Books to Help You Through Brexit

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Now I know we are all sick to death of Brexit so I wondered what could help us all to weather the inevitable shitshow *ahem* adjustment period that is nearly upon us… and as always, the answer is BOOKS! No, not any of the plethora of highly biased texts that either drone on about MAKING BRITAIN GREAT AGAIN or EVERYONE IS GOING TO HELL IN A HANDCART but some lovely novels that will distract, amuse or come in handy.

So, whatever happens: keep calm, brew some tea and check out my book recommendations!

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Read something to take your mind off it…

If you feel like you see more of Laura Kuenssberg in her lovely pink coat than you do of your immediate family then it’s probably time to turn off the TV and lose yourself in a great book. I recently read The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton and it was sooooo addictive I couldn’t put it down. It’s so intricately layered that it should distract you from whatever excruciatingly dull bit of legislative change has been painfully negotiated with the EU. There’s also any number of thrillers out there that would also serve to provide a bit of distraction from the political chaos – my favourites include The Woman in the Window by A.J.Finn and Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough.

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Read something funny

If the merest suggestion of the Question Time music raises your blood pressure several millimetres of mercury (no, I didn’t know that was the unit of measurement either) then why not turn that frown upside down with some comedic books instead. I will never stop recommending The Tent, The Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy which is properly laugh-out-loud hilarious or Bad Science by Ben Goldacre which is similarly spit-out-your-tea amusing. Or, if you’re a pervert, there’s always good old Belinda Blinked by Rocky Flinstone – the podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno (where Rocky’s son reads out his Dad’s erotic literature to his friends) is incredible and the books are so-bad-they’re-good comedy gold.

Read something boring

If you’re lying down at night with the sound of John Bercow shouting “ORDERRRRR” ringing in your ears and all the sheep you’re trying to count are bleating “will of the peeeeeple” then try reading something boring to get you off to the land of nod. There’s tons of books out there that seem to have been published sans storyline – I personally found Atonement by Ian McEwen extremely dull; ditto The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie.

Who Moved My Cheese?

Read something inspiring

Whatever happens with Brexit, change is a-coming and with any change, inevitably, comes opportunity. There are lots of books that can help you to deal with tumultuous situations but a classic (and one I’ve read several times) is Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson.

(answer:

a) no-one, because all of the ferry ports are jammed or don’t actually have any ferries/ a usable dock/ terms and conditions that haven’t been stolen from a local takeaway

b) Bloody *choose one* David Cameron/ Theresa May/ Jean-Claude Juncker/ Boris Johnson/ Jeremy Corbyn/ Anna Soubry/ Nigel Farrage/ whoever wrote £350 million on the side of a bus etc.

c) Young people who don’t know what they’re talking about/ old people who don’t know what they’re talking about

d) It hasn’t moved it’s been BANNED by VEGANS

e) IMMIGRANTS

Take your pick depending on how left-wing/right-wing/prejudiced/racist you might be.)

How To Stop Brexit - And Make Britain Great Again

Read (or not) something practical

I hesitate to recommend books that I haven’t yet read, but The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon is literally everywhere right now, looks like an amazing read and judging by the sheer size of the thing could also come in handy as a weapon, should things take a turn for the worse in your local Wetherspoons.

Also, I see Nick Clegg has published a long-awaited book called (I’m not kidding) “How to Stop Brexit and Make Britain Great Again” which looks like it could have a variety of uses – TV prop, cat litter tray liner, kindling… obviously I’m joking, I haven’t read it but I thought it was a bit rich coming from a man who couldn’t even deliver his key election pledge!

 

So, what will you be reading over the next few weeks? Let me know in the comments!

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Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

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Genre: Fantasy

Similar to: Well, it’s a retelling, so…

Could be enjoyed by: Greek myth nerds (there seems to be a lot of you out there)

Publication date: 10th April 2018

 

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge #15 Read a book of mythology or folklore

These are my uneducated thoughts on Greek Myths:

The Minotaur (big scary sheep thing that lives in a maze)… Poseidon (was he in the Little Mermaid? God of the sea, held a big fork)… Morpheus (know him from Neil Gaiman’s  Sandman)… the muses (Salma Hayek in Dogma). Ummmm…

So, I’m probably not the ideal target audience for a Greek myth retelling.

