Tag Archives: review

The Book of Joan – Lidia Yuknavitch

A post-apocalyptic, feminist sci-fi adventure. Sounds awesome! and it is ๐Ÿ™‚

Earth is dead after a series of environmental disasters, and seemingly endless wars. The Earth population is barely clinging to life and humanity is just about surviving on a system of space stations, populated by Earths elite, goverened by the Trumplike Jean de Man. The station robs Earth of its very last resources.


The space station population have developed porcelain skin, they get elaborate skin grafts that make them look like eighteenth century French nobility, with billowing skin that trails upwards and behind them from all limbs, oh and everyone’s reproductive systems have shrivelled up and become useless. Also, everyone has to die when they reach fifty years old, so as not to be a drain on resources.

That’s what happens when geocatastrophe is amplified by radiation. Put simply, we devolved. Our sexualities mutated and devolved faster than you can say fuck.

On the stations is Christine. She is unsatisfied with how life on the station has turned out, and is strongly drawn to the story of Joan, the girl warrior who lead the opposition to Jean de Man, who seemed to have a link with the Earth itself. She was executed by burning as one last destroying of the opposition before the space stations were populated, martyring her. But is she really dead? and can she offer any hope for the future of humanity?

I want her story back. The one that was taken from her and replaced with heretic. Eco-terrorist, Murderous maiden who made the Earth scream.

The Book of Joan is a really enjoyable sci-fi adventure. It is delightfully sweary and gets into quite a lot of gender politics – especially considering gender has become irrelevant in the current society.

Men are among the loneliest creatures. They lose their mothers and cannot carry children, and have nothing to comfort themselves with but their vestigial cockular appendages. This is perhaps the reason they move ever warward when they are not moving fuckward. Now that the penis is defunct, a curling-up little insect, well, who can blame them for their behaviour?

Joan is a great character. She’s savage and animalisitic, yet she’s a teenager (for part of the story anyway!). Her connection to the Earth is mysterious and clearly (if it isn’t obvious enough already!) she is a Joan of Arc character.


I think feminist sci-fi might be my favourite sub-genre. I must read some more of it!


P.s I was provided with a free copy of The Book of Joan in exchange for an honest review. Thanks NetGalley!


Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

I was very excited to be reading Little Fires Everywhere after absolutely falling in love with Ng’s first novel: Everything I Never Told You.ย Happily, Little Fires is also a great read. I didn’t love it quite as much as Everything (though this would have been difficult – I loved the first one so, so much).


Little Fires Everywhere is about the meeting of two very different families in a nice suburban, American town. There are the Richardsons. A family who play by all the rules of society and are rewarded for it. Then there are the Warrens, a mother and daughter who defy convention.

Mia Warren is an artist who moves her and her daughter, Pearl, to a new town every six months or so. They take what they can fit in their car and leave the rest.

Pearl befriends the Richardson children. She is drawn to their nice, stable, family life. Whereas the misfit Richardson daughter, Izzy, is drawn to artist Mia and her unconventional approach.

There’s a fairly huge cast of characters and, brilliantly, they are all fleshed out and completely believable. I always come away from a Celeste Ng novel feeling all the feelings. I feel like I was 100% with the emotions of the characters and like I completely understand their motivation and the reasons for their decisions. I love this about her books.

I also love that Little Fires Everywhere isn’t solely focussed on the teenage characters. As events progress we learn a lot about the history of both mothers, and understand how this influences decisions they make. We learn about the circumstances of Pearl’s birth, and the kind actions of a fairly grumpy neighbour nearly broke me! That’s probably due to the very clear memories I have of just how difficult those early baby days were.

The first night back in the rented room, Pearl had cried and cried until Mia herself had begun to cry… Then there was a soft knock at the door, and stern Mrs. Delaney appeared and held out her arms. “Give her here,” she said, with such authority that Mia handed the soft bundle over without thinking. “Now you lie down and get some rest,” Mrs. Delaney said, shutting the door behind her, and in the abrupt silence Mia flopped down on the bed and fell instantly asleep.

