IN REVIEW: 10 BOOKS THAT YOU NEED ON YOUR BOOKSHELF (PT.4)

books

After a short reading rut, I am happy to report that I am now back to reading most days and I have fallen back in love with escaping into a book. We recently bought a house and that process is ridiculously stressful. I’ve been very thankful to have some books to hide inside as we battled the many hurdles to get into our lovely new home and not least, when I felt overwhelmed by being surrounded by boxes. I’m sure I’ll post something about our new house soon but today I wanted to share the 4th instalment of books that you need on your bookshelf. To keep up with what I am currently reading, check out my StoryGraph account.

One More Croissant for the Road by Felicity Cloake
My Mum is very good at book recommendations and she recommended me this read. If you are a fan of France, cycling or food then you will probably enjoy this book! Felicity sets off on an epic adventure to taste as many culinary delights as she can whilst also ranking all of the croissants she eats along the way. France is often romanticised and I liked that Felicity gave a really honest account of her experiences. It made me laugh and it also made me very hungry.

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

This is a multigenerational novel about a Chicago couple and their four adult daughters. Be warned: this is a loooong book but I found myself totally immersed in the lives of the Sorensons. I thought the portrayal of the relationships between the sisters was particularly good. The story is told in flashbacks, as well as present day, chapters alternating. We witness the story unravelling, how the characters got to the point that they are now for each character as an individual and also for the family unit. I was surprised to see that this is a bit of a Marmite book, some love it and some hate it but I for one, loved it.

Us Three by Ruth Jones

I picked up a copy of this book in the supermarket whilst away for a long weekend weekend and having finished The Most Fun We Ever Had. I took it to the beach with me and gobbled up over 100 pages in a sitting. This story has a lot of heart and I loved joining the friendship of Catrin, Judith and Lana for a while. Spanning decades, we see how these three women negotiate life, love, divorce, betrayal and the changing face of friendship. I preferred the first half to the second but overall it was a warm fuzzy read and perfect for a holiday!

Careless by Kirsty Capes

This was one of those books where I totally believed in the narrative voice. As a debut novel by an author in her 20’s it is particularly impressive. At first, wasn’t sure if I would relate to a YA book about teenage pregnancy, but the wonderful writing style and character development made it a real page turner. It is almost like a more grown up version of a Jaqueline Wilson book and that is said with the greatest admiration for Queen Jaq. As well as enjoying reading this book, I also listened to some chapters via Audible and was pleased that the narrator was exactly as I imagined. I see this book winning lots of awards.

Home Stretch by Graham Norton

Set in Ireland, Home Stretch explores the aftermath of a tragedy on a small-town and how secrets can be carried through the generations. I thought this book was really powerful and I read it quickly. I am so impressed by how well Graham writes and I am only annoyed that I didn’t pick up one of his novels sooner. Although there is tragedy and heartache, the book also carries great hope and I felt satisfied with the conclusion. I love a book that really takes me somewhere else and the setting for Home Stretch did exactly that.

The Course of Love by Alan Bordain

Through a Scottish couple, Rabih and Kirsten, de Botton dissects love and marriage. Part fiction and part guide, I thought this book was really insightful. I felt at the end of this that I hadn’t read a novel but more a case study on what couples need to consider once the honey moon period of their relationship has ended. It was unlike any book I have really read before and after each chapter I needed time to digest. I didn’t necessarily agree with everything that was written but that didn’t take away from the enjoyment of reading it.

100 Years of Lenni and Margot

This book made me very happy. I absolutely love cross generational friendships and this book is a total celebration of exactly that. This novel really is sprinkled with magic as it tells a story of friendship and love that develops between the vibrant, full of life 17 year old Lenni Pettersson and 83 year old Margot Macrae. This book had meaning and it made me want to squeeze as much out of life as I possibly can and grateful for the wonderful friendship with my very own Margot. I can totally seeing this being made into a film and I’ll be first in line to watch it!

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Having loved Homegoing, I was eager to pick up a copy of Yaa Gyasi’s latest novel. Firstly, I didn’t think it was as good but I still think it is well worth on your bookshelf. Not least because the cover is absolutely stunning. Transcendent Kingdom is a moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants dealing with depression and addiction and grief but is a novel about love, hope, religion and science. This is a character driven story which is clearly extremely personal to the author. It packs a punch.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Oh man, this book made me want to run! This is an epic adventure story that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, the author sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong. The characters in this book are brilliant and I love how differently they approached long runs! It made me think a lot about why and how I run and the benefits of those questions has meant my relationship with running continues to be something I do because I want to and not because I think I should do. Even if you aren’t a runner, I think you’d enjoy this book.

