July Reads

Another month has passed, which means it’s time for another wrap-up! I must apologise in advance for my tardiness with this post – I had written half of it before 1st August, then it fell by the wayside, but it’s here now! Better late than never, right?

Once again, my reading hasn’t been great having only read six books – I’ve found it hard to have time to pick up books, having to prioritise other things (if you haven’t taken a look at this post, please do!).

Without further ado, last month I read…

Plum by Hollie McNish (Picador Poetry) – 5/5

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Plum is poet Hollie McNish’s newest collection and features both new and old poetry – her recent poems are interrupted by earlier writing from her formative years – voices that are raw, honest and also very, very funny. If you’re looking to get into poetry, this is a fantastic place to start – Hollie is warm, honest, funny, sarcastic and passionate. I could listen to her poetry over and over again (a personal fave of mine is Mathematics – I encourage you to go and have a watch on YouTube!)

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla (Unbound) – 5/5

Good Immigrant

This is a collection of essays written by BAME authors, edited together by Nikesh Shukla. It explores what it means to be Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic in Britain today. The essays look at identity, culture, family and diversity; I found it enlightening, eye-opening, funny, heart-breaking and infuriating all in one. This is such an important read and one that everyone should pick up!

Them: Adventures with extremists by Jon Ronson (Picador) – 3/5

Them

It seems I was on a bit of a non-fiction roll this month! I’m a big fan of Jon Ronson’s books and my favourite of his is The Psychopath Test, however I wasn’t mad about Them: Adventures with Extremists. The book goes on a quest to explore extremism, from Islamic fundamentalists to Neo-Nazis. Originally written in 2001, this book is definitely still prevalent today; I found it fascinating in parts, but also a little boring in others.

Dying to Live by Michael Stanley (Orenda Books) – 4/5

Front Cover Dying to Live

Dying to Live is the sixth book in the Detective Kubu series – I loved the setting of the book, the African landscape added a different dimension, making it stand out from so many British crime books, which can sometimes feel a bit samey! If you’re looking for a fairly light crime novel, which is a bit different, then I’d definitely recommend giving the Kubu books a go. My full blog tour post is here.

Our Memory Like Dust by Gavin Chait (Doubleday Books) – 2/5

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This one puzzled and perplexed me – my full review can be found here. Our Memory Like Dust wasn’t completely up my street, but I definitely think you’d enjoy it if you’re a fan of light sci-fi or dystopian fiction. Chait is a complex storyteller, using many themes, characters and contemporary issues to make a wider point about society – although I think some of these points went over my head…

The Marshking’s Daughter by Karen Dionne (Sphere) – 4/5

Marshking's Daughter

Last of all, I picked up The Marshking’s Daughter to help get me out of my slump! I was hooked from the get-go; it is thrilling, suspenseful and action packed. The story is centred around a woman who was born into captivity after her Mother was abducted – I was wary that this might read like Room by Emma Donoghue. I shouldn’t have been worried as it was completely different. Dionne creates wonderful, atmospheric scenery which chills you to the core. After finishing The Marshking’s Daughter I was excited to pick up another thriller.

What did you read in July? Do you have any recommendations? 

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December Reads

 

In December I read a total of five books and was on a race against time to finish my Good Reads challenge of 52 books. I’m happy to report that I managed to complete the challenge with just a couple of hours to spare!

Nomad – Alan Partridge (Orion Books) – 2/5

If you’re a die-hard Partridge fan, I’d recommend this to you as I’m sure you’d love it as it has all the weirdness and wit you’d expect. However, if you’re looking for a good book to read, then steer clear – in true Partridge fashion it’s a shambles in places and the plot is all over the place. Looking back I wish I’d listened to the audio book of this as I think it’d be much more enjoyable if it was read by the dulcet tones of Steve Coogan.

After The Crash – Michel Bussi (Orion Books) – 4/5

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Translated from French, Bussi’s debut novel has been subject to rave reviews the globe over. The book starts with a plane crash, where 168 of the 169 passengers are killed instantly. The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. Two families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her, sparking an investigation that will last for almost two decades. Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie? Throughout the book we follow the girl’s journey through a web of lies and secrets to discover who she really is. I loved the suspense that Bussi built – it was packed with twists and turns, which kept it gripping throughout.

Disclaimer – Renee Knight (Black Swan) – 3/5 

Imagine if the next book you picked up was all about you, your life and your secrets. Well, this is exactly what happens to Catherine, the lead character, in Disclaimer. The story unfolds as we learn more about what really happened on her holiday that fateful day. I picked this book up at a charity shop for 50p so didn’t have too high expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised. I was kept captive from the first page and found it gripping and tense in places. The twist didn’t shock me too much, but it still wasn’t expecting.

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (Bethany House Publishers) – 3/5

I’ve read this plenty of times before – this time I picked it up as I fancied something festive and seasonal just before Christmas. I won’t say too much about this one as I’m sure you’re all familiar with Dickens’ tale and the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge.

The Tidal Zone – Sarah Moss (Granta) – 4.5/5 

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Without a doubt this was my stand-out book of the month, and what a fantastic book it was to finish my year of reading on. The Tidal Zone is about the relationship between a father and his daughter, who collapses and stops breathing one day, and the foreboding sense of loss that follows. I loved how Moss’ writing captured the everyday details of life so perfectly, so beautifully. Throughout the novel there are parallel storylines and the paradox between the destruction of family life and the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral after the bombing worked so very well. The only reason I didn’t give this 5 stars is that I felt I knew too much about the book before I started it (because of countless fantastic reviews and booktube videos!), which affected my enjoyment – I think if I’d gone in blind it would have been a five star read for me. A full post will follow for this one.

