Taking some time out due to bereavement- I’ll return in the New Year ❤
Maybe I should start by saying that I loved this book. It’s a chatty, self-help memoir, told by a therapist as she navigates therapy. I listened to it on audiobook, which really with the intimately conversational format. I felt like I was perched on the couch next to Gottlieb, listening to her clients and listening to her, going through the deeply personal journey of therapy with them.
Indeed, one of Gottlieb’s strengths as a writer is building up a clear picture and making you feel closer to the stories she shares. In an amazing feat of empathy, she transposes the feelings of others onto the reader. And through that, I felt like I was in the chair, working through the issues myself and learning to expunge my own thoughts.
While deeply personal at times, the book is fundamentally universal. Like all the best therapists, Gottlieb holds up a mirror to her patients (ie readers) and makes us really see ourselves. Not in an affirmative, vacuous *you go girl* way, but by giving us the uncomfortable truths we need to push through tough times. The book doesn’t act like a timid Yes Man- it’s hard-hitting and sometimes difficult to get through. Yet, it opened my eyes, gave me real insights into myself and genuinely helped me come to important realisations- and you can’t ask for more than that.
Like a therapy session, the book flits through a timeline. You have to force yourself through the messiest bits first, before you can reach any sense of clarity. You have to work to come unstuck from the complicated quagmire of human existence- and only then can you be rewarded. Because, even if we lose sight of it in the middle, the process is structured around an ending. And that ending is finding the way to breathe easier and move through life with just a little bit more grace.
Rating: 5/5 bananas
So, have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!
Hello all! Hope you’re all having a lovely summer! I’m trying to soak up what sunshine and freedom we have at the moment- so not blogging as much. Oh and I’m loving all the sports lately! Right now (possibly for this week only) I’m happy as Larry because FOOTBALL’S COMING HOME!!!
Project Hail Mary– what a rollercoaster! Andy Weir certainly knows how to toy with my emotions- cranking up the tension, before sending me rocketing to unexpected highs and lows. And Ryland was not what I expected either- his character arc really leaves you feeling a whole range of emotions. I loved his character arc and relationship with Rocky. The only major problem I have with this book is how difficult it is to talk about without going into spoilers!
Rating: 4.5/5 bananas
A Deadly Education– I love the concept of a deadly school filled with magically gifted students- and the execution wasn’t half bad! Admittedly, the world building could be a bit info-dumpy to start, but it still managed to be intriguing enough to keep me going. Plus, it didn’t hurt that the main character’s voice cut through the narrative and made me chuckle from time to time. I appreciated how dangerous she could be and liked getting a sense of her character. Ultimately, there was quite a lot of complexity here and am curious to see where Novik takes the rest of this series.
Pumpkinheads– gosh this book gave me a massive jolt of endorphins. It’s just pure, cinnamon-sweet joy, wrapped up in a gorgeously illustrated bow. I know I love Rainbow Rowell books, but I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy this quite that much. It was simply a treat from start to finish. And I adored the tricksy direction it took (somehow, with Rainbow Rowell, I never see the twists coming). I really want to get my hands on my own copy to reread this in autumn 😊
Rating: 5/5 bananas
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse– let’s be honest, this is just going to be a recommendation rather than a review. Because it’s not like I can summarise this book without just saying READ IT! With the most beautiful illustrations I’ve ever seen, lovely quotable lines and just enough cake to keep it from being too saccharine, this is well worth a read.
Rating: 5/5 bananas
The Ratline– masterfully telling the history of SS officer, Wächter, Sander gives a vivid depiction of the life of a Nazi. And as someone that believes we have much to learn from monsters, I found this to be a significant read. I found the background of this particular Nazi and his wife as one of marked frivolity. Indeed it is notable that later in the book, it is stated that Charlotte von Wachter only ever regrets taking a house that wasn’t hers- feeling no guilt for the far more significant crimes committed. I was struck by her description of how the starving Jews of the Krakow ghetto would appreciate the wall for its “Jewish” (and “oriental”) design (something a survivor called “absurd”). For me, this was less about the mystery of happened to Wachter after the war, becoming far more about the journey and the reactions to it. Much of this book focuses on the impact and what it is like to be the child of a mass murderer. Ratline does not offer simple or easy or comfortable truths- and for that I can see its honesty.
