Calendar Girls May: Favourite Book With A Mother/Daughter Relationship

Hello Bookworms!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls, which I totally forgot to post yesterday! I’m so sorry guys!!!

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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…

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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When I first saw the theme of mother and daughter relationships I was initially a little stumped. I don’t read a lot of novels that focus on family ties so I had to cast around on google for a bit to see what I could come up with. Then it hit me – I was looking for positive, healthy Mum/Daughter bonds… but what about toxic relationships? That’s when I knew exactly which book I’d recommend – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

In the book, Eleanor lives a life of pared down efficiency. Her meals are one pot, one plate. Her shoes are smart but comfortable, with Velcro for quick fastening (none of those inefficient shoe laces). Her role as a finance administrator requires analysis and ordering of numbers, which can be broken down into repetitive tasks and scheduled accordingly. All of this means that Eleanor creates minimal fuss and requires few interactions with other people. Everything seems to be pretty normal (if a bit lonely) until you realise that Eleanor treats vodka like an essential basic grocery and thinks of a pot plant as her one and only friend.

Eleanor struggles with people, and as the book progresses, you start to guess at what might have happened in her childhood to make her so ill equipped to deal with social situations. Apart from having burn scars across her face and body, Eleanor has a very troubling relationship with her mother (Mummy) who she only contacts via telephone for 15 minutes on a Wednesday (and thank God, because this woman is a BITCH). As the book progresses, Eleanor makes some woeful (often hilarious) attempts to make herself more attractive to her crush and through a freak event is forced to spend time with Raymond, who she knows from work. Through this very off-kilter friendship Eleanor begins to accept herself and deal with her past… and her mother.

I thought that Eleanor was such a great character and although she is clearly odd and her life is terribly sad, the novel is written in such a way that you don’t ever feel that you’re laughing at her, or at least not in a malicious way. When she acts inappropriately you can see it’s because she doesn’t understand social norms and never because she aims to cause offence – but to outsiders I suppose she seems aloof or downright rude. It’s this constant formality and awkwardness that made me empathise so much with Eleanor – you can’t help but be completely on her side.

The ending of the book has a fantastic twist that I half guessed at but the sadness of the whole situation really hit me. I loved how Eleanor’s past was hinted at throughout the novel and that by the end of the book everything had come to light. I really liked how what could have been fluffy chick lit was turned into something much more challenging and emotive by offsetting the lighter elements with something far darker. The book is very well written and a fabulous debut – everyone should read it!

 

Have you read Eleanor Oliphant…? Do you have any favourite books with toxic mother/daughter relationships in them? Let me know in the comments! 

 

 

 

 

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Sorting Out the Shelves #5

Hello Bookworms!

Welcome to another edition of sorting out the shelves! I haven’t done one of these for a while and although I thought I’d mostly covered the books I wanted to get rid of, when I looked harder I still have loads more to get through. So, it looks like this feature is here to stay!

Today, I’m looking at books that I bought when I became interested in two very different topics – fantasy writing and gardening! Soooooo… it’s time for Own or Re-Home!

Own

Assorted works by J. R. R. Tolkien

I love that edition of the Hobbit…

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The copies of LOTR are some of my most battered books (having been obtained when I was a student and surviving four different house moves – including a period where they were kept in my Grandma’s shed) but they’re also amongst my most loved books. Confession: I essentially stole them off my then boyfriend and never returned them – oops – but that was fifteen years ago and he never asked for them back, so… yeah. Mine now! He recommended that I read them despite my initial trepidation – I’d made an attempt at reading The Hobbit when I was about six or seven and thought it was the dullest book in the world. Surprisingly, I loved them and that started my journey into fantasy. I bought the special edition copy of The Hobbit mostly because it was pretty but when I actually read it again I loved it – I think I’d just been too young the first time round. Now, I fondly look at these books as a kind of gateway drug into a world that I didn’t know existed and even though I really don’t like my ex I’m grateful that we had a relationship purely for the book recommendations!

Re-home

A selection of gardening books that all pretty much say the same thing…

We have the internet now…

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All of these books have been gifts (because what else do you buy for someone who likes both gardening and reading?) and although they were initially useful, they’re pretty basic and the internet has much more up to date information. I haven’t referred to any of them in years, so off they go to the used bookstore at the library.

 

Do you have any “long term loan” books lurking on your shelves that you’ve never got round to returning? What were your “gateway” books that introduced you to a specific genre? Are reference books even remotely useful in the 21st century? Let me know in the comments!

 

Calendar Girls April: Favourite Book with a Surprise Ending

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…

…and my top pick is…

Behind Her Eyes by Sara Pinborough

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As soon as I saw the theme for this month’s Calendar Girls, I knew straightaway that there was one book whose surprise ending completely blew me away – and that was Behind Her Eyes. The publishers even started the hashtag #WTFthatending because so many people were talking about it!