HOWEVER

If you’re like me, don’t be put off from reading Circe. Sure, it would have added to my reading experience if I’d been familiar with some of the characters who popped up in the book (I occasionally had trouble keeping track of who was who – Telemachus and Telegonus, come on…) but it’s a great book nevertheless.

Circe is a kind of neglected middle child (despite being first-born), standing in the shadows of her cleverer, more beautiful siblings. After a few hundred years of largely avoiding her family, being ignored and low-key bullied in her father Helios’ halls, she engages in a spot of rule breaking, gets herself banished to a remote island and starts working on finding her own power. After several mortal lifetimes worth of quietly observing the Gods, Circe realises that it is their vanity, their deceptions and their dismissal of her as nothing more than an irritating child that she can use to her advantage. She explores the land that will hold her captive and uses her infinite exile to enhance her burgeoning skills in witchcraft, finding her power in the lowly domestic setting to which she has been relegated. Along the way, Circe encounters a range of other Gods and powerful mortals, plays them at their own games and forges a life for herself, despite their incessant power plays.

I loved seeing Circe coming into her own. At first, she’s a clueless child, quietly trying to fit in with the other Gods and desperate to find her place within the family. Very slowly, she begins to wake up to her family’s scheming ways and starts to question their behaviour. But it’s her discovery of witchcraft that really sees Circe finally obtain some power. As a gardening nerd I was familiar with many of the plants that she used in her potions and was pleased to see the level of research that Madeline Miller had put into discovering their natural properties.

I was really pleased to see a female protagonist who wasn’t perfect – despite being a Goddess Circe was seen by the Gods as ugly, with a high thin voice and very little power. I loved seeing her find her strength in areas other than her looks and forging ahead with her own plans. However, I did find that the middle of the book rambled a bit. I felt like there was a very loose narrative arc and honestly, in some places I got a bit bored. But then the storyline picked back up and I was a happy little reader again.

Overall, I really enjoyed Circe. I loved the beautifully written prose, the flawed main character and the cleverly interwoven myths. I just wish she had found something more interesting to do than have a casual love affair for 100 pages!

Four “THAT’S why it’s called Hermes!” out of five.

Epic, meticulously researched fantasy. Highly recommended!

 

Sorting Out the Shelves #4

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Hello Bookworms!

Welcome to another edition of sorting out the shelves! Today, I’m looking at my “popular” books from the 90’s/00’s

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(I imagine this is how I would look if I won some kind of popularity contest)

So, lets begin by looking at some of the most popular books of all time and then move on to some pop psychology/sociology…

It’s time for Own or Re-Home!

Own

Harry Potter. Need I say more?

You might recognise these covers…

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I have a complete set of the paperback versions of the HP books, some of which are first editions (but worth precisely zilch because the print run will have been so huge). This took supreme effort from me – when the final book was released I waited a whole year to read the paperback so that I didn’t mess up my bookshelves with a random hardback. They take pride of place in the middle of my bookshelves along with some other HP paraphernalia (like my picture of me on a broomstick flying over Hogwarts). I love these books so much that I’ll never part with them.

Re-home

A selection of pop psychology/sociology/anthropology mostly written by TV media types…

It was just a phase…

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I still love books that teach me about other cultures (including my own) or people, especially if they’re written in a humorous way. There seemed to be loads of them out in the mid 2000’s  – I bought most of these for my train journey to and from work from WHSmiths on New Street Station. However, as interesting as they were I don’t treasure them or feel like I’ll ever return to reading them again (I can still pretty much remember what they said) so off to the library used bookshop they go!

Do you have a selection of similar books from a specific period in your life? Do you have any bookish phases that you’ve been through? What do your Harry Potter books look like? Let me know in the comments!

 

The A-Z of Me Part Two

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So, we previously looked at The A-Z of Me Part One – lets take a look at what the rest of the alphabet says about me!

 

N is for National Trust

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I’m a member of The National Trust and a passionate supporter of British heritage. I love visiting historic houses, especially if they have nice gardens. We try to visit somewhere once a month to really get the most of our membership.