Malibu rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I looooove this author. Daisy Jones & the Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo are two of my favourite books and Malibu Rising didn’t disappoint. I’ll be honest with you, I still have 40 pages to read but I am so sure of this being a great book it is being included here. The stories follows 4 siblings who are the children of a famous singer who each year hold a massive party in their mansion. There are two interwoven plot lines, the day of the party, we the reader, are taken through hour by hour leading up to the annual event. The second story line is the history that motivates the characters, how they got to where they were in life before the party starts. The book gives a great portrayal of the lives of the rich and elite but doesn’t shy away from the fact that no matter how ‘sorted’ you are, life is messy. I will happily read anything Taylor Jenkins Reid writes.




I’m tired

books, running

I’m tired and so I know I need to rest but my fitness watch makes it hard for me to do that. I got my fancy Garmin watch to help with my running training a couple of years ago. At first, I only wore it when I went out to run. Then I wore it when I went out to run or for a bike ride. Then I wore it when I went out to run or for a bike ride or for a walk. Then I wore it all the time. There are a few reasons that my smart watch became permanently glued to my wrist.

1) Strava

Runners love Strava. Since joining a running club, Strava became the best the place to hang out. You can give your pals kudos for their running efforts, design routes and get involved with challenges. OR you can become obsessed with what everyone else is doing & desperate to gain digital badges at the detriment of your mental and physical health. I think Strava can be a wonderful and supportive tool for lots of people but it can also be a slippery slope for those who have struggled with a disorded relationship to exercise in the past (or indeed, lead to it). Being a completionist, I loved signing myself up for the monthly fitness challenges but would often force myself to get in the extra mileage even when my body really wasn’t feeling it.

2) Steps

I saw someone jumping on the spot the other day to before heading back into the office after their lunch break and no-one found it odd when they called out ‘Just a few more until I hit my steps’. Everyone knew what she was talking about, a large majority had probably done similar. But guess what the 10,000 steps a day mantra ties back to? Capitalism. Yep, it was actually a marketing ploy from the 1964 Toykyo Olympics – A company began selling a pedometer called the Manpo-kei: “man” meaning 10,000, “po” meaning steps and “kei” meaning meter. It was hugely successful and the number seems to have stuck. You can read more about it here. Needing to walk 10,000 steps a day isn’t true. If I’m tired af and my feet hurt, I don’t need to walk 10,000 steps. I need to lie down.

3) Knowing the time

I like to know the time. I am borderline obsessive about being early for every social occasion (being on time is being late etc) and having a wrist watch made me think I’d use my smart phone less – often when I look at my phone for the time, I end up doing 17 different things and then forgetting what I went on it for the first place but in reality a standard wrist watch would be just FINE rather than one that flashes an angry red and tells me to Move! when I’ve sat down for 5 minutes. Even if I’ve just run a marathon.

Yesterday I tried not wearing my smart watch for a day. I’d had the idea of taking it off for the whole of June but I wanted to give myself a trial day so that I could change my mind if I missed it. It turns out that not wearing a smart watch feels good. We went for a walk and for a swim and I had no idea of the stats which meant I was able to tune into my body. When swimming, I stopped after every couple of laps to float in the water or to chat to someone else also cruising in the slow lane rather than stressing out that my watch wasn’t logging the right meters. At times last year when wild swimming I became agitated that my watch couldn’t connect and therefore the world of Strava wouldn’t know what I was doing yet I was kidding myself that I had the whole intuitive exercise thing down.

Recently, I read Born to run and it really got me thinking about how and why I run. I have come to acknowledge that there is no way for me to be an intuitive exerciser whilst I have a smart watch. If I’m honest, this is something that I have known to be true for a while but have been reluctant to face up to. My relationship with food has become tricky recently too and I think taking the pressure and numbers away from movement whilst taking the pressure and numbers away from food will only be a good thing. Maybe one day I will be able to have a healthy relationship with my smart watch for but now, it has been placed into the drawer of things that don’t have a home and we’ll see how I feel about it in a little while. I have no idea how my relationship with movement will evolve over the next few weeks, maybe I’ll want to run a lot, maybe I won’t want to run at all but I’m going to let my body be my guide, every step of the way.

In a reading rut

books

I have something to confess. Despite storming through a frankly ridiculous amount of books at the start of the year I have hit a brick wall. I’ve been in a phase where books I have picked up just haven’t captured my attention. Some, I have tried to persevere with, only to abandon them half way through. I used to hate doing this because I thought I had ‘wasted my time’ but really, reading should be something we do for joy and not something we feel pressured to do. Sometimes I can completely lose myself in a book and finish it in a day, other times, I’ll pick up my book and only read a couple of pages and then leave it for a week until I almost sit on it and am reminded of it’s existence and then pick it up again. To try and help things along, I went to the local charity shop to pick up some easy read fictions. Despite having a to-read pile that could potentially now be large enough to start my own private library, I wanted to have that excitement of browsing and just choosing something because I fancy reading it and not because it has been recommended or is currently Waterstones’ #1 book of the week.