October Reads

I had a bit of a slower month in October as I was on holiday and didn’t end up having as much time to read as I’d have liked. As usual, if you’ve read any of the below I’d love to hear what you thought.

The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R. Carey (Orbit) – 4/5

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I’m not usually a lover of sci-fi/ dystopian novels, but seeing as countless friends recommend The Girl With All The Gifts to me I thought I’d give it a go. Throughout, we follow Sergeant Ed Parks, teacher Helen Justine, hungry Melanie and scientist Caroline Caldwell as they deal with a funghal infection that has wiped out most of humanity. This was a thrilling read that really captured my imagination and attention. I was expecting a really predictable ending, and thought I knew the outcome, but instead I was met with a clever twist – if you’re looking for something a bit different from your usual zombie thriller, definitely give this a go. 

Spectacles – Sue Perkins (Penguin) – 4.5/5

I actually listened to this on audio book, but boy did I enjoy it – I think it was made even better because Sue Perkins narrated it herself. Spectacles had me both laughing and crying on my commute to work, it was everything I’d hoped it would be, funny and personal but also unexpectedly tender. Perkins embraces weird by the scruff of the neck and reminds us that it’s okay not to live a perfect life, in fact it’s probably better off that way. If you’re a lover of Bake Off, or are a fan of Sue, I highly recommend this one!

The Fish Ladder: A Journey Upstream – Katharine Norbury (Bloomsbury Paperbacks) – 4/5

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This was one of the books I’d won as part of the Wainwright Prize package, from Mercy’s Musings. The Fish Ladder follows Katharine’s journey, where she challenges herself to follow a river from the sea to its source – it’s much more than a physical journey and one also of self-discovery. I found this book touching and tender, and the way in which Norbury weaves nature into the narrative is beautiful.

His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet (Contraband) – 4.5/5

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When the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize was announced I knew I had to read His Bloody Project. I’m well aware you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but as soon as I saw this book in Waterstones I knew I had to give it a read – it is so beautifully published and it looked right up my street. This year it was great to see independent publishers, such as Saraband, on the shortlist. His Bloody Project is a story about a crime, rather than a crime story, if you’re expecting a who dunnit or murder mystery then you’ll likely be disappointed. Throughout, we follow Roderick Macrae who has committed a crime in his isolated Scottish hamlet – Macrae Burnet tells the story lyrically and keeps you captured to the very last page. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. 

Luckiest Girl Alice – Jessica Knoll (Simon and Schuster) – 3/5

This is your typical trashy ‘crime’ novel. Mid-month I was in a bit of a reading rut and this was the ideal book to speed through and get me out of it. We start off hearing about TifAni FaNelli’s perfect life, which quickly unravels as we learn about her dark past and a high-school event that changed her life. I wouldn’t rush to recommend this, but I did enjoy it for what it was; a quick and easy read.

#Girlboss – Sophia Amoruso (Portfolio) – 2/5

I was disappointed by this. I was expecting this to be part memoir, part business advice, but instead it just screamed of Amoruso’s huge ego. Don’t get me wrong, she’s got every right to be proud of the ‘empire’ she’s created, but to keep going on about the meteoric rise of it and millions she has made was not what I was expecting. When I posted a picture of this on Instagram I had other business book suggestions to read including Step Up Club and Lean In.

Non-Fiction November: To be read

One of the tags that is currently doing the rounds on BookTube is ‘Non-Fiction November’ – a month long readathon encouraging us all to read more non-fiction than we normally would. Having watched a fair few of the videos I’ve been inspired with lots of great recommendations, including Sister Outsider and Walls Come Tumbling Down from Jean at Bookishthoughts, so I thought I’d pull together my own reading list for the month ahead.

In case you were wondering, I’ve stuck to the categories that Non-Fiction November creators – Olive and Gemma – originally picked:

NEW: Another day in the death of America – Gary Younge (Guardian Faber Publishing)

Realistically this book could have fit into any of the four categories, but as it only came out at the end of September I thought it was fitting to pop it under ‘new’. This is a timely – and from what I can tell – a much needed study of gun usage and accessibility in America. Younge picks a single day at random, Saturday 23rd November 2013, on which ten children and teenagers were killed by gunfire and tells their stories – one per chapter. This book offers an inside look at US society as well as a portrait of modern-day America – I genuinely think this will be one of my books of the year, but I’m trying not to hype it up too much!

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IMPORTANT: Girl Up – Laura Bates (Simon & Schuster UK)

Laura Bates is the founder of the #EverydaySexism project, which has been one of the most influential feminism campaigns of recent times. In Girl Up Bates tackles feminism head-on; she dissects prejudice by delving into a number of topics including sex, relationships and false representation in the media. I’ve put this under the important category because as Bates so eloquently put it in a Guardian interview “all feminism means to me is that everyone should be treated equally regardless of their sex.” and until this happens, we should be taking notice.

CONTROVERSIAL: Marching Powder – Rusty Young (Pan)

This has been on my to-read list for longer than I care to divulge – countless friends have recommended this to me, particularly with the current popularity of the Netflix show Narcos. Marching Powder is the story of an English drug mule in Bolivia. When convicted and put into the San Pedro prison, McFadden starts running illegal tours – I’ve lumped this one into the controversial category as it is a murky window into South American drug culture, the violence between other inmates in the prison and McFadden’s struggle for survival.

FASCINATING: In Order to Live – Park Yeonmi (Fig Tree)

I’ve been almost morbidly fascinated by Kim Jong-un’s regime in North Korea for a few years now and whilst I’ve read countless articles about it, I’m still yet to read a full non-fiction account from an insider detailing what life is really like there. Yeon-mi writes about her escape from the dictatorship under which she lived, as well as the mental and physical journey she endured to become a human rights activist; this book is meant to be a real eye-opener to the struggles that many escapees face in their quest for freedom.