Category Archives: Books

On Unlikeable Protagonists

As part of my Before I’m 30 challenge, I read, over the last few weeks, both Madame Bovary and Great Expectations. Neither sat particularly well with me, and both for the same reason, so I’m reviewing both here in a single blog post. The reason is in the title of the post – I thought both main characters were eminently unlikeable.

Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

7387952.jpgThis classic tale tells of an orphan, Pip, who through a series of strange circumstances first finds a trade as a blacksmith’s apprentice and then learns that he has “great expectations” of a future inheritance from an anonymous benefactor. He soon learns to live the profligate life of a gentleman as he gradually sheds his associations with the gentle souls of his past, Joe (the blacksmith) and Biddy (a level-headed young lady). He throws his money at improving the prospects of his roommate and friend Herbert and his heart at an “ice princess” whose heart will never respond. But then an escaped convict from his distant past comes calling, and all Pip’s hopes dissolve. (Summary by Mark F. Smith)

Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

20655606.jpgPublished in book form in April 1857, the novel focuses on a doctor’s wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. Though the basic plot is rather simple, even archetypal, the novel’s true art lies in its details and hidden patterns. Flaubert was notoriously perfectionist about his writing and claimed to always be searching for le mot juste (the right word)”. (Summary from Wikipedia).

I didn’t enjoy either of these books because I had absolutely no sympathy for either of the main characters. Not because they weren’t nice – the Count of Monte Cristo certainly isn’t nice, and I thoroughly enjoyed his tale- but rather because not only did neither Pip nor Emma have any redeeming qualities, they weren’t even interesting in how they went about being thoroughly terrible people.

Pip is selfish, self-absorbed and completely up himself, having great expectations and an obsessive, possessive love for a girl who has absolutely no interest in him romantically. By the end of the novel, he hasn’t really redeemed himself at all – his attitude towards Biddy in particular made me roll my eyes, and feel like Pip saw women as things to be owned, rather than people in their own right. Even when the novel ends, I didn’t have any sympathy for Pip. His apparent redemption, which happened entirely off-page, was not enough to undo the years of horrible, careless, selfish behaviour which dragged others in his orbit into debt, misery, and even death.

Similarly Emma Bovary, a dull, lifeless character whose only trait was being dislikeable. Her constant malcontent at where her life has brought her is exacerbated by her gender and station in life, and her actions in seeking release from her dull, quotidian life brought me no pleasure to read about.

I hated both Emma and Pip, and consequently didn’t really enjoy either of their books. Great Expectations, at least, had some intrigue, and one truly good character (Awh, Joe, I love you) as well as some interesting side characters (Miss Havisham takes the dramatic breakup to new extremes) so I had a bit more good feeling for Dickens than Flaubert. Perhaps as an examination of human consciousness, introspective and thoughtful novels about the need for everyone to have something to strive towards, or an inspection of the blindness of unfailing love, these novels have some redeeming factors, but it wasn’t enough for me to enjoy either of them.

Great Expectations: Three Stars ***

Madame Bovary: Two Stars **

 

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September Roundup

October has landed already. It’s time for Hallowe’en and spooky everything, and pumpkin spice in all your drinks. I actually don’t like pumpkin spice, but I did have an autumn themed hot chocolate in Costa which was quite tasty – it was like, bonfire themed or something, I don’t quite recall. Not only are kids back to school, but slightly bigger kids are back to uni, and I’m not ready for them to have landed in. I have so many lectures to write! And yet I seem to spend my time reading instead… Clever.