Rating: 4.5/5 bananas
House of Glass– this was a curious memoir. Bizarrely launching into rants about modern politics intermittently, I found the structure somewhat fragile. Many of her perspectives, while transparently left-wing, were obscurely odd. I think it’s pretty safe to state (for the record) that it’s ridiculous to compare a milquetoast Theresa May speech to Mein Kampf. While there were times I agreed and (clearly) many times I disagreed with the author’s assessments, I mostly just found it out of place that she used this topic as a launchpad for her own political musings. The history would have been better served without these interjections. Indeed, the space could have been better served with actually challenging myths around passivity- which she brings up and abandons (she could have discussed the inherent victim blaming involved or perhaps the many counter-examples). In the end, the Glass story was worth telling, though it could have been looked at from a different angle.
Rating: 3/5 bananas
Salt Path– I listened to this on audio after it was recommended by the brilliant Bookworm Jen as a great book about renewal… and she was right! It fits perfectly with that theme. Raynor Winn’s memoir tells of her and her husband Moth becoming homeless, quickly followed by a terminal diagnosis, and then deciding to walk the South West Coast Path. On the one hand, it’s a harrowing indictment of the legal system and suffering. On the other, it’s an inspiring demonstration of human endurance and appreciating nature in all her glory. The evocative language was brought to life for me by the author’s own voice, which enhanced the narration for me. The story is as rich as strawberries and cream, evoking emotions from childlike joy to that bone-deep feeling of experience.
Rating: 5/5 bananas
That’s all for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments! And I hope you all had a good month! ❤
Hi all! It’s that time of year again: I’m gonna (calmly) freak out about all the brilliant books I’ve been reading. Because no matter what a rollercoaster this year has been (so far) one thing that’s been consistently awesome is *the books*. Thanks to much to the *sensational* Sophie Li for tagging me to do this last year!
BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ YET IN 2020
Where the Crawdads Sing– this book sings to my soul. It was simply spectacular.
BEST SEQUEL YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2020
A Heart So Fierce and Broken– which is kind of a weird pick, because I didn’t love the beginning or ending of this trilogy. HOWEVER this middle book was FIERCE! It made the whole series worth it for me!
NEW RELEASE YOU HAVEN’T READ YET BUT WANT TO
Rule of Wolves, The Ivies, Tales from the Hinterland– I have copies of all of these and hope to get to them soon! 😊
MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASE FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR
I love all of these authors, so I’m bouncing off the walls waiting for these!!
Quiet at the End of the World– ach this got off to such a good start… and then it went out with a whimper. I really philosophically disagree with the messaging behind this story and hated the ending.
Wolf Hall– I know, I know- saying Hilary Mantel is excellent is hardly a revelation. But for various reasons- including the fact I didn’t used to read much historical fiction- I didn’t think it would be for me. HOW WRONG I WAS! I’m currently making my way through the audiobook versions of this series and keep being blown away by its brilliance!
FAVOURITE NEW AUTHOR
Hilary Mantel– I know I’m going to read so much more by this author.
NEWEST FICTIONAL CRUSH
Grey from A Heart So Fierce and Broken– yes, I know I’m repeating books a bit here, but I haven’t read very many romances yet and this is basically my reason for liking that series- so now you know 😉
NEWEST FAVOURITE CHARACTER
Echo North– she’s so different to a lot of other YA main characters (one could even say she’s “not like other girls” 😉). I loved how she felt both unique and inspired by traditional fairy tale characters. And I loved how the plot was very much dictated by her personality.
BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY
Code Name Verity– ye gods this book is so emotional.
BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAPPY
Pumpkinheads, Road Trip and the Tea Dragon Society!
(Happily) I can’t pick just one for this question- there were so many that made my heart squeeze!
FAVOURITE BOOK TO FILM ADAPTATION
Shadow and Bone– it’s got to be- I couldn’t have asked for a better adaptation!
MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK YOU’VE BOUGHT THIS YEAR
Once and Future Witches- this is weird cos I mentioned my plans to buy it last year, though I only went and bought it this year. It’s the most beautiful addition to my shelf.
WHAT BOOKS DO YOU NEED TO READ BY THE END OF THE YEAR
I’m just embarrassing myself at this point, cos it’s the same books every year and I even made it my goal to read them this year… and I still haven’t done it (*insert the usual excuses about mood reading/lots to do/being a fickle bookish fiend etc).
And that’s all for now! As this is an annual tradition, I’m not tagging anyone specific- just feel free to do it if you like! What I wanna know is what’s your favourite book so far this year? And what are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!