The two books I did pick up from the charity shop – Nina is not OK and Oh dear Silvia have done well to get me back into my reading groove. Safe to say that Nina is not OK was not a fluffy fiction and was in fact harrowing and hard to read at times but still, I was gripped. I am about half way through the latter and to be honest, at the start I thought I had found another dud. However, I decided to give it a few more chapters of chance and I’m glad I did because now I am enjoying it. I’ve also decided to re-shuffle my to-read pile and give myself a variety of books to choose from. Here is what I am planning to read next:



‘Through one couple’s story, De Botton explores infatuation, commitment, tenderness and infidelity in an unapologetically realistic way that expands the very idea of the nature of love itself’.



‘Both a fascinating narrative about a tribe of phenomenal runners and a penetrating enquiry into the nature of running. This is an unforgettable read’.



‘A raw, effervescent debut novel about the power of language and speaking your own truth. Written entirely in verse, the book follows the trials and tribulations of Xiomara, a teenager growing up in a tough Harlem neighbourhood, and her creative release in the world of slam poetry’.



‘A luminous new novel which explores the uncharted implications of AI to human relationships and the abiding question of what it means to love.’.

With most things in life, as soon as pressure is applied to it.. it just isn’t fun anymore and I definitely need to remember this when it comes to reading and trying to read X amount of books a year because genuinely.. who cares? I would love to know your approach to hitting a brick wall with something you love. I think for me it’s about giving it space. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Me and White Supremacy

books, stuff

Laylaa F Saad began an Instagram challenge called #MeAndWhiteSupremacy where she encouraged people to own up and share their racist behaviours, big and small. Thousands of people participated and from this project the Me and White Supremacy book was born; with added historical and cultural contexts, stories, anecdotes, definitions, examples and further resources. The book leads readers through a journey of understanding white privilege and their participation in white supremacy so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage of black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) and in turn, help other white people do better too. It is clear from the onset that this work will be uncomfortable, painful and necessary. Even if you already have an understanding of white fragility, cultural appropriation, and tokenism, methodically working through and examining your own complicity in them is another thing entirely. This is essential work for all white people.

White privilege – inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice
White supremacy – the belief that white people constitute a superior race and should therefore dominate society, typically to the exclusion or detriment of other racial and ethnic groups, in particular black or Jewish people
White fragility – discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice
Cultural appropriation – the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society
Tokenism – the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from under-represented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce

In light of the BLM protests, a friend of mine set up a book club for us to explore this book. As a group, we decided to meet weekly and share our journaling responses to the chapters. Saad sets out the most effective way this can be done as a group to ensure that it is a safe space for sharing. Before starting work, I genuinely thought that racism was negative words and actions said and done towards black and people of colour. I believed that I hadn’t ever been racist because I had never acted in this way. I didn’t think I really had any work to do around racism because I was a good person who believed everyone should be treated equally. Working through this book taught me just how wrong I was. I had limiting beliefs, I had unknowingly benefited from my white privilege, I had tone policed people of colour and I had been a performative ally. Responding to the questions posed by Saad made me go deep into my childhood – growing up in a Cornish town where there was one person of colour in my whole secondary school, challenge my behaviour when dating black men in the past and acknowledge where I have disregarded the experience of black, indigenous and people of colour.

Something that becomes very apparent through the book is the need to call out/in friends, family, colleagues, random strangers when you witness behaviour that needs to be challenged. This is something that I never thought I’d be able to do. I’ve heard problematic comments and I have been silent. Doing this work in a group setting gave us the chance to talk through real life experiences and workshop the best ways to respond whilst also exploring how they may respond to your actions (white centering/fragility). Putting this into practise is hard but isn’t comparable to the hard shit that BIPOC have to go through as a result of my and other white people’s actions. I finally feel like if I lose people as a result of calling them in/out then c’est la vie.

I’ll be honest – the work was hard and at times I wanted to give up. I felt apathetic & then there was a chapter about white apathy. Saad totally hits the nail on the head when she says that it is absolute white privilege that we get to opt out of this work when we want to and disengaging cannot be an option. I felt proud when we completed the 28 days but knew that this wasn’t where the work finished, it is where it begins. We were asked to list our actions that we would be taking forward over the next 2 weeks and beyond and committed to holding each other accountable. There is so much that we can do with our money and time to support BIPOC and we have to do that over and over again. It is baffling how many people/companies shared social media posts in solidarity during the BLM protests and have since been silent. It is not up to BIPOC people to tell you what you can do or how you can help. This shit is on you.