Books

  1. The Smoke Thieves (The Smoke Thieves #1) – Sally Green
  2. Girl Up – Laura Bates
  3. The Liars – Jennifer Mathieu
  4. The Perseverance – Raymond Antrobus
  5. Skylarks – Karen Gregory
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
  7. Cilka’s Journey (The Tattooist of Auschwitz #2) – Heather Morris
  8. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  9. The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides
  10. The Giver of Stars – Jojo Moyes
  11. Feminists Don’t Wear Pink & Other Lies – edited by Scarlett Curtis

Short Stories/Novellas

None this month

Cover Art

 

 

 

Favourite Book This Month

I’ve had Skylarks on my shelf for months – perhaps even a year, at this point – but I never got around to reading it. It was only when I decided I should pass it on to my sister, who also likes Karen Gregory, that I thought oh, I should read this first, though. I’m so glad I did read it, during a time when I had the freedom to really binge it. I read Skylarks on trains and planes, sitting on squishy couches at home, and waiting for my parents to get up. I love it. It is an absolutely beautiful piece of work, and I really, really enjoyed it. Karen Gregory writes so beautifully.

Least Favourite Book This Month

There was one book this month that I really didn’t like (The Liars) and one that really didn’t work for me (The Perseverance) but which was definitely just that it didn’t click with me, rather than being any judgment on the book itself. I wasn’t sure which of those I would class as my least favourite, but I think it’s going to have to be The Liars, because I really disliked the pacing and plot, the conclusion, the narrative style, and, well, most of it. That’s why I haven’t reviewed it fully on the blog – it would be quite a negative review, and I’m not in a negative place right now!

Favourite cover art

I actually couldn’t decide which is my favourite cover art this month. Instead, I have two favourites. I think it’s clear from looking at both of them together that I have a deep appreciation for white space on a cover – you only have to look back at my favourite cover art from throughout the year to see that. I also really like the colour schemes of both of these books, and the very different moods of two – ostensibly similar – sets of cover art. Thumbs up all around.

 

Other…

It took FOREVER, which is probably why this month has not very many books in it, but I finished the Count of Monte Cristo. I moaned A LOT about how long it was taking to read, but actually, I did quite enjoy it. So that’s something.

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The Giver of Stars – Jojo Moyes

I was delighted to see that Jojo Moyes has gone back to writing things outside of her Will and Louisa trilogy, so when I saw The Giver of Stars was on NetGalley, I knew I had to request it. It took a while, but eventually my request was approved (only two weeks before publication day!) and so shortly after, I dived into Depression-era Kentucky with naive newlywed Alice Van Cleve, to explore the mountains and the WPA Packhorse Library. Moyes is on fine form in this sweeping narrative, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Giver of Stars – Jojo Moyes

44288564._SY475_.jpgSet in Depression-era America, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their unforgettable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond, from the author of Me Before You and The Peacock Emporium

When Alice Wright agrees to marry handsome American Bennett Van Cleve and leave behind her stifling life in England for a new adventure in Kentucky, she’s soon disenchanted by her newlywed status and overbearing father-in-law, owner of the local coal mine. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, the smart-talking, self-sufficient daughter of a notorious local criminal, a woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. Alice finds Margery as bracing and courageous as anyone she’s ever met–and comes to rely on her, especially as her marriage starts to fail.

They will be joined by three diverse women and become known as the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to these women–and to the men they love–becomes a classic drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. Though they face all kinds of dangers–from moonshiners to snakes, from mountains to floods–and social disapproval to boot. But they believe deeply in their work bringing books to people who had never had any, expanding horizons and arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, the storytelling itself here is enthralling–the pages fly, and the book is unparalleled in its scope and its epic breadth. Funny, heartbreaking, and rewarding, it is a rich novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

I thoroughly enjoyed this sweeping story about Alice and Margery, the men they married and loved, and their experience as packhorse librarians. Backed up by a cast of other librarians and local characters, the blurb of this book says it’s the story of five women, but it’s definitely not. It’s the story of two. That’s not a criticism, by any means, and the female friendships which develop between the packhorse librarians is beautifully drawn. It’s just that there are more than five women involved in the library, and those five mentioned in the blurb are no more or less developed than several other characters.