This post started accidentally- I was trying to come up with a list of wintry reads and I got really distracted by a fantasy book *with the exact opposite vibe*. And that made me think of how much I could do with getting wrapped up in some hot and cosy reads right now- and I’m sure many of you agree! These aren’t full-on summery books, but they could add a little spice to your reading this winter 😉 So now that you’re all warmed up, let’s jump into it! Starting with the book that inspired this post…
Crown of Feathers- this book is burned into my memory. It’s classic high fantasy, with great world building, plenty of magic and phoenixes (!!!) I just want to dive back into this story as soon as possible! If you need a bit of escapism and to get all fired up, then this is the book for you this January!
Echo North– by contrast, this wintry retelling does have a more wintry vibe. However, reading it recently gave me the warm fuzzies. I loved the way family aspect, the main character and lilting tone. And the book mirrors are *exactly* what I could do with right now!
The Secret Countess– okay, okay, I’m mentioning this book for the millionth time, so I’ll be quick! Opening in Russia and with its fairy-tale-esque style, this book has a cool and cosy feel. After all, Ibbotson is the queen of heartwarming stories.
Sense and Sensibility– nothing says cosy to me more than Austen. And to me, this is one of the cosiest examples, with a beautiful sister relationship and romances, it’s perfect to run away with this season (and even mentioning it is making me want to reread it! 😉)
Little Women– I mean, sisterhood, character growth, romance, family, *Christmas*… if these don’t warm the cockles of your heart then maybe you should try the next book on the list…
Afterlife of Holly Chase– yes that’s right: a retelling of A Christmas Carol. And I know that it’s post-Christmas, but I think we could all still do with some of that joyous spirit! I’m confident that a story all about reforming Scrooges will do the trick!
I Capture the Castle– I have to admit, this is a book I’ve shared as a summery read before, but it actually starts when things are distinctly chillier. And the mix of seasons and romantic setting all warm me up inside… making it perfect for this list. (Also, for me, it has a strong note of nostalgia!)
The Secret Garden– this is another throwback I find super cosy! Featuring the change of seasons, this will remind you that spring and summer are always just around the corner!
Unhoneymooners– steamy romance in a hot location- need I say more?! If you need an exotic getaway right now, then this enemies-to-lovers romance will hit the spot!
From Lukov with Love– heating things up even more, let’s talk about another rivals-to-romance book (with a distinctly colder setting). Thanks to its ice skating motif and cute love story, it’ll tick all the boxes if you need to feel chilled out and hot-and-bothered at the same time!
Heartstopper– and finally, I thought I’d end with a cutesy romance. You can’t go wrong with Heartstopper if you need something light and fluffy!
And that’s all I’ve got for now! Have you read any of these? Do you have any cool and cute reads to warm me up this winter? Let me know in the comments! 😊
This series will always give me chills. Not only because of the atmosphere and the setting, but because this story quite simply stole my soul when I was a child. It was my first foray into darker fantasy and it was a gamechanger. It didn’t patronise me or give me unrealistic expectations about reality- it told the truth.
And the characters! Too often, the protagonist in MG is perfect. They have no faults and they act as a mere conduit for the action- but not so with Lyra! Lyra was not a typical child heroine- she had flaws and a seemingly paradoxical personality. She felt like someone I might actually know. And she wasn’t the only one bringing the story to life- as with the children in the story, the adult heroes and villains and parents were all morally grey and oh-so-very human. I saw then that this was a book that wasn’t prepared to talk down to its audience or treat children as stupid- the whole point of this book is to give you the freedom to think for yourself.
But I’m getting ahead of myself with this reminiscing. Let’s bring this back to the present tense and what finally spurred me on to do a reread- and that’s the adaptation. As I’ve said before on this blog, I do really like the show. A lot of the acting is spot on- we have the best Mrs Coulter, Lord Asriel and Lee Scoresby we could ask for. And the style is vivid and memorable.
… and yet it wasn’t the same. Because as much as I have talked about the darkness in the story, the flipside is that His Dark Materials also has a lightness to it, capturing the ephemeral beauty of childhood. Lyra herself is more innocent (and considerably less angsty) in the books. And Lyra’s Oxford, while having a dark underbelly, also gives off a sense of magic and wonder and enchantment. All of which felt a little lacking in the show.
For me, this highlighted some of the subtlety of the book. Critically, while there are hints that things are even darker in the story, it is often cloaked by a layer of ambiguity. The greatest horrors of the book are not described in visceral detail- but rather hinted at and glossed over and subtly worked into the prose. Fundamentally, this gives the sense you are seeing the story through a child’s eyes. And, as a child, it made the story feel all that closer to home, whilst simultaneously shielding me from the full implications. As an adult, it’s creepier and all the more shudder inducing (ironically as a child Pullman was talking a little over my head- but I didn’t know that at the time!) And, of course, I realise that the show is a different medium and perhaps it was impossible to represent this on screen- nonetheless it is a pity to be missing this element.
