The ‘Mid-Year Book Freakout’ Tag

How are we already well over halfway through 2017?! This is one of those times I wish I had a magic watch that could pause time but that’s another story for another time… To celebrate this terrifying milestone, I’ve been scouring my GoodReads account to try and answer these questions (note to self: you’re 2 books behind your 50 book target, PICK UP THE PACE PLEASE ELLIE!)

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2017?

Straight in there with the difficult questions, I see…

My initial answer was ‘Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe’ by Benjamin Alire Sáenz*. A beautiful coming of age story about two teen boys discovering their friendship and sexuality. Whilst it is a strong contender for my favourite book so far, that title has to go to ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr*. Partly because my premature dislike for the book made my eventual enjoyment took me by surprise but because after reading it, I felt so inspired to start writing again after struggling with writer’s block for so long. This is the book that stands out to me as being one I could read over and over again.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2017?

I’ve just started reading ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’ by Helen Fielding* but have yet to finish any sequels. It’s been a long time since I sunk my teeth into a really good series so I welcome any recommendations.

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

‘How To Stop Time’ by Matt Haigand ‘Moxie’ by Jennifer Mathieu*. Matt Haig is one of my favourite authors so I know I’m missing out by not reading his latest release and I’ve heard so much about ‘Moxie’ I’m willing to overlook my self-inflicted YA ban to read it!

4.  Biggest disappointment

It’s a tie between ‘1984’ by George Orwell* and ‘Everything Everything’ by Nicola Yoon*. Two very different books, I know but both recommended to me. I don’t want to say too much about ‘1984’ because I think it deserves a second chance, there were elements I really enjoyed. However, ‘Everything, Everything’ felt like a real let down to me because of its attitudes towards disability.

5. Biggest surprise?

Easily, ‘Yes Please’ by Amy Poehler*! I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book but I came away from it with an itching to read more autobiographies and a new found respect for that incredible woman.

6. Favourite new author (debut, or new to you)?

Megan Hunter, author of ‘The End We Start From’*. This novella is so unlike anything I have ever read before and renewed my love for dystopian fiction.

7. Newest fictional crush?

‘The Reader’s of Broken Wheel Recommend’ by Katarina Bivald* was the first book I read this year so I’d almost forgotten about my love for Tom. Yes, the love story was a little predictable and cheesy at times, but who doesn’t love a bit of cheese every now and then?

8. Newest favourite character?

Never before have I seen myself in a character so much as I did with Ari from ‘Aristotle and Dante’. He’s a brilliant example of a well rounded, imperfect yet likeable character. A lot of the traits I found myself internally screaming at him for, like the way he distances himself from people instead of talking to them about how he’s feelings are things I definitely do!

9. Book that made you cry?

I have a confession to make… books don’t make me cry… I KNOW! I consider myself a cryer but for some reason very rarely cry whilst reading a book. The only example I can think of is when I finished reading the entire ‘Harry Potter’ series for the first time.

10. Book that made you happy?

SO many! One book that filled me with joy inspired me and taught me so much was ‘Hamlet: Globe to Globe’ by Dominic Dromgoole*. I’ve reviewed this book on my blog but once again, if you have an interest in Shakespeare and theatre, please, read this book.

11. Favourite review you’ve written this year?

It’s not so much of a review but more of a critique of ‘Me Before You’ by Jojo Moyes and the representation of disability.

12. Most beautiful book you bought or received this year?

‘Swing Time’ by Zadie Smith is one of the most aesthetically pleasing books I’ve seen all year. Although, books are like babies – there’s no such thing as an ugly one!

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

I have to read the follow up to ‘Sofia Khan is Not Obliged’, ‘The Other Half of Happiness’ by Ayisha Malik as well as Dodie Clark’s first book, ‘Secrets For the Mad’* which is coming out in November!

If you do this tag, please send me your posts! I’m looking for some more recommendations!

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Snapshots #1 | South Bank

If you follow me on Instagram (plug, plug, plug) you’ll know that about a week ago, I went to London. Specifically, one of my favourite places in the world, South Bank. There’s something about that part of London that feels so far removed from the rest of the city. There is something about that place that makes me feel at home.

My one true love in life is theatre and many years ago I made it my life’s mission to perform at The Globe Theatre. Visiting always reminds me of that ambition and gives me a little nudge of inspiration to keep working at it!