Alice and Margery carry the story, driving the plot, and carrying the reader along with them. And to suggest that the book is equally about Beth, Sophia, and Izzy does an injustice to the structure of the book. That’s not to say that their stories aren’t compelling – they are, and all three characters are hugely interesting, developed, and add depth to a story which otherwise is very white and able-bodied. But I don’t see that Izzy’s story is any more compelling or developed than, say, Kathleen Bligh’s. Again, this isn’t a criticism of the book. I actually love how developed the stories of the secondary characters are, and think Kathleen’s story is beautifully done.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book. Alice is a compelling main character, and Margery is tough, take no nonsense, and also vulnerable, and sweet, and fragile in unexpected ways. Alice’s relationship with her husband Bennett, who swept her off her feet and whisked her away to Kentucky, is soured by the looming presence of his father, Mr Van Cleve, whose rigid ideals and disapproving countenance overhang the book as a whole.

Alice and Margery join and run the WPA Packhorse library, bringing them freedom and interaction as they deliver books, magazines, and pamphlets around the mountains and residences of rural Kentucky. The growing love Alice has for her surroundings is contrasted sharply against the cold, withdrawn nature of her marriage, and Alice’s character developing as she becomes the fully realised woman she evolves into at the end of the book. To see her grow was a thoroughly enjoyable journey – mostly on horseback – and one that I would happily recommend.

I did have a few disappointments or quibbles with the book – Sven, Margery’s partner, felt underdeveloped at times, occasionally nothing more than a generic male presence to bounce off Margery. And Alice’s acceptance of Margery’s unconventional lifestyle seemed too hurried to really countenance. There was some – but not a lot – exploration of racial tensions in the mines and the towns, but it was brushed off without much thought, which was somewhat disappointing. Alice’s actions in the final pages, once she reads the booklet, were surprising, and honestly, I thought her religious beliefs weren’t wonderfully portrayed, or developed, especially as her behaviour throughout the book does gradually throw off the confines of religion. These were relatively minor, though.

Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable book, a tour de force of female friendship and women forging new paths for themselves in a time when to do so was not easy. Two vibrant main characters sparkle on the page and their interactions and intertwined lives are a joy to read. The historical background of the novel feels natural and unforced, and highlights an initiative that I was previously entirely unaware of. I gobbled this book up, enjoying every delectable page, and will be recommending it around with joyful abandon.

Four Stars
****

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#reflectingrealities – We Need Diverse Books

My original plan for this blog post was a review of Great Expectations, which I finished on the way to work the other day. But actually, I was too busy yesterday to write a post, so now it’s Friday and I’m a day late. But I think that’s actually a good thing because I found something else to write about which will be more interesting than Great Expectations (which was, really, not that good), and much more important.

CLPE, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, released their second #ReflectingRealities report earlier this month, which looks at representation of ethnic minorities in children’s books. And, even though there’s an increase in this since last year, it’s still a pretty depressing picture. Only 7% of the books they surveyed (which covers  picture books, fiction and non-fiction for ages 3 – 11 published in 2018) had a BAME character, and only 4% of the books surveyed had a BAME main character. When you compare that to the fact that one-third of primary school aged children in the UK are BAME, that’s a shockingly small comparison, and means that the books children read do not reflect the reality they live in. You can read the full report here.

The shift from last year’s report, which was the first report the CLPE released, is small, but positive. But in order to keep moving literature in the UK towards something which looks more like what the actual world looks like, and to let people see themselves in the thousands of books published every year, there is still more work needed. So this blog post, besides highlighting the great (albeit depressing) work of the CLPE, is about a couple of initiatives which are designed to start working towards the much-needed more diverse publishing landscape that we should have.

Firstly, shout out to Knights Of, an independent publishing company that publishes diverse books, and  launched and crowdfunded a diverse children’s bookshop in Brixton, London. They have a live pitch process with their team, which you can read more about here. The bookshop itself tweets here.

Adolescent Identities is a research project run with UCL funding, which looks at how YA is reflecting the realities of its readers. For more, see their website, and check out their reading list infographics, which are awesome.