Recommendations:


– Read Me and White Supremacy
– Read Why I’m no longer talking to White people about race
– Financially support charities/projects ran by BIPOC for BIPOC
– Ask charities/projects how you can best support them
– Get involved in local protests
– Listen to the About Race podcast
– Listen to the Woke Up podcast
– Diversify the media you consume and those you follow on social media
– Challenge spaces that aren’t diverse or are tokenistic
– Have conversations about racism with your friends/family
– Take ownership of where you have done wrong in the past and apologize
Think about where you hold influence and how you can use this to be a force for good

Top of the (reading) pops

books

Since giving up all social media for Lent (#hero), I have been storming through my to-read pile and have read 21 books so far this year! One of those reads, Me and White Supremacy, will be getting it’s own blog post soon as I really want to fully delve into my experience of completing this work. I thought it would be fun to rank the other 20 books I have read in 2021, some of these feature in this post but for those that don’t, I’ve included a brief description for you to decide whether it is something you would like to read too. I would love to hear about what you have been reading or if you rate any of these books in the comments.

20. Life’s what you make it, by Philip Schofield
Firstly – Philip, I’m sorry. Secondly – It would be extremely rare for me to rate an autobiography higher than a fiction book, which I genuinely much prefer reading because it is easier to lose yourself in the story. That being said, this was a well written book and I loved learning more about one of the nation’s heroes. Despite ranking at #20, I would still recommend it to fans of Schofe.

19. People like her, by Ellery Lloyd
A pretty trashy thriller but I enjoyed it nonetheless and read it in 2 days. The depiction of Instamums is so accurate but I wasn’t surprised by the conclusion and there weren’t enough twists, which is something I look for in a good book of this genre. Content warnings: Child death, death and suicide.

18. Glorious rock bottom, by Briony Gordon
I have loved Briony’s other books but this one didn’t blow me away. Her willingness to be brutally honest about her experiences is commendable and it did help me to more understand the mindset of an alcoholic. Content warnings: Alcoholism, sexual assault.

17. The Black flamingo, by Dean Atta
This is a beautiful prose book for YA’s about a boy’s journey to drag. It is a quick read and skilfully written – weaving a coherent and gripping story into poetry is no easy feat. Now I feel bad for not ranking it higher.

16. On the come up, by Angie Thomas
Another YA book but this time about a young, black rapper. I thought the lead character was too similar to Star in ‘The Hate You Give’ (Thomas’ other novel) but still, I enjoyed the book. Thomas has created a really realistic world that her characters live in.

15. Concrete rose, by Angie Thomas
Talking of Star in ‘The Hate You Give’ this is the prequel, about Star’s Dad. I thought lots of questions were still left unanswered in this but maybe that was intentional. If you have read Thomas’ other books then you should definitely read this one too. I can definitely see this and #14 being turned into films.

14. The Guest list, by Lucy Thomas

13. Silver sparrow, by Tayari Jones

12. A man called Ove, by Fredrick Backman
This is a really sweet book. It’s a biographical novel about a man who has tried to take his life on numerous occasions but is continually interrupted. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter there are some beautiful, light hearted moments. Ove is possibly the grumpiest man you will ever meet but by the end of the book, you’ll really love him. Content warning: Suicide.

11. The Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyles
This is a lush story of 5 women in the mountains of Kentucky who set up a travelling library. What happens to them and to the men they love becomes a story of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion.

10. The Colour purple, by Alice Walker
This book is considered one of the all time greats and I can’t believe it has taken me this long to read it! It’s set in South America and tells the story of a young girl born into poverty and segregation. It’s a hard hitting and important book.

9. Clap when you land, by Elizabeth Acevedo

8. The Thursday murder club, by Richard Osman
I am often wary of books with a lot of hype but I honestly felt this one made up for it! I adored the character of Joyce, so much so that I am willing to overlook the slightly confusing conclusion. This book rightfully deserves a place in the top 10 and I am looking forward to the TV show that is being made of the book.

7. The Mothers, by Brit Bennett

6. The Betrayals, by Bridget Collins
After loving The Binding, also by Bridget Collins, I wasn’t sure if this book would live up to it.. it almost did. I loved the fantasy elements of the book but did admittedly find the main character slightly irritating. I didn’t guess the main twist and found that this was a wonderful book for escapism. A definite hit for fans of fantasy novels.

5. All the light we cannot see, by Anthony Doerr
This is a stunning book in every sense. If you like historical novels then I would highly recommend this one. An instant New York times best seller, Doerr tells a story about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as they both try to survive the devastation of World War II. This is the sort of book that baffles you as to how one mind could have created it.

