the guy to take the choice away from Rapunzel about cutting her hair. How very rude and presumptuous of him.

Minions

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Minions are an entertaining watch for everyone. A safe choice by the littlest one this week.

the BFG

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Ooooh I love Roald Dahl. Shame this version of the BFG is boring AF. *yawns*

We nearly watched:

Long Way North

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which looks AMAZING. It looks beautiful and is 5* film. Of course I hadn’t realised there would be quite so many subtitles. Considering one viewer is 4, and can’t read, it was quickly decided to shelve it and try something else. I panic chose and we ended up with:

Shark Boy and Lava Girl

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It’s actually quite good. And yes, that is a very young Taylor Lautner, of Twilight fame. I’m Team Run Away You Don’t Need Either Of Them btw

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I’m so sorry