Gollancz have just (today!) launched a writing prize for BAME authors, who are underrepresented in Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror. For more on that, see here.

Thomas Truong is giving free portfolio reviews to illustrators of colour. His position as a publisher at Little Tiger is worth bearing in mind also.

Look at this Black British Illustrators thread on Twitter – some incredible examples of work here.

Most importantly, I think, as readers, our obligation is to make it known that we need diverse books, that we want to read stories which reflect the diverse makeup of society around us. Studies have shown that children as young as five have fixed ideas about what jobs people of colour and different genders can do – and that’s not even beginning to delve into the impact of intersectionality. Read diverse books. Champion diverse books. Request diverse books. And hopefully we’ll move towards a world where everyone can find someone they can identify with in books and literature!

 

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Cilka’s Journey – Heather Morris

I’ve been excited for Cilka’s Journey since I heard that Morris was writing a followup to The Tattooist of Auschwitz at a Bloggers Brunch at Zaffre a few months ago. So when I saw it on NetGalley, I requested it immediately. Boy, am I glad I did!

Cilka’s Journey (The Tattooist of Auschwitz #2) – Heather Morris

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From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, comes the new novel based on an incredible true story of love and resilience.

Her beauty saved her life – and condemned her.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, in 1942. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.

After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to Siberia. But what choice did she have? And where did the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was sent to Auschwitz when still a child?

In a Siberian prison camp, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she makes an impression on a woman doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing. Cilka begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Cilka finds endless resources within herself as she daily confronts death and faces terror. And when she nurses a man called Ivan, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.

This followup to Heather Morris’s smash hit bestseller, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, has many of the hallmarks which made the original so popular. A harrowing, yet heartlifting story of love and redemption in the darkest places, Cilka’s Journey follows one of the side characters from The Tattooist of Auschwitz from the horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau to the Siberian Gulag where, sentenced to fifteen years of hard labour, Cilka Klein endures new hardships, meets new people, and never lets go of hope.
Cilka’s Journey includes a foreword by the author, which explains that while this book is grounded in reality, many aspects of it are fictionalised, both because of the constraints of narrative storytelling, and because Cilka Klein had passed away, and thus Morris didn’t have the same interview and first-hand testimony on which to build her story.
I think this actually makes the book stronger. Knowing and acknowledging that it’s fictionalised gives the mind a chance to accept that not everything will be factually perfect, and instead the heart can join with Cilka on her journey as she survives the depths of humanity’s evil, The sparse writing style, which made The Tattooist of Auschwitz feel like a sometimes barely adapted screenplay is much more nuanced in this, her second book. The narrative is harsh and bare bones at times, but this gives space for the story and the experience of the characters (people!) to shine through.
A more developed, mature, and better written book than The Tattooist of Auschwitz, this has all of the strengths of its predecessors while improving on its weaknesses. Heartwrenching and deeply moving, Cilka’s Journey chronicles a depth of human horror that is at times almost incomprehensible. But the friendship and love that Cilka and her hut-mates show each other, the strength and resilience of people in the face of despair, make this book a deeply moving and affecting experience that I will treasure.

Four Stars
****

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The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

It’s late in the day when I’m posting this, because I was waiting until I actually finished the book to write the review of it. Of course, in actuality, I’ve been waiting literally weeks to review this, because this is, quite probably, the longest book I’ve ever read. And honestly, having slogged through the whole thing, I’m not entirely sure it was worth it. I listened to a Librivox version of The Count of Monte Cristo, read by David Clarke.

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

count_of_monte_cristo_1308Le Comte de Monte-Cristo is an adventure novel and one of the author’s most popular works. He completed the work in 1844. The story takes place in France, Italy, islands in the Mediterranean and in the Levant during the historical events of 1815-1838 (from just before the Hundred Days to the reign of Louis-Philippe of France). It deals with themes of hope, justice, vengeance, mercy and forgiveness. The book is considered a literary classic today.