4. Love after love, by Ingrid Persaud

3. The joy of being selfish, by Michelle Elman

2. The Invisible life of Addie Larue, by V.E. Schwab
This is my unexpected favourite read of the year. I knew nothing about it before a friend leant me it and I didn’t want it to end. Addie is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets until she finds someone who remembers her. This is a a stunning adventure that plays out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

1. A thousand splendid suns, by Khaled Hosseini

Boundaries

books, stuff

Last week I listened to The Joy of Being Selfish by Michelle Elman and honestly, it rocked my world. I have always been a textbook people pleaser and would always put other’s needs before my own. I have been called a door mat, someone with no backbone and a push over. I took pride in being the person that others always go to in their hour of need and the more I gave out, the better of a person I felt. Until I didn’t.

I have always let people have a lot of access to me. From my fleeting years of (low-level) Instagram fame where I shared the most intimate details of my experiences with mental health and an eating disorder, to never turning my phone off and always allowing people to get in touch with me whenever they wanted and I would always reply, straight away. From listening to Elman’s book, I realise now that I was showing myself a complete lack of self respect and the only way for me to really practise self love and put energy back into myself is through boundaries. This felt like a scary concept but boundaries will strengthen the relationships that matter because the more respect I show myself and the more respect I demand, the more I will be given.

I initially started the book because I was struggling with someone I know. Conversations we had would replay in my mind when I tried to go to bed and would ruin my weekends because I’d be worrying about seeing them again the following week. They spoke to me rudely, sent me relentless Whatsapps and always called me at bad times. Sure, their conduct was inappropriate but I was allowing them to continue this behaviour by always responding, further confirming that any threats I made such as ‘please stop sending me Whatsapps’ had no roots. The more access I allowed them, the more ‘taken advantage’ of I felt and something needed to shift. This book gave me the tools to have a conversation with them where I laid out my boundaries and then I stuck to them.

Setting boundaries works, you can take ownership of your time and take no bullshit. Another thing that has helped navigating tricky relationships is that I don’t get to control how people react to me – my only power is how I choose to respond. Their response to my words/actions is not my responsibility and thinking about it on a Saturday night when I’m trying to watch Ant and Dec’s Saturday night takeaway, isn’t going to achieve anything positive or change what they are thinking. I do however, have the power to choose how I respond to myself and treating myself with kindness and allowing myself the time to switch off fully is something productive that I can do.

Boundaries with acquaintances is one thing but I also needed to instate boundaries with my friends and family. I have decided that I will do this by:

– Not being accessible to everyone all the time by turning off my phone and not responding to messages right away. Responding to messages quickly means that I rarely process what I am saying and also means I regularly agree to things that I don’t want to do. Responding to messages when with others is also just plain rude (unless it’s an emergency obvs). I also will respect other’s boundaries by not expecting people to reply to me immediately.

– Saying no if I don’t want to do something and not give a reason why. I used to really struggle with saying no to plans but I realise now that a gap in my diary doesn’t mean I always need to say yes. In the past, if I turned down a social invite I would worry that I would have upset someone or that they would be angry at me for not attending. Now, I realise that if I don’t want to do something then I am not going to have fun doing that thing and other’s aren’t going to have fun doing it me. I have the power to choose how I want to spend my time and this means that when I do spend time with others it’s because I really want to. I also will respect other’s boundaries by accepting if they say no to me.

– Being clear when I do not have the capacity to take on someone else’s emotional load. I want to be honest and upfront with friends who need support as to if I am able to give them my time. If I’m not, it is much better for everyone if they reach out to someone else and if I am able to give them my time then it means I am present in that and able to support them fully. I also will respect other’s boundaries by asking before I want to dump my emotions on them.

I’ve realised that I do not need to be liked because I get to define if I am a good person. It is a sure thing that setting boundaries is going to rattle some people because suddenly, they don’t have the unrelenting access to me that they previously had. I have decided that a negative response to my boundary setting will show that they were previously taking advantage of my lack of boundaries and not because I have done anything wrong. Something that really impressed me about Elman’s book is the practical examples of where you need boundaries and how you can set them, as well as how to respond to those who do not respect them. Finishing ‘The Joy of Being Selfish’ left me feeling empowered to take back control of my life. There is so much more I could tell you about boundaries but ultimately they are an extremely personal choice. I would highly recommend reading the book and thinking about where you can set them in your own life because you deserve to reclaim your time, energy and self-belief.


In review: 10 books that you need on your bookshelf (pt.3)

books

Before I share the books I have been enjoying lately, I wanted to first tell you about 2 amazing resources that I have fallen in love with this week.