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Summer of Love at Shakespeare’s Globe

Further along South Bank is the National Theatre. I’d never been before so my Mum and I had a look around. We only stayed for a few minutes and all the accessible seats had been sold for the performances that day but I definitely want to go back ASAP, I’d love to see ‘Yerma’ or ‘Angels in America’.

If you are as much of theatre and book lover as I am, you will feel at home here. The National Theatre is also right next door to Forbes so you can see why I love South Bank so much! Just outside, there was a pop up second hand book store. Unfortunately, by this point, I was in a rush to get the train home so I couldn’t spend too long browsing. There were so many books, I could’ve lost myself in there for hours!

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By far my favourite thing about South Bank is there is always something new to see. That afternoon, a wedding had just taken place in St Paul’s cathedral. Like everybody else who was outside that afternoon, I stopped to watch the couple have their pictures taken and had a serious case FOMO – there were so many beautiful dresses!

Each time I visit, I’m surprised to discover new things. Every where you look, there’s a different street performer or art installation (my favourite was the ‘poet for hire’, who sat at his type writer, composing poems on demand.). Under every bridge is a different busker, from a jazz duo, a harpist and drummers.

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London is such a bustling place but it is in this little pocket of the city that it truly feels alive.

Wilde Like Me by Louise Pentland | Review

YouTuber books have become the topic of heated debate over the past few years. It’s an argument that I have found myself agreeing with both sides of so I don’t want to open *THAT* can of worms. Instead, this is my honest review of Louise Pentland’s ‘Wilde Like Me’.

A friend lent me their copy of this book and I read it out of curiosity more than anything else. Over the past year, I’ve grown rather tired of ‘chick-lit’ as they are starting to feel all the same to me. Ever since I read Bridget Jones’ Diary last year, all the other chick lit books I’ve read have felt like they were trying to emulate that story but not quite managing to achieve that level of relatability and humour. Unfortunately, ‘Wilde Like Me’ was the same in this sense. Whilst there were moments that genuinely made me laugh, a lot of the ‘relatable’ traits of Robin’s personality felt very cliched.

Louise has been very open and honest about how much help she has had in regards to developing her story and editing the novel so I was surprised by how clunky the writing was. It gave me the impression that the editing process had been rushed in order to get the book out by a certain deadline, I can appreciate the difficulty of writing to a deadline but when reading a book it’s nice when you can tell just how much time and care has gone into making sure it is as good as it can be, that every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ crossed.

I’ve watched Louise’s videos and followed her blog for a few years now so was interested to see how her writing style differed from her blogging style but, unfortunately, it doesn’t. Of course, this is a fairly lighthearted book so it’s understandable that the writing style would be more informal than most books, however, the use of words such as ‘bants’ made me cringe. Louise has insisted that this is not an autobiographical book but I found it very hard to separate ‘Robin Wilde’ from Louise Pentland – perhaps if I wasn’t aware of her before hand this wouldn’t be a problem. Obviously, this is all just personal taste, and if you like books that feel like you are reading a friend’s thoughts, you’ll probably love Louise’s style of writing.

Unfortunately, the story itself didn’t do much for me either. I found it to be rather boring at times, or perhaps that was just due to my reservations about the writing style. Nonetheless, there were some very interesting topics such as domestic abuse and depression that were hinted at very briefly but ignored for most of the novel. It would have been really interesting to see how those themes were explored in an otherwise lighthearted novel. I was disappointed that Louise portrayed Robin’s depression (or ‘The Emptiness’, as she referred to it) as being purely down to her lack of romantic relationships with men. Yes, that could well be an aggravating factor but falling in love with a man is unlikely to solve all of Robin’s problems and it was upsetting that Louise would write such a story line for a book that is, due to the large numbers of young people in her audience, going to be read by young girls. Personally, I think it sends the wrong message but perhaps I am being unduly critical.

It has been announced that Louise is writing a second novel about Robin Wilde so I will be intrigued to see what the book is like, I just hope, this time, more care and time is taken over the editing process (and that she doesn’t use brackets on every page).

 

Ch-ch-changes

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am possibly the most indecisive person on this planet. I am constantly coming up with ideas, setting out to do them then changing my mind and giving up. It is well known at this point that I am constantly starting things and not finishing them (I can assure you it’s just as infuriating for me as it is for everybody else). I think it’s because I get bored very easily, so I constantly need new things to keep me occupied and excited.