Oddly enough, despite what I said about the show was not as light, there were element in the book that were even darker. For instance, Lyra is dealing with a significant amount of trauma in the second book, which (in my view) turns her wilder than ever. It’s not prettied up for the reader- it’s harsh and it’s realistic. We feel just as lost as Lyra as we search for the bridge between the first and third stories. FurthermoreWill takes on the mantle of murderer more readily in the book and even threatens to kill Lyra… which she believes. And yet neither of them think of this by the end of the story, because children are prone to bursts of hyperbole. For me, there’s something about this callous honesty that really captures the childishness of the characters. Lyra and Will- for all their attempts at mimicking adulthood- don’t know what they’re doing. And this is so important to the plot.
Because the ignorance with which they act carefully draws the link with Paradise Lost– toying with the theme of original sin, the pursuit of knowledge and the fight for freewill (far bigger themes than your average children’s books). As a coming-of-age story, it’s remarkable and unique. And the deeper you get into the series, the more complex its philosophy is. The betrayal becomes not just a betrayal of others- but a betrayal of the self. Lyra loses a part of herself- and yet also undergoes a necessary trial that’s part of growing up. She acquires knowledge- and yet that knowledge comes at the cost of a new awareness. Yet this is shown to not be a bad thing at all: growing up is hard… but a wonderful (and sometimes beautiful) experience. As much as children can seem clear-eyed, the wisdom of age shines as a brighter promise. And, as Pullman identifies, anything worth having is worth working for.
Now, of course, it’s not perfect (though I would not expect that from true art 😉). It is certainly of its time, with its hints of post-modernism and militant atheism. And yet I truly respect this book for its candour. It does not moralise or deliver a utopian propagandistic conclusion- it leaves the final thoughts up to the reader.
And that’s why I keep recommending these books. And that’s why this is one of my all-time favourite series. And that’s why I’ll happily SHOUT FROM THE ROOFTOPS IT’S GOING TO BE A FUTURE CLASSIC. His Dark Materials is a glorious series.
Rating: 5/5 bananas
So, have you read this series? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!
Well, it’s a subjective term for a subjective topic 😉 As much as we hear how “relatable” a book is lately by reviewers (guilty) and vaguely know it means empathising with particular experiences (also guilty), it’s actually a hard one to pin down. Soooo I guess I’m going to have to just talk about what relatable means to me 😉
Trouble is, when readers talk about relating to a book it could be any number of things. The biggest draw for the “relatable” moniker is relating to the characters or their experiences (and the coolest thing is this isn’t genre specific!). Other times, it could be as simple as relating to the setting or time period. And all of this is great, because it can be a pathway into enjoying a story.
That said, “not relatable” is becoming one of the most common forms of criticism for a book. And this, for me, seems to be where a lot of the issues come in. Look, don’t get me wrong, it’s of course fine to say you found it “unrelatable”. It gives some context as to why you didn’t enjoy it. It’s a similar catchall to “I personally didn’t connect”- and that’s fine, nothing wrong with subjectivity in reviews. However, the problem is when this subjective term is being applied “objectively”.
Because for some reason this seems to give people licence to collectively hate on a book (kind of ironic since it’s a form of *hyper individualism* to demand a book conforms to individual worldviews and experiences). And to my mind, shaming a book because it’s not #relatable seems daft. Let’s be real- it’s far from the be all and end of storytelling. Books should be about you empathising with people we don’t relate to *just as much* (or maybe *EVEN MORE*).
I’d also say that I have the issue- as a reviewer- of not often wanting to get into the specificity of why I relate. I very much leave it up to other people to *read between the lines* of why I find something relatable (usually because I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of why I related to it). And I’d guess that a lot of other reviewers do the same, applying the term to avoid saying why a book meant SO DAMNED MUCH to us. Problem is, this can leave a person wondering, what even is relatable?
Perhaps, then, we are overusing the term. Perhaps we could attach more clarity to it when we do use it (I’m as guilty of this as the next person!) I don’t think the word is devoid of meaning, but it doesn’t have magical powers to convey meaning in the way we reviewers seem to think it does 😉
So, what do you think of the term “relatable”? Do you use the term as much as I do? Or do you think it’s best avoided? Let me know in the comments!