I recently found out that Goodreads is owned by Amazon and I was really gutted. I hate Amazon but I love Goodreads so I was v.conflicted about what to do. Then yesterday, a friend told me about StoryGraph which is like Goodreads but a whole lot better. It’s a black owned business, it’s extremely aesthetically pleasing and it can import all of your data from Goodreads onto your shiny new StoryGraph profile. I also like that you can attach trigger warnings to books, that it gives you spot on recommendations based on the books you like to read and you can access loads of data that dissects the kind of things you read the most. It is like Goodreads in the 21st century and a whole lot cooler. If you fancy following me, my account name is runwildalice (quelle surpise, yup still learning French too). The website only launched this months so I expect that lots more functionality will be coming soon.

Another bookish recommendation I want to share is Bookswap. Now that the libraries are closed, this is really scratching the itch of wanting new books without spending lots of dollar. The premise is simple: for every book you offer you can claim a book. When you claim a book, you just pay for postage and packaging. When you offer a book, once it is claimed, you get emailed a pre-paid postage label and drop it off at your nearest Parcel stop (usually in corner shops) to be sent. I thought it would be full of loads of old books but there is all the new stuff on there too! You can set up a wishlist so every time that a book that you want becomes offered, you can claim it. You have to have send a book to get one back and I really like that. I have already sent off 2 books and claimed 2 back which I have been waiting ages to read. I bloody love it. Full disclosure: If you use this link, you get a free book without offering one and I get one too.

Here are the books I have been reading and loving lately:

The Mothers & The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett
I read The Mothers after reading The Vanishing Half but The Mothers came first and is all the more astonishing for a debut novel. In lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever. The Vanishing Half is about 2 twins who decided to live very different lives – one as white and one as black. The effects of this choice is huge and the novel explores how this will effect future generations of the two families. Both of these novels were exemplary and deserving of all of their many accolades.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

This was the first time I have read a novel in prose and it was really effective in the delivery of the story. Clap when you land is a dual narrative book from the viewpoint of 2 sisters. The girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. When it seems like they’ve lost everything they learn of each other. The book brims with grief, love, loss and the difficulty of forgiveness.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

It has been a long while since I have been really impressed with a crime thriller and Lucy Foley definitely delivers with The Guest List. Set at a wedding on a remote Irish island, all of the characters seem to have motive and the conclusion had me completely shook! This is exactly what I want from a book of this genre, if I’ve worked out whodunnit by chapter 3 I’m not happy. Hats off to the author, this is really clever writing.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Oh my goodness, have I been hiding under a rock? How has it taken me so long to read this book? I’m annoyed with myself. It’s the kind of novel that makes you wonder how one author can dream up the characters and story line. It’s almost too good and has fast become one of the best books I’ve read. Ever. A Thousand Splendid Suns is a chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving account of family and friendship. You have to read this!

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Set in 1980’s Atlanta, this novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s two families—the public one and the secret one. It is sort of similar to Clap when you land but at the same time, totally different. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. I didn’t love this book quite as much as An American Marriage (also by Tayari Jones) but I think that is because it lacked conclusion. I guess bigamy is quite a hard thing to resolve..

Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud

This story is written in vibrant Trinidadian prose and questions who and how we love, the obligations of family, and the consequences of choices made in desperation. I didn’t know much of this book before I read it and I absolutely loved it. I was totally invested in the 3 central characters and audibly gasped at certain moments. A totally immersive book and worthy of your bookshelf.

The Girl With The Louding voice by Abi Daré

Another ridiculously impressive debut novel. This book is told in the unforgettable voice of Adunni who is trapped in her life of servitude but determined to fight for her dreams and choose her own future. It’s both a heart breaking and hopeful story. I was rooting for Adunni every step of the way and her character will stay with me for a long time. This book deserves awards!

The Confession by Jessie Burton

I wasn’t too sure on The Miniaturist but I am glad I gave Jessie Burton another chance as this book was much more up my street! This is a powerful and deeply moving novel about secrets and storytelling, motherhood and friendship, and how we lose and find ourselves. I loved how the 2 storylines and timeframes interlinked to reach a satisfying conclusion. I like a story where the reader knows more than the character and you watch them edging ever closer to the truth.

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

This was another hotly anticipated novel and I through Alderton created something really clever with her first work of fiction. The novel is funny, tender and painfully relatable and I thought the portrayal of Dementia was done sensitively and to great effect. I did find that I kept imagining Dolly as the central character, perhaps that is due to reading (and equally loving). Everything I Know About Love, also written by Alderton. This is quite a fluffy read but with important themes. It’s a goodun.

If you have enjoyed this post, check out my other recommended reads here and here.