God bless stern Mrs. Delaney!

I haven’t really mentioned the plot at all, and I won’t give away any spoilers, but it’s probably important to note that the book starts with the Richardson house burning to the ground, and their daughter Izzy missing and the chief suspect.

There’s a situation with an abandoned baby which forms the main part of the plot and both families are intricately linked with the scandal.

Little Fires Everywhere is a great book. ๐Ÿ™‚


P.s. I was provided with a free copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review. Thanks NetGalley!


2017 Reading Bingo!



Just for a bit of fun I’m going to see if I can fill all these reading bingo squares from my reading this year. I saw this on Cleopatra Loves Books Blog. I like the idea of looking at it retrospectively and have seen quite a few different bloggers do this over the last few weeks. I feel really happy that I have managed to find a different book for each square – even though I only had one choice for some, I still made it! Yey!

Click the images to go to my reviews for each book.

A Book With More Than 500 Pages.

american gods

American Gods – Neil Gaiman

At 635 pages, this is the longest book I read this year (3 were over 500 pages).


A Forgotten Classic.


The Awakening – Kate Chopin

I’m not sure about this being forgotten, but I’d never heard of it. I read it because it was on the reading list I was using for a bit of reading inspiration this year.


A Book That Became a Movie.


Lion – Saroo Brierley

And I haven’t seen the film yet!!!


A Book Published This Year.


Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie

I had lots to choose from for this one, eleven books in total. I went with Home Fire because it has such a lovely cover on this edition.


A Book With a Number in the Title.


Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor

I am happy I have read this one because it’s been a much talked about book this year, but I really didn’t get on with it very well. Still, it’s useful for having that number in the title (though I could have used Fahrenheit 451 for this too)


A Book Written By Someone Under 30.


Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley was twenty one when she wrote Frankenstein. Amazing! I had a few other options for this square, and a few that I suspect will fit, but I can’t easily find the author’s age, which is totally fine of course.


A Book With Non-Human Characters.


Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

We’ve got the White Rabbit, flamingos, the Cheshire Cat, and all sorts of other non-human characters in this totally bonkers book.


A Funny Book.


Living the Dream – Lauren Berry

I rarely read really funny books, but this was one of them. I had a few to choose from here. The Holly Bourne book I read was also funny, and I read two by David Sedaris and they would have fitted in very well here.


A Book By a Female Author.

39 of the books I’ve read this year are by female authors. I’d be horrified if someone couldn’t fit this square!


I’m going to choose What Happened – Hillary Rodham Clinton. It’s so good.


A Book With a Mystery.


The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

Probably the most straightforward mystery book I read. I nearly went with The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka but the mystery of happens doesn’t get solved so I went with this instead!


A Book With a One-Word Title.


Autumn – Ali Smith

I loved Autumn and I can’t wait to read Winter. I just picked it up and will read it very soon. ๐Ÿ™‚


A Book of Short Stories.


A Winter Book – Tove Jansson

I read quite a few essay collections this year, but this was the only short story collection I read.


A Book Set on a different Continent.


Galapagos – Kurt Vonnegut

I could have chosen one of the many book I read set in North America, but that’s a bit of a boring choice, so I’ve gone with Galapagos. It’s set, unsurprisingly on the Galapagos islands, so the continent is South America. I was quite socked actually to realise this was the only book I read that isn’t set in either Europe or North America. I will have to do better next year. I sippose I could also have picked Ad Astra by Dallas Campbell because that’s really set in space. ๐Ÿ™‚


A Book of Non Fiction.


Inferior – Angela Saini

I read 22 non fiction book this year (yey!) but this was the one I’d like most people to read too. It’s about how scientists historically have let their societal ideas about women influence their science, how the barriers to doing science have prevented women from taking part, and finally, what the real scientifically proven difference are between me and women. I loved it so much I’ve just bought myself a paperback copy – I originally read an ebook version.


