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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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! 


The Roanoak Girls by Amy Engel

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Photo courtesy of http://www.netgalley.com

Wow. This book is incredible. Disturbing – absolutely, upsetting – in a number of ways, but it draws you in so completely that you won’t be able to put it down.

The Roanoak Girls is the story of a young girl (Lane) who is sent to live with her grandparents following the suicide of her depressive mother. When she arrives at their bizzare, sprawling house in the backwaters of America, she meets her cousin Allegra who bears an uncanny resemblance to her. The two become friends, but Lane discovers a dark secret about the family which ultimately pushes her to leave. Years later, Lane receives a call from her grandfather telling her that Allegra is missing. Lane returns to the house and as a result of her hunt for her cousin, begins to uncover even more of the secrets that Roanoak hides, including the reasons behind the freak deaths and disappearances that continue to occur within the family. Written in chapters that alternate between the past and the present day, the Roanoak Girls keeps you on the edge of your seat as you become ensnared in the horrific secrets that hide within the house.

I really had to take a day or two to digest this book before I could bring myself to review it. The novel deals with some awful content matter so should be plastered in trigger warnings for suicide, rape, incest… I don’t want to give away too much but seriously, if you’ve been affected by any kind of abuse then please be warned. In saying that, I was utterly gripped by the story and absolutely devoured it in one day. You really are kept guessing and so much goes on that you have to keep reading to find out what happens next.

The novel has some brilliantly strong characters including the main character Lane and her cousin Allegra. I loved the way that the girls befriended each other and their complex relationships with other family members, as well as each other. It would have been very easy to have Lane run away from Roanoak and never look back but I completely understood her loyalty to her cousin which made her return, despite the terrible secrets that she had to explore in order to find the truth. In terms of Allegra, I struggled to understand some of her decisions but could see that she was obviously deeply disturbed by the events which had happened. She’s a really complex character and although she said and did some things which I found absolutely repulsive I found myself becoming absolutely fascinated by her. By the end of the novel you realise that every single character is flawed which again adds to the suspense – who can you trust?

The way that the Roanoak Girls is written is absolutely brilliant – it’s so complex and the themes covered are so dark that it’s sometimes hard to read but the author doesn’t shy away from exploring their full impact. There are little clues peppering the text which allude to some of the secrets within Roanoak – for example the novel starts with a family tree and a quote from Vladimir Nabokov – if you’ve read his most famous work this should give you some indication as to how the girls might be thought of. In terms of similarities to other books there’s something of the Gillian Flynn about it – it’s that level of creepy/gross/fully crazy characters and uncomfortable reading.

Although I can’t say I enjoyed the book it was an amazing experience to read it. If you think you can cope with reading about the abuse mentioned above then I would highly recommend it.

Rating: 9.5/10

Thank you to By Hook or by Book for writing such a great review of The Roanoak Girls which made me want to read it!

Please note that I read this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, Netgalley! I also read this book as part of the Popsugar Reading Challenge #7 Read a book that’s a story within a story.

Review: Spectacles by Sue Perkins

I read this book because I bloody love Superkins. I’ve been a fan since the days of Light Lunch. I remember seeing her and Mel mucking around on TV and thinking ‘this is just like me and my best friend’. You could see that warmth that existed between them which in my eyes made them such a great comedy duo.

Naturally, I’m incredibly sad that something as perfect as the  Great British Bake Off in its current format is over. It just won’t be the same without Mel and Sue making soggy bottom puns and giving the bakers a hug when they need it. It’s not often that presenters make such a difference to a show (especially when their role is mainly announcing how much time is left and telling the contestants who is going home/winning Star Baker) but Mel and Sue really added a sense of comedy and fun to what otherwise could have been a fairly boring cookery contest.

Anyway, back to the book… 

You may be surprised to learn that I really enjoyed this book. Sue is really funny but you get to understand some quite personal, difficult details about her life (bereavement, relationship breakups, a brain tumour, her dad’s cancer). She’s really frank about some of her problems, her family and her relationships although I’m aware of a couple of girlfriends that have been left out, including Rhona Cameron the comedian. She also didn’t talk about how she felt when she was outed in the press, possibly because it involved Rhona. I’ve previously heard Sue say that Rhona refers to her as the love of her life so I would have been interested to read about their relationship in greater detail (or to understand why it wasn’t mentioned).

I was surprised to read that Sue isn’t nearly as confident as she comes across on screen, which is sad because I think she’s great. I’m hopefully going to see her live in March next year and really looking forward to it.

Overall, this book is funny, cleverly written and very engaging. I thought it was a great read.

Rating: 8.5/10