In review: 10 books that you need on your bookshelf (pt.2)

books

Reading continues to bring me comfort, an escape from my busy every day life and a chance to completely engulf myself in someone’s world. Reading a good book is pure magic. In September, I shared 10 books that you need on your bookshelf and now I am back with the next installment. I am storming through books at the moment and have been lucky to happen upon some right crackers. With libraries closing there doors I have been relying on my bookish pals to provide me with excellent reading material and they have seriously delivered. This may well become a regular feature on my blog. To keep up with what I am currently reading, check out my StoryGraph account.

My brilliant friend & the Neopolitan novels by Elena Ferrante
Oh boy I loved these books and felt genuinely heartbroken when I finished the 4th installment. Ferrante is an incredible writer and no one knows who she is. The characters she creates seem so real and I was completely enthralled by the story. The novels follow two central characters – Elena & Lila from childhood to adulthood. I had to keep referring back to the useful character list at the start of the novel to keep track of who everyone was but by the conclusion, they all felt like old friends. It is almost like an incredibly well written Italian soap opera with so many twists and turns that it pretty much took my breath away. Perfection.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Homegoing is a historical fiction novel which with each chapter follows a different descendant of an Asante woman. The book starts with her two daughters, who are half-sisters, separated by circumstance. Subsequent chapters follow their children and the following generations. The novel beautifully explores the slave trade and imagines life in Ghana at that time, and as we move forward through time we see what slavery becomes in the US, and how it changes Ghana. I couldn’t put this book down.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
We found this book for 50p in a charity shop just before lockdown, impressed that it had won the Booker prize in 2008. The White Tiger felt different to any book I have read before. I was transported from my sofa to the underbelly of India as I journeyed with the protagonist, Balram. Over the course of seven nights, by the light of a chandelier, Balram tells us the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life. I’m really pleased this book is set to become a film as the imagery felt so clear in my mind – I hope it lives up the novel!

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal
I found this book in a phone box which has been repurposed by the community as a free book shop. I had heard about the novel a while ago but had never got around to reading it. I love books that take me somewhere new and this book captured 1850’s London brilliantly. This is a richly dark and gothic book about art, love and obsession. It is an unsettling immersive read, with its elements of horror, ideal for those who love historical fiction set in Victorian times. Previously, I hadn’t read many novels of this genre but I really enjoyed The Doll Factory. Shoutout to the phone box.

Fried green tomatoes at the whistle stop cafe by Fannie Flagg
Yes that really is the author’s name. This book is full of Southern American charm and made me feel very hungry at the descriptive passages about the food that was being eaten (luckily there is a recipe section at the back for the novel’s signature dishes). It’s a love story, a friendship story and so much more. There’s survival against the odds, murder, and plenty of humour. I did find some of the racist dialogue hard to read but I understand that this is very true of the time that the novel is set. I wish I could visit the Whistle stop cafe.

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
At the Port Eliot festival a few years ago I heard an interview with Amy Liptrot about her new novel, The Outrun. I fell head over heels for Amy and knew that I needed to read her book immediately. I was v.sad I hadn’t read it before so I couldn’t ask any insightful questions. I digress. The Outrun is a memoir that at times feels like poetry. Amy leads a hectic life in London and recovery from addiction leads her back to her home on Orkney. Through these new surroundings she comes to terms with what has happened to her and finds new hope in the land around her. This book started my love of wild swimming and I could read it again and again.

The Stationery shop of Tehran by Marjan Kamali
I’ll admit it. I haven’t actually finished this book yet but I love it so much that I know that I want to recommend it. This book is a reflection back on a love story that took place in 1953, Tehran. With a country who fought for democracy; for a couple who fought for it within their family. A couple who are destined to be together until torn apart for reasons unbeknownst to Roya, the lead character. Fifty years later, she gets her answer. I am still waiting to find out what that answer actually is but I am completely confident in the author that I won’t be disappointed by the novel’s conclusion. I will edit this if I turn out to be completely disappointed by the novel’s conclusion.

& Now for some of my favourite fluffy books that aren’t too hard on the brain and feel like a hug.

The Flat Share & The Switch by Beth O’Leary
The Flat Share is about two people who share a flat, with one working in the day and sleeping at night and the other sleeping in the day and working at night. It’s a frivolous romanic comedy that I can definitely see being turned into a film. For lots of non-reading friends, this book has got them back into reading. The Switch is about a grandmother and granddaughter who switch lives. The story is slightly predictable but I didn’t mind that because I wasn’t in the mood for surprises to be honest. These books would make excellent holiday books. In a word they are: lovely.