O is for Organic Fruit and Veg

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I grow my own vegetables organically – the picture above is last year’s strawberry patch (every flower will turn into a fruit). I grow everything from soft fruit to root vegetables and I always try something new – 2019 is the year I try cucamelons!

P is for Police Force

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I used to work for British Transport Police in their HR team. I learnt so much and met some fantastic people. It also gave me a real appreciation of the police force, especially with regards their commitment to equality and diversity.

Q is for Quidditch

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I am a self-professed Harry potter nerd – here’s a photo of me flying on a broomstick on the HP Warner Bros Studio Tour. I love everything about the books and will forever be Team Slytherin.

R is for Reading, obviously

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I have always been a bookworm and love reading, talking about books, blogging about books, buying books, smelling books… above are some of my Virago Modern Classic Designer Collection which are my all time faves – fabulous stories and just so, so pretty!

S is for Silverstone

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We go to Silverstone every year to watch the British Grand Prix (that’s Formula One car racing to the uninitiated). Obviously we support Lewis Hamilton but I also have a soft spot for Kimi Raikonnen and I think Max Verstappen is going to be a future champion – he’s so exciting to watch!

T is for Tortoises

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Awwww! These are my pet torts Tabitha (the big one) and Voldetort (the baby). Contrary to what you see in the photo, they have a lifelong feud and will attack each other if we let them get too close. We keep them in separate pens where they silently plot their revenge from afar.

U is for Unemployable

Since giving up on my career in HR I’ve done bits and bobs but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m basically unemployable by big companies. Self-employment is definitely the way forwards for me.

V is for Vintage

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I love anything vintage and will happily dress up in 1940’s/50’s clothing. This is me and my best friend Juliet on our way to a burlesque night a few years ago. I also love vintage interiors and would much rather buy old furniture/ornaments than new stuff.

W is for West Midlands

I live in the West Midlands in Coventry, which is the City of Culture 2021. I am genuinely excited to see what Cov can pull out of the bag after years of under-funding and decline (the Special’s song Ghost Town was written about us for a reason!)

X is for X-Ray

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This is me in my roller derby gear, a few months before I broke two bones in my leg and snapped my ankle bone off on either side of my foot. I’d love to say I did this performing an apex jump but in reality I just slipped. So now my leg has two metal plates, a big bolt through my ankle and a load of pins holding it all together.

Y is for Yoga

Since stopping roller derby I took up the safer option of yoga and absolutely love it! Just 20 minutes in the morning is enough to really make a difference and although I do it in fits and starts it never takes long to get back into it.

Z is for ZZZZZZ’s

Oh my gosh I love sleep! Nine hours if I can get it but I struggle to function on anything less than eight. Once asleep I’m dead to the world and can nod off anywhere – including once when I was in the middle of an assessment centre!

So, that’s the A-Z of me! Can any of you relate? Would you like to write one of these posts too? Let me know in the comments!

 

The A-Z of Me Part One

Hello Bookworms!

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I saw this great little post on Dave@espressococo‘s blog and thought that it would be really fun to try! I love a good getting to know you post, so let’s see what the letters A to M say about me!

A is for Antiques

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I love antiques and I’ve been collecting them for a few years now. In particular, I like objects from the arts and crafts movement, like this copper jardiniere.

B is for Blogging

Well, obviously! I’ve been blogging for three years now and my little corner of the internet remains small but perfectly formed (well, as perfect as I can make it anyway).

C is for Comedy

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I love seeing comedy live – I usually go to a few gigs per year. Favourite comedians include Sara Pascoe, Jon Richradson, Hannah Gadsby and Rachel Parris – I saw Jon last year for the third time and I’m hoping to see the others soon.

D is for DIY

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I love DIY and I’m currently refurbishing a house with my partner. I’ve learnt loads of new skills and so far I’m still enjoying the process, even though it’s gone on for a lot longer than expected.

E is for Eating

Who doesn’t love eating? I really enjoy cooking my own food and have been known to whip up some tasty treats, such a lemon meringue pie from scratch (including the lemon curd) and I always do a big Sunday roast for me and the non-hubs.

F is for Feminism

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I’m a feminist and proud! I listen to lots of feminist podcasts, like The Guilty Feminist, Standard Issue and even good old Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 (which is way more radical than you’d think!) I became interested in the movement after reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Girl, which is an incredible book that everyone should read.