The First Book By a Favourite Author.


Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

I’ve still only read this one book by Celeste Ng, but I have Little Fires Everywhere lined up ready to read. I just know I’m going to love that too, and probably any other book she writes in the future!


A Book You Heard About Online.


The Good Immigrant – ed by Nikesh Shukla

Again, there are a few books I could have picked for this one, but I loved The Good Immigrant so much, and I definitely kept reading about it online and sought it out to read as soon as I could.


A Best-Selling Book.


Me Without You – Jojo Moyes

Definitely the biggest, best selling book I read this year! Or possible Girl On the Train, but I used that earlier.


A Book Based on a True Story.


Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders

I just about made this by reading Lincoln In the Bardo, set on the night Lincoln’s son Willie is set to rest in a crypt in Oak Hill Cemetery, in Georgetown.


A Book at the Bottom of Your TBR Pile.


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

I chose this because I started reading it two years ago, and for some reason stopped and didn’t pick it up again until November. I absolutely loved it and can’t believe I took such a big reading pause with it.


A Book Your Friend Loves.


Bel Canto – Ann Patchett

I deliberated quite a bit with this one. No friends recommended Bel Canto, but after I’d read it, two people (both have book reading taste I trust) told me they absolutely loved it. There were a few books I read because other people told me they like them, but none that they LOVED so I went with Bel Canto, which I loved too.


A Book That Scares You.


Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

I don’t read horror. I don’t watch it either. I get too scared and can’t sleep! So there was no way there would be anything that scared me in that way. Instead I’ve chosen Farenheit 451. It scared me because it seems like how the world is going right now. Anti-intellectualism, “too many experts”, anti-science: there’s too much of this around at the moment and I can almost imagine if it continues, then the events in this book might not be so fictitious!

Also, I’m going to try reading an actually scary book next year as a personal challenge. Which one should I go for?


A Book That is More Than 10 Years Old.


It Cant Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis

I read loads of books that are over ten years old this year. I chose It Can’t Happen Here because I was astounded it was written in the 1930s – it reads like it’s directly influenced by Trump!


The Second Book in a Series.


How Hard Can Love Be – Holly Bourne

I got lucky with this one. I read very few series books this year, and luckily this is the second in The Spinster Club Series. I will make sure I read part three next year.


A Book With a Blue Cover.


The Trouble With Goats and Sheep – Joanna Cannon

Blue covers seem to be very popular. This was the bluest of blue covers. When I’ve tried to make a rainbow of book spines it is always purple that I struggle to find ๐Ÿ™‚


All done! Thanks for reading. I managed to fill each square with a different book. I got lucky with some of the more obscure ones!

How many squares can you fill from your years reading?





Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

Rebecca Skloot has written a triumphant book about Henrietta Lacks and her immortal cells that have revolutionised cell biology. Skloot has turned the scientific story of an exceptional cell line into a deeply human story about family, loss, and understanding.


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In case you don’t know the story of these amazing HeLa cells, from the back of the book:

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists knew her as HeLa. Born a poor, black tobacco farmer, her cancer cells – taken without her knowledge – became a multimillion-dollar industry and one of the most important tools in medicine. Yet Henrietta’s family did not learn of her ‘immortality’ until more than 20 years after her death, with devastating consequences… Balancing the beauty and drama of scientific discovery with dark questions about who owns the stuff our bodies are made of, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is an extraordinary detective story in search of the soul and story of a real woman, whose cells live on today in all four corners of the world.

Henrietta died in 1951, and it wasn’t until the 1970s that her family became aware of the HeLa cell line. They then spent over 20 years without any real understanding of what it meant for their mothers cells to be essential for medical testing. They heard stories about them being cloned, sent to space, blown up in atom bombs, mixed with animal DNA, all sorts of things. None of them understood the science, and they imagined all sorts of horrific scenarios. The family were also aware that some people had made an awful lot of money by selling these cells from their mother.

“… If our mother so important to science, why can’t we get health insurance?”