So. My thoughts on this. Firstly, I have nothing but admiration for David Clarke who, entirely volunteering, contributed what was probably hundreds of hours of his own time to record this audiobook. At more than 52 hours length, I can only imagine how many glasses of water and hours of recording time he must have gone through to get this really quite entertaining rendition of the classic French novel. Of particular note are the accents the characters are given which, although they forced me to reduce the speed at which I was listening so that I would be able to understand, added greatly to the atmosphere of the novel. I will certainly look for more Librivox recordings by the same volunteer, although it may be a while before I attempt another Dumas, if they’re all as long as this one.

And that, I think, is my only real complaint about this book. It is so, so, so long. At 1300 pages, if I were reading a hard copy of this book, it would probably be classed as a deadly weapon of blunt force trauma. And the intimidating timestamp on the audiobook as I traversed the depths of despair in the prison of the chateau d’If, and began to explore the Mediterranean fourteen years later meant that I probably spent more time thinking about how much I had left in the book (so much) than actually just enjoying the book.

That’s a pity, actually, because the book was thoroughly enjoyable. I particularly liked the story of Eugénie Danglars, who was clearly a lesbian who ran off with her piano teacher. Occasional flashes of humour lightened what was otherwise sometimes a very heavy novel largely built around revenge.

If I had some criticisms of the book, they would be the following (besides the length, which, okay, maybe I’m just too lazy to read long books?)

  1. The Comte is apparently unrecognisable when he wears a hat. He’s also basically infallible once he sets his mind to something. While admittedly money can buy you a lot, there’s also a lot in the book which isn’t really explained – the most glaring of which is how on EARTH did he manage to be in the right place at the right time for Valentine?
  2. Valentine, the only girl in the book who gets a happy ending, is dull. She’s kind of like a Desdemona character, whose only virtue is her goodness? And I suppose her cleverness in understanding Noirtier, but still. She’s dull.
  3. How … how did the thing with Valentine work? Like… TWO doctors were fooled? This is some Romeo and Juliet level poisons. I wish to know more of this.

That’s about it though. A sprawling, vast novel, typical of the style of the French at the time, this goes on lots of little tangents and sets up backstories and motivations for many characters. The plot is so entangled and convoluted that wikipedia actually has a diagram to help out the unwary reader who hasn’t been keeping notes. If I hadn’t dedicated so much of my mental energy to moaning about how much time was left in the book, I might have more thoroughly enjoyed the two weeks it took me to finish this audiobook. I will read more Dumas in the future. Just, perhaps, not immediately. It’s a serious commitment.

Four Stars
****

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Girl Up – Laura Bates

A friend of mine moved to Canada a few months ago, and was trying to get rid of some books (those shipping charges, they’re a killer!), so I picked up a few from her. Among them was this book by Laura Bates, author of Everyday Sexism. A primer to feminism, puberty, activism, and more, this no-nonsense guide to being female in 2016 has a few things which haven’t stood up to the three years since its publication, but is generally a very entertaining and irreverent look at a lot of important topics.

Girl Up – Laura Bates

28595537._SY475_.jpgThey told you you need to be thin and beautiful. They told you to wear longer skirts, avoid going out late at night and move in groups – never accept drinks from a stranger, and wear shoes you can run in more easily than heels. They told you to wear just enough make-up to look presentable but not enough to be a slut; to dress to flatter your apple, pear, hourglass figure, but not to be too tarty. They warned you that if you try to be strong, or take control, you’ll be shrill, bossy, a ballbreaker. Of course it’s fine for the boys, but you should know your place. They told you ‘that’s not for girls’ – ‘take it as a compliment’ – ‘don’t rock the boat’ – ‘that’ll go straight to your hips’. They told you ‘beauty is on the inside’, but you knew they didn’t really mean it. Well screw that. I’m here to tell you something else. Hilarious, jaunty and bold, GIRL UP exposes the truth about the pressures surrounding body image, the false representations in media, the complexities of a sex and relationships, the trials of social media and all the other lies they told us. ‘Bates takes a myth-busting approach to body image, food, sex and advertising, and is particularly good at boiling down feminist language into a snappy, everyday vernacular without diluting its power.’ Metro ‘Essential reading for young women and girls, Girl Up is set to become a key guiding text for the next generation like The Beauty Myth and The Feminine Mystique have for preceding generations. Morning Star Online It’s hardly headline news that feminism can be funny. But, heavens, is it refreshing to see it done as well as it is [in this book]. Telegraph ‘Girl Up is something between a self-help book and a bracing love letter to today’s teenage girls…I wish I’d had Girl Up when I was growing up. I could have used such no-nonsense survival guide.’