G is for Gardening

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If there’s one thing that gives me almost as much pleasure as reading it’s gardening. It all started when I met my boyfriend (who is a plant scientist) and he basically roped me into helping him sort his garden out after having the kitchen extended. I got completely hooked, to the point where I now grow most of my own veg on my own allotment. It’s hard work but so, so enjoyable.

H is for Human Resources

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I have an MA in Human Resource Management, as well as a degree in Business and membership of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development. Despite all this, I gave up my career because…well… I hated it! If you have a HR team in your workplace, please be nice to them. It can be a pretty thankless job dealing with people’s problems day in and day out.

I is for Injury

My leg is mostly made of metal having broken it in four separate places. Some of the pins in my ankle stick out a bit and you can feel the plates in my leg (weirdly it’s made my leg thinner, so now my calves are different sizes). I also have a pretty cool scar!

J is for Jaguar

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We have an old Jaguar car that we take out a few times a year to shows and events (or just to show off if we’re going to a wedding lol). I don’t really get it but the non-hubs loves it and our house is full of his Jaguar tat memorabilia.

K is for Knitting

I love making things and knitting is one of those hobbies that I intermittently try my hand at. I’m still at beginner level but I’ve made so pretty nice things, including a lace knit scarf and an old-fashioned tea cozy for a friend. My long term goal is to knit an advent calendar – I’m thinking 25 individual mini-stockings that I can string up like bunting and fill with chocolates/sweets/tiny presents.

L is for Library

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I’m a library volunteer for one of my local libraries (since the council completely cut all funding) which is really, really fun. I recently mentioned online that I’m on the lookout for donations of books (used or new) to help replenish out stock, or possibly be sold in our used giftshop and people have been so kind – it’s really restored my faith in humanity!

M is for Music

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I love music, especially weird indie-pop, 80’s and 90’s stuff, rock, metal, death metal… and Kate Bush. I collect vinyl records too and I’m always mooching about in charity shops and record fairs.

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So, that’s the first part of the A-Z of me! Do we have any hobbies or interests in common? Let me know in the comments and stay tuned for part two – coming soon!

 

Calendar Girls March: Favourite Book With a Strong Female Lead

Hello Bookworms!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls!

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Calendar Girls was a monthly blog event created by Melanie at MNBernard Books and Flavia the Bibliophile and will now be hosted by Katie at Never Not Reading and Adrienne at Darque Dreamer Reads It is designed to ignite bookish discussions among readers and was inspired by the 1961 Neil Sedaka song Calendar Girl.

Just like the song, each month has a different theme. Each blogger picks their favourite book from the theme and on the first Monday of the month reveals their pick in a Calendar Girls post.

So without further ado, this month’s theme is…

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…and my top pick is…

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

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Skyward is the story of Spensa who lives on the planet Detritus, which, as the name suggests, is a junk planet abandoned by it’s previous inhabitants. She was born there to a family who were crew members on a fleet of spacecraft that crash landed on the planet following a battle with their enemies, the Krell aliens. The survivors created a subterranean world for themselves but faced aeriel attacks from the Krell. They began building spaceships to fight back and as the daughter of a previously disgraced pilot, all that Spensa wants is to sign up to fight. Those in charge, however, have other ideas.

Unusually for a sci-fi novel (especially one written by a man) the book is pretty female centric and I loved that the female representation was just…there. There was no political point, no-one in the story told Spensa she couldn’t be a pilot because she was a girl – indeed, the head of the defensive federation is a woman and the pilots seemed to be a 50/50 mix of men and women. The book could do easily have gone down the Handmaid’s Tale route, forcing women to keep popping out babies in order to ensure the survival of a small population against a vast number of enemies but Sanderson clearly chose to make Spensa his rebellious MC for reasons other than her gender. I personally found this a refreshing change (and I say that as a feminist – I just think that trope has been done too many times).

I also really, really loved the fact that there was no bloody romance taking up space in the life of a girl who simply wanted to kill space aliens and avenge the death of her father. It was soooo great not to have to deal with cringey teenage attempts at flirting, although I suspect there might be some of that coming in the next instalment *sigh*.