Lawrence Lacks, Henrietta’s son.


lunchtime reading!

Eventually, Skloot wins the trust of the Lacks family, particularly Deborah Lacks, Henrietta’s daughter. This is in the early 2000s. It’s not an easy trust to win, but eventually Deborah begins to join Skloot on research visits, and they begin to uncover the truth about what happened to Henrietta Lacks. The chapters where Deborah, and her brother Zakariyya, go to meet a researcher and see their mother’s cells under the microscope for the first time is incredibly moving.

Deborah then goes with Skloot to the institution her sister lived and died in and finds they have her autopsy records and a photograph of her. This is part of the human story of the Lacks family, and is connected to the HeLa cell story because Deborah may have known more about her sister if her mother hadn’t died so young. It’s so real the pain and suffering Deborah has been through. It’s completely heartbreaking. She has had to grow up without a mother, as well as trying to understand what happened to her mother after her death, and then discovering information about her sister, is incredible.


prosecco and campari to help with evening reading.ย 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks manages to be a fantastic introduction to the very basics of cell biology and how research is carried out on cells. It’s a wonderful story of scientific discovery and advancement. It is equally a moving story of family and loss. Thirdly it deals with medical ethics – the ethics of cells being taken from patients without any consent, the fact that people have made millions from the cells while the family have stayed very, very poor, and the fact that this is a story of a white, male establishment taking advantage of a poor, black woman.

Lawrence fell back in his chair and stared into his lap, his smile collapsing. After a long quiet moment, he turned and looked into my eyes.

“Can you tell me what my mama’s cells really did?” he whispered. “I know they did something important, but nobody tells us nothing.”

When I asked if he knew what a cell was, he stared at his feet as if I’d called on him in class and he hadn’t done his homework.

“Kinda,” he said. “Not really.”

I have barely any knowledge of biology (physics is my specialist science knowledge topic!) and I found this book fascinating. Just learning about the impact Henrietta’s cells have had on the world would be a brilliant story – it’s just made even better by all the other aspects. I would really highly recommend it. I can’t wait to try and track down the TV movie made of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks earlier this year – staring Oprah and Rose Byrne!

Ten Books I’m Thankful For

I’ve seen a few bloggers take part in this – it is part of The Broke and The Bookish’s top ten tuesdays. The theme is due to it being thanksgiving in the states. There’s a lot more non-fiction in this list than I was expecting before I starting trying to write it.


Matilda – Roald Dahl. I loved this book when I was a child (along with most other Roald Dahl books). Matilda taught me that reading books is ace and there can be power in thinking and using your brain. I was also a massive library fan so I loved Matilda’s use of the library!


In Search Of Schrodingers Cat – John Gribbin. This oneย made me certain I wanted to pursueย physics for my degree. Along with A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking, and many other popular physics books – I couldn’t read enough of them when I was a teenager.ย  I don’t read so many now, but still love them when I do (I can’t even remember the last one I read, but I have 5 or 6 on my shelves waiting to be picked up!)


Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but this novel is the first time I read a book and just wept through the last few pages. It blew my mind to realise a book could emotionally move me like this. I was about 19 when I read it! I’d always been a big reader, but just hadn’t read the right stuff apparently.


The Demon-Haunted World – Carl Sagan. Here Sagan sets out why more people learning about the scientific method would be better for humanity. People would be better equipped to protect themselves from pseudoscience and fraudsters. I love it and would still recommend everyone buys a copy for a teenager they know, or just anyone who hasn’t read it!


Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman – Richard Feynman. This collection of stories about Feynman’s life is full of fun and physics. Feynman is a curious man and his zest for life comes across in every story. It challenged the stereotype of the quiet geek physicist for me.


The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck. Another story that I will never forget – especially the incredible final scene. I was so moved by that, and equally shocked. This novel is a moving portrait of human suffering.


The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins. I’ve always been an atheist as an adult, but The God Delusion really cemented a lot of my ideas. I don’t always agree with Dawkins – especially not in recent years with some of the bobbins he comes out with, especially on twitter. but I adored reading The God Delusion.