The book is about a psychopathic wife, an edge-of-breakdown husband and a nice-but-slightly-dim friend/colleague who gets embroiled in their dysfunctional marriage. As we explore the web of lies that the couple have created, the nice-but-slightly-dim friend/colleague uncovers more and more of the truth until things eventually come to a head. However, instead of the expected showdown you get a completely left-field ending that’s so unnerving I’m still thinking about it two years later. Seriously, this is quite a long book and although it trails off a bit in the middle (the wife is mentally ill, we get it) it is so worth it to get to the ending. Trust me.

Although on paper the book does sound a bit like Gone Girl, there is nowhere near the level of creeping tension where each scene in the book is relevant, the next scene builds upon it and everything is tied up in a neat bow at the end. This is more like you have a fair idea that the wife is psychopathic, you’re not sure about the husband, you uncover bits of the past and have an idea of what’s going on and then out of nowhere comes the ending.

There were a couple of weird ideas introduced in the novel that I initially struggled to get to grips with (lucid dreaming anyone?) but after reading the whole book I think the concept actually worked really well – even if it did seem a little incongruous at first.

Minor negatives aside, Behind Her Eyes is a fabulous read and thoroughly deserves all the buzz that was created – WTF that ending indeed!!!

 

Have you read Behind Her Eyes? Do you enjoy books with twists that you don’t see coming? Let me know in the comments! 

 

Love in all its Forms…

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Photo by Rahul Pandit on Pexels.com

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!

Calendar Girls November: Favourite Middle Book in a Series

Hello friends!

Welcome to another edition of the Calendar Girls!

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 favorite 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…

Despite not having finished the trilogy (I’ve just been turned down for the final ARC 😢) I had to choose one of my favourite books of recent years…The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden.


I absolutely adored the first installment of the Winternight trilogy (The Bear and the Nightingale – terrible review from years ago here) but the sequel is where Katherine Arden really hits her stride as an author. 
The Winternight Trilogy is the story of Vasilisa, a young girl living in medieval Russia. She has a quiet life in a rural village, despite the fact that she’s inherited her mother’s gift to see the spirits that protect their agricultural way of life. As Christianity begins to make the villagers forget their old gods, the power of the good spirits weakens and the village becomes threatened. Vasilisa has to flee her home and immediately stumbles into trouble, being dragged ever deeper into the battle between good and evil. Is she strong enough to protect her people?

There’s a bit of everything in this story. Intrigue, romance, magic…The Girl in the Tower has it all. I think that one of the best things about the book is the usage of language. It is just so. beautifully. written. You could turn to any page and get at least one exquisite quote. I loved how descriptive the storytelling was, and because the novel is set in Russia the dark, snowy environment leant itself perfectly to such a magical, dark fairytale. It was incredibly atmospheric and evocative, and I loved how Katherine Arden wove Russian words into the narrative in such a way that you understood their meaning even though they bore no resemblance to their English counterparts. So clever.

I really noticed the development of the characters from book one and I loved how we got to find out more about each of them now that they had grown up a bit. I was initially worried that this novel would be the awkward middle bit, where everything is set up for a big finale but not much happens, but it isn’t at all like that. Instead, The Girl in the Tower could almost be read as a stand alone novel as it has a proper beginning, middle and end and a narrative arc all of it’s own.

There are so many other brilliant things about this story that I could go on for hours – the use of “real” Russian mythology, the family dynamics, the relationship between Vasya and her horse Solovey…but I would literally be here for days. You should probably just go and read it for yourselves 😜

So, have you read The Girl in the Tower? What would be your Calendar Girls pick? Let me know in the comments! 


I have an Amazon voucher – book recs please!

Hello Bookworms!

Just a quick request – I signed to some online pension management thing (my life is trés exciting) and I’ve apparently qualified for a £10 Amazon voucher! Yay!

This voucher is yet to materialise in my inbox but when if it does I’ll need something to spend it on…hmmm…

That’s where you lovely lot come in. Obviously I’ll be buying books with it…but which ones? There’s too many to choose from!!!

So, if you’ve read anything amazing recently that you really recommend, could you let me know in the comments? I don’t care what genre it is, if you think it’s good, let me know!

Thank you lovelies!

Lucinda xxx

Are You a Librarian? Stop Everything and Read This

Hello lovelies,

I need help! I’m doing a reading challenge with Popsugar and one of the categories is “read a book recommended by a librarian”. Quite frankly, the thought of walking into my main library and saying “hi, recommend a book to me!” is quite frankly terrifying (also I can’t work out how to say this sentence without it sounding incredibly threatening). So, if any of you are librarians could you please recommend something for me to read?

I’m a total magpie when it comes to books so I’ll be happy with a recommendation from any genre.

Thank you in advance!

(Also, I’m struggling to complete two of the Read Harder categories: read a book set in central or south America by a central or south American author and Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. Any ideas would be much appreciated!)

Much love,

Lucinda x