Overall, I loved Skyward from the first sentence to the last. Some parts should have been boring (protracted battle flights filled with technical detail, endless comments about mushrooms) yet somehow Sanderson absolutely nailed it.

Have you read Skyward? Do you enjoy books with strong female leads? Let me know in the comments! 

 

TL;DR February Review

Hello Bookworms!

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Welcome to spring! Considering I started last month’s review with the word snow, this month has been positively balmy. The bulbs are flowering, the tortoises are wandering around eating everything in sight and we haven’t had the heating on in weeks. I even saw my neighbour going out in shorts and a t-shirt!

February was my birthday month so I went out a fair bit – I even went out out to a nightclub! I felt very old and had a two-day hangover so I’m not doing that again. I also had a few nice meals out and used my National Trust membership to go to Upton House and Gardens where we had fun looking at the renaissance artwork collection, especially as there were some hilarious kids asking brilliant questions like “what’s God?” and “is that a cat?” (It was the 12 apostles) 😂😂😂

Due to my birthday/valentines/hangovers we haven’t done too much to the house – I can’t reach a corner of the ceiling even on ladders so my progress has been somewhat thwarted. Once the non-hubs pulls his finger out and finishes it off for me we’ll be back on track.

I also have some excellent bookish news – I’m going to be a library volunteer! I have mixed feelings about the role – obviously I’m not a librarian and it’s a shame that the local residents are going to receive a reduced service due to our lack of expertise (it’ll be entirely volunteer run) but I’m excited about the opportunity and it’ll keep the place going which I guess is the most important thing.

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I’m still doing well with the 2019 Read Harder Challenge but I’ve fallen behind a bit with my Chapter-a-Day Read-Along – oops. I’ll have to try extra hard in March to get back on track.

This month, I took part in the February Calendar Girls meme where I chose Lullaby by Leila Slimani as my favourite book by a black author. I continued Sorting Out the Shelves, I took part in the Unpopular Opinions Tag and I also did a Valentine’s day post recommending books that feature different types of love.

I posted six reviews (and also some mini reviews!) this month:

The Martian by Andy Weir: Just fantastic, I loved everything about this brilliantly entertaining book – except for the gardening advice! 🌟Five out of five🌟

Lullaby by Leila Slimani: A brilliantly twisted, disturbing novel that kept me engrossed from the first page to the last. Great stuff! Four out of five.

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen: Unexpectedly great, I really enjoyed this super fun, quirky book. A great easy read. Four out of five. 

The Guggenheim Mystery by Robin Stevens and Siobhan Dowd: This was such a lovely middle grade read, really fun and with great autism representation. Four out of five.

The Never Dawn by R. E. Palmer: Intriguing and engrossing but I had a few issues with pacing and I wasn’t a fan of the ending. Three and a half out of five. 

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan: Again, I wasn’t expecting a lot from this novella but I was pleasantly surprised by the great writing. If you’re a romance fan I’d definitely check this one out! Three out of five.

So that’s February wrapped up! Do you feel like spring is here? Did you have a good Valentine’s Day? Let me know in the comments!

 

Mid-Month Mini Reviews!

Hello bookworms!

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I seem to have created somewhat of a backlog of books to review recently and rather than drown in their vortex I’ve decided I’m going to try a few mini-reviews! This is something I’ve never done before and as someone who does like to waffle on a bit I’m not sure how well they’re going to turn out… but I’m giving them a go anyway.

This month, I’m focusing on three books that I’ve read for the 2019 Read Harder Challenge for Book Riot. They are:

#4 Read a Humour Book

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen

I wasn’t really looking forwards to this book – to be honest, I thought it would be frothy crap – but I was pleasantly surprised at much I enjoyed it. Aisling is a small town, sensible girl-next-door; the kind of woman with a french manicure, comfortable ballet flats and a swipe of brown mascara. She’s the dependable friend who plans the itinerary, books the tickets and packs a cardigan in her handbag “in case it turns chilly later”. Aisling has her whole life mapped out (steady job, marriage, kids, house, pension, retirement plot) but when her boyfriend refuses to fit in she shocks everyone by ditching him and building a new life for herself – one that’s totally off plan.

I loved seeing the character of Aisling develop and even though at times she was utterly clueless she always remained resolutely herself. I loved how Irish the text was too – the slightly unfamiliar words and cadence added a real authenticity to the characters.  The book reminded me a bit of Bridget Jones’ Diary – it had all the same humour and warmth and it was really good fun.