I’m not the intended audience for this book – at almost thirty, I’m well past the seething mass of adolescent hormones and confusion that accompanied me a decade and a half ago. I wish I’d had a book like this back then, though. An introduction to many extremely important topics like food, sex, advertising, consent, and body image, it does it all with a witty and snappy tone that never feels patronising, and manages to get across a lot of information in a visually appealing and easy to read way.

I actually sat down and consumed this in one go – with occasional stops for cups of tea – one evening. The font is cute and easy on the eyes, and the book is interspersed with illustrations and visual reiterations of points that really helped them to hit home. My particular favourite, I actually took a picture of, because it really resonated with me.

I won’t re-read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I think it’s more important that it gets into the hands of actual teenage girls, who need to see this stuff.

So what I’m going to do is I’m going to pass this on to a friend of mine who’s a librarian in a high school, and hopefully that will help many other girls to learn the things that it took me far too long to learn, and introduce lots of people to the sexist bullshit klaxon.

Four stars (but only *for me* because I’m old. I will definitely be handing this on to others)
*****

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My Favourite Podcast

I don’t listen to many podcasts – largely because I never managed to find a good podcast app on my phone, and I don’t have a regular podcast listening schedule, and then they stack up and I feel guilty that I’m not getting through them enough. Particularly podcasts which post multiple times a week (hello, Stuff You Should Know, I’m looking at you), as they just run into the tens of un-listened-to episodes too quickly, and I am overwhelmed with guilt.

Nonetheless, most podcasts I listen to (even if only occasionally) don’t make it onto this blog, because they’re not bookish. But no longer! My new favourite podcast is a) bookish, and therefore amazing, b) sporadic (to a certain extent) and therefore unlikely to make me guilty, and c) amazing, and you should definitely listen to it.

Caroline O’Donoghue, author, journalist, and podcast host, is the mastermind behind Sentimental Garbage, a podcast about chick lit, and how amazing it is.

Image result for sentimental garbage

Sentimental Garbage Logo by Gavin Day.

Sick of feeling guilty about the books you should be reading, but aren’t? Annoyed that the books you read don’t seem to “count” as literature? Join author and journalist Caroline O’Donoghue as she discovers the chick-lit classics her guests were raised on, from schmaltzy romances to family comedies to bodice-ripping dramas. We talk to authors, fans and cultural critics about what makes chick-lit tick, and investigate why it’s so often overlooked.

I love this podcast. It is unashamedly adoring of chick-lit, and each week features a different guest, generally someone involved in the book industry, waxing lyrical about the chick lit that changed their life (except for the latest guest, Gavin Day, who only read the book three weeks before the podcast episode was recorded, but perhaps those three weeks were life changing for him!)

I can’t really put into words why this podcast is so great. Perhaps it’s because it makes no bones about the fact that chick lit is an under-appreciated genre, which brings millions (probably) of women reassurance that they are normal, that their experiences are universal, and that yes, actually, it’s not shameful that your favourite book was written by Sophie Kinsella or Marian Keyes, because actually, these are great books, which tackle a lot of universal themes and are incredibly relatable for many people.

Or perhaps it’s because Caroline and her guest inevitably get distracted by in-jokes and discussions of which March sister they would be, and why The Lion King 3 is better than Little Women is.