Okay, yes, this post could easily go on forever! Which is why I (mostly) decided to go with books *directly* recommended by individual bloggers- which actually makes this post a DOUBLE WHAMMY of recommendations for reviewers as well as books!! *SURPRISE!!* This was so hard to narrow down- which is why I decided in advance I’m going to need to do multiple posts on this! Watch out for those in the future! For now, let’s jump straight into it…
Red Rising– I’ve read so many books on the *spectacular* Kat @Life and Other Disasters suggestions, so much so I could have filled an entire post with just those! Nonetheless, I chose this, because I didn’t have much space in my life for sci fi before this 😉 It’s a bloodydamn brilliant series-an adult Hunger Games, with heavy Roman inspiration… in space! And in case that wasn’t enough, it’s got characters to die for! I can’t thank Kat enough for this rec!!
Prince of Thorns– the GREAT Drew @Tattooed Book Geek is another person who I could feature again and again! I had to pick this, cos I never would’ve tried grimdark if not for Drew’s regular recommendations for this book. In fact, this is one that year’s earlier I thought was not for me. AND YET, now that I’ve grown older (though perhaps not wiser) I’ve found the cleverness and weight in series like these. And I have Drew to thank for that!
Wolf in the Whale– okay, I’m going to be a bit boring and say I had multiple cool recs from the lovely Liis. However, my reason for picking this *chillingly beautiful* read is that I’ve basically never read anything else like it! And the reason I even heard about it was because of Liis’ fantastic review!
Ten Thousand Doors of January– I can’t seem to shut up about this book, because it’s an open and shut case of how good it is! And, as I’ve mentioned before, it was all thanks to the wonderful Witty and Sarcastic Book Club’s riveting review!
Winter Rose- McKillip is an author I’d never heard of until I started blogging (perhaps she’s not very well known in the UK?) but I frequently saw her recommended on the BRILLIANT Bookstooge’s site. So much so that I simply had to check her out. And I’m so glad I did- her writing has a beautiful, dreamlike, fairy tale quality. Her stories sucked me in. She’s not the easiest author to come by across the pond, but I’m happy to go out of my way for more of these bad boys!
Neverending Story– by contrast, Neverending Story is one I’d definitely heard of! But, it was thanks to a recommendation from the *fab* Zezee that I finally adventured into the wilds of this book. And it truly was wild! This book doesn’t just take you on a journey into a fantasy world, it takes you into the very heart of books and shows us their beauty.
Beowulf– another story I was (of course) aware of- and yet I was thoroughly intimidated out of reading. But I needn’t have been… thanks to the fantastic Joelendil’s suggestion of trying the Seamus Heaney’s translation. I loved every moment of this.
V for Vendetta– I never would’ve attempted graphic novels if not for the *stupendous* Lashaan @Bookidote’s personalised recs- so I owe him a great debt! And this is a stellar example of his suggestions- emotional, clever and with a unique artistic style. If you crave graphic novel suggestions (and many other books besides) you’d be a fool not to check out his reviews!
Exquisite– I had a hard time recommending just the one of the many, many books the MARVELOUS Meggy @Chocolatenwaffles got me to read! I really credit her with encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and start me on thrillers with her exquisite reviews! And this was a real zinger- sublime writing and intriguing twists. I was hooked on this read… almost as much as I’m hooked on Meggy’s suggestions!
Bright Side– contemporary romance is another genre I didn’t read… until I came across the delightful Deanna @A Novel Glimpse’s blog!! And thanks to her glowing mentions over the years, I put this on my tbr (with a caveat that I must be prepared to be in a weepy mood). Once again, this was a book that blew me away (and made me go through a considerable number of tissues!)
Secret History– I was so reluctant to try this book, because sadly Goldfinch wasn’t for me. AND YET, I saw an inspiring review on the amazing Meltotheany’s blog and I simply had to know more about this murder mystery told in reverse. And you know what? She was right- this one’s a winner!
Huntress– I’ve had a weird relationship with historical fiction- let’s just say a writer-who-shall-not-be-named put me off for half a decade 😉 BUT thanks to the AWESOME Beware of the Reader and her suggestion on my blog, I just had to see what all the fuss was about! And gosh, this was far better than I ever could have imagined. Gripping from beginning to end, I fell in love with the characters and was *so invested* in their stories! Can’t recommend this- and the Beware of the Reader blog- highly enough!
Before I go, as a bonus, I thought I’d mention a few books that I was inspired to pick up after seeing them more generally round the blogosphere, just to give a tiny sense of how many good books you can find from blogging (in case you don’t already know):
So, have you read any of these? Did you like them as much as I did? What’s the best recommendation you’ve ever received from blogging? And do you plan to check out these lovely people? Let me know in the comments!