Four “what on earth are presses?” out of five.

 

#14 Read a cozy mystery

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The Guggenheim Mystery by Robin Stevens and Siobhan Dowd

This was more of a middle grade mystery than a cozy mystery (which I hate with a passion) so again, I cheated a bit – whatcha gonna do? I really enjoyed this book with diverse representation, an autistic mc and some Mums who actually did stuff (even if that was getting arrested and disappearing for a large chunk of the book). The story follows Ted, a twelve year old boy with Aspergers who has to solve the mystery of a missing painting taken from The Guggenheim Museum on the day that he happens to be visiting. I loved how Ted (along with his sister and cousin) worked methodically through their list of suspects, piecing together information and drawing logical conclusions to arrive at the correct answer.

This book is a sequel to The London Eye Mystery (which I now really want to read) but worked fine as a stand-alone. It must have been really difficult for Robin Stevens to take Siobhan Dowd’s idea and turn it into a full novel but I thought she did a great job.

Four “how did I not see that?” out of five

 

#16 Read a historical romance by an author of colour

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The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

So I thought that OMG What a Complete Aisling was out of my comfort zone but The Governess Affair REALLY wasn’t something that I would ever pick up out of choice (hence why I cheated a tiny bit and chose a novella for this category). The story is somewhat predictable – an uptight, no-time-for-romance, I’ve-been-damaged-by-my-upbringing type falls in love with a headstrong woman and the usual enemies-to-lovers storyline plays out. Despite much eye-rolling from me the writing was actually very good and as a novella I quite enjoyed dipping into it for a bit of escapism. In fact, the only thing that I didn’t enjoy was the description of the tea that they drank. From a hip flask. Urgh. It reminded me of the time that I saw an American couple tip the milk into the teapot before pouring *shudders*. Sort it out Americans!

Three “that sounds like cold tea and a spam sandwich” out of five

 

So, how do you like the mini-review format? Have you read any of these books? Are you doing Read Harder 2019? Let me know in the comments!

 

Love in all its Forms…

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Happy Valentines Day, Bookworms!

Now, I know today isn’t for everyone (me included) so I’ve put together a little list of books that take a more alternative approach to love – everything from queer interest to to platonic friendships – so hopefully there’s something for everyone. Forget going on a date and snuggle up with a novel instead!

For people who think they’re too gay for all this boy-meets-girl rubbish

There is SO MUCH excellent stuff being published about queer romance at the moment. A lot of it is YA based (which is not my thing) so if you’re looking for something featuring slightly older protagonists, I’ve got a couple of recommendations. For m/m romance I love anything by Nick Alexander, especially his earlier books like Fifty Reasons to Say Goodbye. They’re funny, sweet and often eye-opening and I loved the entire series. For f/f relationships I really liked Women by Chloe Caldwell which is less romance and more breakup driven but still an excellent piece of writing. Plus, you can’t go wrong with Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson, which I have spent the last twenty minutes trying to describe; it’s a love story, it’s a coming of age novel, it’s a terrifying and sad exploration of the intersection between faith and homosexuality, it’s hilarious and charming and warm and yet completely disturbing.

For people who think they’re too nerdily awkward for relationships

The Secret Loves of Geek Girls ed. by Hope Nicholson is a really interesting compendium of the niche loves of women who self -identify as geeks – everything from random fandoms to cosplay relationships. The content is really varied, champions the whole of the LGBTQ+ spectrum and celebrates alternative love stories in a really cool and creative way.

For people who prefer Galentines to Valentines

I love reading about female friendships and there are some fantastic books out there that represent women getting stuff done with the help of other women. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is a personal favourite of mine – I love the different personality types of the the four March sisters and the fact that they’re all so different and yet they all pull together when needed. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is a more modern take on the theme (and is a cracking good mystery at the same time) and The Lido by Libby Page is a brilliant example of women from different age groups finding commonality and friendship across the generations.