The Summer seaside kitchen by Jenny Colgan

Oh how we laughed when I picked up this book from a charity shop. The cover looked like a classic book for middle aged women to read on a sun lounger and I wasn’t expecting much at all. Then I couldn’t put it down and had to eat my words. The Summer seaside kitchen is the beginning of a series of books set on the fictional island of Mure. The books feel cosy and safe and include delicious food and likeable characters. I have Colgan’s latest Christmas installment which I am very excited to read next month.

In review: 10 books that you need on your bookshelf (pt.1)

books

Going to the library has always been a treat. When I was young, it was the first outting I was allowed to do on my own because it didn’t require any road crossing so going to the library made me feel like a strong independent woman at the age of 10. When I was a teen, it was where I could go to play Habbo hotel to my hearts desire which was obviously extremely important to my social development and taught me the importance of good furni and that people on the internet shouldn’t be trusted. The other benefit of the library was of course, the books. I loved reading so much that I genuinely believed that me and Matilda were separated at birth. Although she definitely made better pancakes.

When I lived at home with my family we regularly all sat together and read our books and it’s something that I still look forward to when I go and visit my parents. Reading takes me to another place, it calms my busy brain and it gets me off my phone. Whilst at University that changed, I stopped reading for fun because I was too busy drinking jagerbombs and trying (and failing) to get through the complete works of Shakespeare for my degree. After graduating, my brain felt so full that I couldn’t imagine picking up a book again, so I went on strike.. for 7 years.

Last July a friend said they had a book they thought I’d enjoy and at first I was apprehensive because I was not a reader anymore but then I gave caution to the wind and inhaled it in 24 hours. Once again, I was back in my reading groove. A library card, Goodreads account and 115 books later, I am here to share some of the ones I’ve enjoyed recently, just incase you are in a reading rut too. I hope these books will help to reignite a joy of reading and please share any recommendations you have for me too via Instagram or in the comments. I have also stopped using Goodreads and now use StoryGraph.

Girl, woman, other by Bernadine Evaristo
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. This is a really clever novel which seamlessly links each narrator to the next and is an important book of our time. It is extremely worthy of its many accolades including the Booker prize.

Where the Crawdads sing by Delia Ownes

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Through two timelines that slowly intertwine, the author reminds us that we are shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps. This is the best book I have read this year so far.

The Beekeeper of Allepo by Christy Lefteri

The Beekeeper follows the flight of refugees from Syria to Europe and although a work of fiction, it is based on the author’s experience volunteering at a refugee center. Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, until the unthinkable happens and all that they care for is destroyed by war. The story is moving, powerful and a testament to the power of human spirit.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet is about the life of William Shakespeare’s family whilst never actually mentioning that it is William Shakespeare’s family as the other characters are very much at the forefront. This book even made me want to read Hamlet again which I thought was physically impossible after it was my chosen text for A-Level English. O’Farrell is an incredible story teller and I highly recommend anything she writes.

The Salt path by Raynor Winn

Ray and Moth decided to walk the South West coastal path after being made homeless. This is an incredible story of resilience in the face of adversity. Since reading The Salt Path I have walked a large section of the coastal path and loved exploring the places mentioned in this book. I have also listened to this as an audio book which I found really special.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe is a character whose story is steeped in magic and mystery and Miller finally gives her the spotlight she deserves. In this book, the male centered fantasies of myth are turned into something feminine and real. Never before a fan of Greek mythology, this read completely won me over and has been shared numerous times amongst friends.

The Seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This novel tells the story of the fictional Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo, who at the age of 79 decides to give a final interview to an unknown journalist. The relationship between the two female leads is a testament to Reid’s skill as a writer as they consider what it means to face the truth. The story is heartbreaking and beautiful and I couldn’t put it down.

Daisy Jones & the six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I didn’t want to include two books by the same author but I just couldn’t decide between this one and the previous as they are both fantastic. Daisy Jones & the six follows a band whose music defined an era before they unexpectedly split in 1979 and no-one knows why, until now. Written as a series of interviews this is a compelling read and Reid easily transports you to the 70’s music scene. This book is being turned into a TV series which is currently in production.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to “house arrest” in the Metropol hotel during the Russian revolution. The book spans 30 years as the Count makes the most of his life despite its limitation. I didn’t think this would be my sort of book but I really loved it and genuinely felt sad saying goodbye to the Count when I reached the last page. I now want to go to the Metropol hotel who are making the most of this book’s success by offering book tours and themed afternoon teas. Sign me up!

Stay with me by Ayobami Adebayo

Stay with me weaves a devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, grief, and the bonds of motherhood. It is a story about our desperate attempts to save ourselves and those we love from heartbreak. Set in the politic turbulence of 80’s Nigeria this book gripped me from the get go and didn’t disappoint. It’s a powerful story which packs punch.