With that in mind, it’s been seven months since I set up this blog and I can already feel this happening to this blog. Don’t get me wrong I love this blog and love the process of documenting my thoughts online. I also love reading other people’s blog posts. The whole thing is very therapeutic to me. Originally, the plan was for this to be a book blog (hence the name), however, lately, I’ve felt slightly pigeon holed by the topic. Whilst I will always want to write about books, there’s so much more I have to talk about. After discovering and falling in love with Grace Latter’s blog ‘Almost Amazing Grace’, I’ve found myself really drawn to the idea of writing more personal posts, making the blog like an online diary. That may not work out as I still like the idea of keeping this blog mainly anonymous.

Apologies for this sort of non-post, I just wanted to keep you updated! I’ll be back with regular and more interesting posts soon!

Learning to Love Non-Fiction

Non-fiction is a genre I’ve always struggled to get on with. When I was younger I used reading as a way of escaping from the real world, visiting places that didn’t exist and making friends I didn’t have at school. Up until relatively recently, I had no interest in reading non-fiction books – with the exception of Horrible Histories, of course! As I’ve grown older and (hopefully) a little wiser, I’ve realised that some of my reservations about non-fiction was just stubbornness left over from those early reading years.  Som over the last couple of years I’ve been making a real effort to expand my range of genres that I read. Since then, I have discovered some brilliant non-fiction books and now have an ever growing TBR full of non-fiction books!

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Non-Fiction Favourites

  1. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Although this book is about women in business, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone. Just reading it made me feel more confident in myself and my abilities as a woman. It’s all about knowing your own worth and being confident enough to speak up for yourself and demand at the seat of the table. In business or any other aspect of life.

2. Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I’ve mentioned this book a few times before on my blog. It was one of the first none fiction books I ‘read’ last year and I absolutely loved it. Describing this book is difficult, it’s not quite a memoir, not quite a self-help book but it is brilliant. What made it even more special was that I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Amy Poehler herself. It felt very much like I was listening to advice from a friend.

3. Hamlet: Globe to Globe by Dominic Dromgoole

Yep, I’m still talking about this one. I wrote a review of it a few weeks ago. As a self-confessed Shakespeare fangirl, this book was perfect for me. It offers insight into the behind the scenes life of a touring play as well as analysing some of Hamlet’s most famous lines.

4. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

This book was featured in my first ever blog post as one of my favourite books of all time. When I first heard Malala’s story, I was so moved by her bravery and strength, I picked up this book as soon as it came out. Her passion for education is incredible and it is one of those books that really changed the way I think about the world.

TBR

After reading so many great non-fiction books over the past year, I now have an extensive TBR list!

  1. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is one of those books that everybody raved about a few years ago and I completely missed the boat. Nevertheless, it remains on my ‘to be read’ list. I’ll get round to it one of these days…

2. How to be a Person by Lindy West, Dan Savage, Christopher Frizelle & Bethany Jean Clement

Somebody recommended this book to me months ago and I still haven’t managed to get my hands on a copy. This book includes anecdotes and advice about starting college and university and just how to be a functioning adult. Hopefully, I’ll be able ]to read it before I leave for university in September.

 3. Secrets for the Mad: Obsessions, Confessions and Life Lessons by Dodie Clark

This book isn’t actually out yet but I am such a huge fan of Dodie’s music and YouTube channel that I know I’m going to love it. She has been very vocal and honest about her struggles with mental health, which has been so comforting to me, so I’m particularly interested to read a whole book of her stories, advice and experiences.

I’ll be sure to keep you all updated on my non-fiction journey!

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr | Review

It has been a long time since I read a book that had such an impact on me as ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr*. As ironic as it is for me to say as a book blogger, I’m not sure I will be able to do justice to the impact this book has had on me. If you take notice of any recommendations that I post on this blog, let it be this one. It won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for VERY good reason!

What stood out most to me was the respectful portrayal of blindness. If you have read many of my previous posts, you will know I am very passionate about the accurate and positive representation of people with disabilities. Marie-Laure has been blind since the age of six, whilst many characters in the novel offer her sympathy, the reader is never made to feel that way towards her. Doerr never gives detailed visual descriptions when writing from her perspective so the reader is also dependent on sound, touch, taste and smell to build our understanding of the world. I particularly appreciated the way Doerr illustrated the changes and adaptations Marie-Laure and her father had to make in order to make the world as accessible as possible for her. From the books in braille, which became increasingly difficult to find as the war went on, to the scale models of Paris and Saint Malo that her father built in order for Marie-Laure to learn her way around the neighbourhood, this also helped to illustrate the way disability can affect a person’s relationships as they become more dependent on those around them. Marie-Laure’s father also reminded me, at times, of Belle’s father in Beauty and the Beast.