…or who just want to see platonic friendships

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is a fantastic book featuring neurodiverse representation, as well as a lovely platonic m/f friendship. It has some difficult themes but they’re handled really well and there’s a good dose of humour to stop things from getting too dark. If you want to read something with more of a sci-fi/fantasy feel, Skyward by Brandon Sanderson has a really strong m/f friendship at it’s core, features a number of young male and female characters but crucially contains ABSOLUTELY NO SNOGGING – hallelujah!

For people who love their pets more than anything or anyone

There’s loads of really heartwarming tales of people who love their animals – think A Cat Called Norton by Peter Gethers, A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen or Marley and Me by John Grogan. For a broader take on one woman’s love for her dog, Spectacles by Sue Perkins is an autobiography that hits every theme I’ve just mentioned above but it’s her love for her dog Pickle that really stands out. I defy anyone to read the letter that she wrote to her without bursting into uncontrollable tears.

I hope you’ve had a good Valentines Day! Do you have any suggestions for alternative takes on love/romance? Let me know in the comments!

Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

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Genre: Sci-fi, dark comedy

Similar to: A tiny bit like Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, or The Revenant but set in space

Could be enjoyed by: Everyone, even people who don’t think sci-fi is for them

Publication date: 27th December 2012

 

LOG ENTRY: SOL 6

I’m wandering round Poundland (gotta love a bargain) looking for a cheap notebook to, well, make notes in when I come across the “re:cover” section of books. Basically: secondhand books for a quid. And The Martian was there. So I picked it up because of the hype I’d seen surrounding it and bought it because of the blurb – essentially a man (Mark Watney) gets stranded on Mars after he has an accident evacuating the planet and his crew think he’s dead. He has to survive on his own with broken equipment, broken comms and a limited stock of food. No wonder the first line is

“I’m pretty much fucked”.

 

LOG ENTRY: SOL 14

I start reading.

Mark you really are fucked, you absolute spanner. There is NO WAY that potatoes would grow in such shallow soil PLUS I’m pretty sure that “compost” would need to have well rotted manure in it. Trust me, I’m a gardener.

Trusted Amazon review:

 Incorrect advice

Read book about potato growing. Potatoes don’t grow in shallow soil, even on Mars. 0/10.

 

LOG ENTRY: SOL 57

Ok so I’ve suspended my disbelief and now I’m hooked on the story. Like, totally hooked. I could do without some of those massive number info dumps but that’s a minor criticism. Thank god for the black humour because without it this book would be pretty dry.

 

LOG ENTRY: SOL 134

LOVING how pacey this storyline is. Every page is:

“I’m probably going to die!”

“So I thought about it and…science!”

“I’ll just try to use radiation/deadly gasses/fire/duct tape”

“I nearly died but it sort of worked so I did some more science and now it really works! I’ll live to fight another chapter!”

Yay duct tape indeed.

LOG ENTRY: SOL 254

Mark is such a juvenile idiot but I can’t help but love him. I’ve suspended my knowledge of plants, I may as well suspend my feminist principals too.

Hehe, boobs (.Y.)

 

LOG ENTRY: SOL 345

The scientific research in this book is astounding. I mean, I have literally no idea if any of it checks out but it seems totally plausible so I’m going with it. If I’m honest, I don’t really care. It’s making up one hell of a story.

 

LOG ENTRY: SOL 405

Speaking of feminist principals, there’s pretty good representation of women working in science (as you would hope for a book set in the future). I feel better now about the 80085 thing earlier.

 

LOG ENTRY: SOL 467

Mark Watney, why aren’t you just a tiny bit depressed about what’s going on? There’s no way you can survive this. I love how chipper you’re being but you’re not really that believable as a character. Then again, it’s a lot more fun reading about an upbeat engineering genius than Marvin the Paranoid Android.

 

LOG ENTRY: SOL 504

I am so excited about the conclusion to Mark’s little issuettes. Yes it’s far fetched and yes I’m sure that in real life NASA would have to cut the funding but I love how this has all panned out. Brilliant stuff.

 

LOG ENTRY: SOL 549

I guess this is the end. What a ride! I loved every second of reading this book.

Premise: Go!

Pacing: Go!

Characters: Go!

Representation: Go!

Humour: Go!

Research: Go!

Gardening advice: Houston, we have a problem.

 

Five inconceivably home grown potatoes out of five.

Compelling, engaging, funny and ingenious; I loved everything about this book!