Riders – Jilly Cooper. This book is in here because I’ve found that knowledge of Rupert Campbell-Black and co. is a helpful female bonding experience. This saucy tale is also a great read. I’ve read the whole series. and would quite like to know other authors who write a good story with some rude bits. *rubs thighs* ๐Ÿ˜€


Delusions of Gender – Cordelia Fine (review and review!). I picked this up because I wanted to understand more about how I could help the girls I teach have more confidence with their physics and maths ability. As well as helping me with this, it also told me so much about myself. Particularly the description of girls who like maths and science, and how often they reject traditional female stereotype characteristics. It’s much more complex than I can suggest in one sentence, but essentially I read loads of it mouth agape reading about myself. My daughter was also a toddler when I read Delusions of Gender, and there is a whole section on gender and children. Living with my pink princess walking stereotype it really helped me. I am not a pink princess type of person (huge understatement) and I really have struggled to have a daughter who is girly to the extreme. I loved every minute of reading Delusions.


I could easily link reading Delusions of Gender with a sort of feminist reawakening I’ve had in the last few years. I could also have put How to be a Woman – Caitlin Moran – accessible, funny feminism, or Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me (review). All brilliant books that I wish I could remember word for word to recite to people.


Hope In The Dark – Rebecca Solnit (review). I’ve chosen this Solnit book because I feel like this one has educated me about activism. It’s a beautiful book that sets out hope as being essential. It details how small acts of activism have inspired huge political, environmental, and social changes.

It was nice looking back at books that have really meant a lot to me over the years. Let’s hear yours!


Prudence and the Crow September 2017

I got my first book from Prudence and the Crow in September. I was looking for an affordable, monthly book surprise in the post, and after looking at lots of options decided on Prudence and the Crow. They have a great name. You get a book chosen for you. You get some little bookish treats. The book is secondhand and this is probably what makes it more affordable. It costs ยฃ15 a month.

I had stated when I signed up that I would like to read more BAME authors and I quite like sci-fi, and I ended up with My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due. I can’t wait to read it (though I know it probably won’t be for a while!). I also got this lovely book sleeve – a great bonus because I keep thinking I need something to help keep my books from getting damaged in my bag.

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As well as the book and the fabric sleeve, there were some sweets, teabags, postcards, labels, and a few other bits too.



The packaging was nice too, though the fragile sticker didn’t seem to have been taken notice of, and the packaging was a bit battered when it arrived – but everything inside was fine.

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I’m expecting my October post any time soon. Hopefully I’ll be just as happy with this one. ๐Ÿ™‚



Book Review: Queen of Spades – Michael Shou-Yung Shum

I received a pre-release copy of Queen of Spades from Netgalley. It’s a reworking of Pushkin’s The Queen of Spades – a book I also didn’t know anything about. So after reading this I have got a copy of the Pushkin version to read so I can compare the two.


Queen of Spades is a book with a slightly, magical-leaning look at gambling. It’s set in a pacific north west USA town (Twilight country in my mind), in a casino called The Royal. We focus on a dealer called Arturo Chang and his obsession with a mysterious Countess who comes to the Royal every night to watch the high stakes game Faro. She rarely gambles, though does occasionally, and no one can figure out her system.

I’m not a gambler, I don’t go to casinos and I don’t know the rules of these games. Queen of Spades doesn’t require any of this knowledge and it doesn’t get bogged down with the games. We learn early on that there is one legendary game of Faro played at the Royal, and we are building up to this game and its consequences.

You get to know a whole cast of characters who are all associated with The Royal and it’s a really enjoyable read. There’s a dealer with a gambling problem, his ex-wife who attends a support group for gamblers, his bookie and his bookie’s goons – who really just want to open a salon and gym! It’s nice to read something about such different characters to the ones I normally read about.

I enjoyed reading Queen of Spades and recommend it of you want an interesting look into a world of gamblers.