Historical fiction was one of my favourite genres for years and I had a special interest in World War Two novels. however, I very quickly moved on from this as I realised that every novel I was reading was set in England. This book, however, offers different perspectives, from Werner, a young German man who is signed up to the Hitler Youth and later the German army and a young French girl and her father who are forced to flee from their home in Paris. Werner’s perspective was especially interesting as it subtly showed the internal conflict he faced in doing his duty as a German boy who was presented with only one option and the increasing discomfort he felt at what he was being made to do.

I must admit, the timeline of events is somewhat confusing. The book is split into eleven parts, each one taking place in a different period of time. Perhaps I was reading too quickly so I didn’t take in the time changes but I found that I was having to flick back to the beginning of each part to reacquaint myself with where the book was in the timeline of the Second World War.

Finally, I have to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of Doerr’s narrative voice. As I was reading, I kept wishing I could bottle his writing style and use it on all of my own work. You could feel the shift in tension as the book switched from Werner’s point of view to Marie-Laure’s. Werner’s chapters felt darker and heavier whilst Marie-Laure’s were tinged with hope. As a reader, I was completely immersed in the world, an experience I have not had with a book in a very long time.

Have you read ‘All the Light We Cannot See’? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

Hermione Granger: My First Feminist Hero

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a huge fan of Harry Potter. Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the publication of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, so to honour this milestone, I wanted to write about one of my favourite fictional characters of all time. Hermione Jean Granger. It seems almost cliched to say now but when I was at school, I was a self-confessed bookworm and something of a know it all. When I first started reading Harry Potter, at the age of seven, Hermione was the first character I felt such a strong connection to. Her attitude and appearance make her stick out like a sore thumb, yet she is completely unapologetic about who she is. It was as if J. K. Rowling was telling me personally that it was ok to be all of the things which set me apart from my classmates.

For me, Hermione Granger is the true hero of the Harry Potter series – especially considering the fact that Harry and Ron would definitely not have made it out of Hogwarts alive – she embodies everything the Harry Potter books represent. She is thrown into an entirely new world and despite all the challenges and torment she is met with, remains unabashedly true to herself. This is made even more poignant when you consider the popular reading of Hermione as a woman of colour. Tumblr first made me aware of this reading and the more I’ve read about it, the more effective this reading becomes. From Hermione’s physical appearance – the only time her skin colour is mentioned, it is described as “very brown” – and the continued prejudice that she faces throughout the books from her fellow students. She is mocked and excluded for her love of learning but also for being a ‘muggle-born’. When you consider the reading that Hermione is a person of colour, the term “mudblood” suddenly seems racialised and carries so much more power as a slur used, famously, by Malfoy.

Whether you see Hermione as a woman of colour whilst reading the books or not (I have to admit, the possibility of that reading hadn’t even occurred to me until it was pointed out by somebody else), it is hard to deny that even without the big bushy hair, wonky teeth, and the intense enthusiasm for school, she is an outsider. Not only because she is a muggle-born but also because of her love and excitement for school. Particularly in the first novel, Harry is very judgemental of the fact that Hermione has read every book on her reading list and is actually prepared for the school year. As a young, enthusiastic learner myself, Harry’s judgement of Hermione was strange to me. If you have just discovered an entire world of magic, wouldn’t you be desperate to learn as much as you possibly could? Why would you not read every book about this new life that you could lay your hands on? Whilst she does everything she can to fit into this new world, it becomes apparent that, in the eyes of many, she is not welcome. She is a “Mudblood”.

Intelligence is not Hermione’s only trait. Throughout the books, her character presents a resounding message that, yes, education, books and intelligence are important but they do not have to be your defining traits and they definitely are not the only worthwhile things in life (“Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery”), a lesson, I certainly needed to be taught when I first started reading the series. Hermione is kind, brave and fiercely loyal to her friends (not to mention how forgiving she is of Harry and Ron). She consistently stands up for what she believes in and is not afraid to speak her mind, whether that be talking back professors with too much power or her own friends. She is never too scared to tell people that what they are saying or doing is wrong. Yet along with all that fire and fierceness, she is gentle, compassionate and above all, she is brave.

Hermione Jean Granger really was my first feminist hero. After all she is the brightest witch of her age.

(And if all that isn’t enough, she punched Draco Malfoy in the face!)

Do you love Hermione as much as I do, or who was your first favourite character? Let me know in the comments!