Maybe it’s even because I just like listening to some of my favourite authors (hello, Louise O’Neill?) talking about books which shaped their childhoods, and lives, and those books are chick-lit. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who was stealing Marian Keyes books from my mother’s bookcase when she wasn’t looking, and gleefully thinking she didn’t know (oh, she knew), while blushing furiously at the sex scenes.

Whatever the reason, Sentimental Garbage is definitely my favourite podcast, and I think that you, my loyal and faithful reader, should also listen to it. For that reason, here are some clicky links that will bring you to places where you can find it! But you can also just ask your Google Home to play it. That’s what I do. It’s wonderful. I don’t even have to open my eyes.

Sentimental Garbage on Acast

On Twitter:

On Substack

Caroline O’Donoghue on Twitter

Caroline’s first book, which I haven’t read yet, but I am assured is GREAT, and on Goodreads!

 

 

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August Roundup

 

It’s September again. Kids are back to school. Autumn is coming in, or at least I’m desperately hoping it’s coming in. I’m wearing boots and dreaming of chunky hand-crocheted scarves and a great excuse to drink loads of hot chocolate. I’m also panicking madly because the summer is over and I have NOT completed everything on my to-do list. But nonetheless, I’ve been getting some reading done.

Books

  1. Queenslayer (Spellslinger #5) – Sebastien de Castell
  2. You Were Gone (David Raker #9) – Tim Weaver
  3. The Postcard (The Note #2) – Zoe Folbigg
  4. Kingdom of Souls (Kingdom of Souls #1) – Rena Barron
  5. Never Have I Ever – Joshilyn Jackson
  6. The Wedding Date – Jennifer Joyce
  7. Dragon Rider (Dragon Rider #1) – Cornelia Funke
  8. Take It Back – Kia Abdullah
  9. The Surface Breaks – Louise O’Neill
  10. Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free – Cory Doctorow
  11. Scars Like Wings – Erin Stewart
  12. Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) – Neal Shusterman
  13. This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor – Adam Kay
  14. Full Disclosure – Camryn Garrett
  15. Under the Wig: A Lawyer’s Stories of Murder, Guilt and Innocence – William Clegg
  16. Knight’s Shadow (Greatcoats #2) – Sebastien de Castell

Short Stories/Novellas

None this month

Cover Art

Favourite Book This Month

I thoroughly enjoyed many books this month, but I think my favourite, because it was unexpectedly fabulous and deeply written, was Kingdom of Souls. So much magic, so much amazing  talent there. I can’t wait to see more from Barron.

Least Favourite Book This Month

Although there was nothing this month that I really disliked, a few were pretty ‘meh’ reads. Probably the most ‘meh’ was The Postcard by Zoe Folbigg. It didn’t really feel like it tied together the different aspects of the book. Also, I don’t think there were any postcards in it.

Favourite cover art

Have I mentioned how much I love the Spellslinger cover art? Every new cover is a delight, and Queenslayer is no different. The fifth of six, I can’t wait to see how this story ends, but luckily I already know what the Crownbreaker cover art looks like. As a set of six, these books are phenomenally beautiful, and each individual cover art is similarly fab. Definitely my favourite this month.

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Other…

I’ve recently started reading The Count of Monte Cristo in audiobook, as part of my Books to Read Before I’m 30. It’s like… a billion hours long. No, seriously. The audiobook is 52 hours. I’m 12 hours in, and it feels like I’m barely scratching the surface of how much is still to go. I have to admit, it feels like it’s a bit tooooooo long.

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Blog Tour: Cover and Title Reveal!

I posted last year about Apricots and Wolfsbane, the story of Lavinia, a poisoner and a woman making it on her own in a historical fiction novel from KM Pohlkamp. One of the last things I said in my post was that I thought the secondary character, Aselin, would have her own followup. Today, I’m delighted to be able to reveal that yes, she will have her own followup, and I’ve also got the title and the cover here, too!

Ready? I’m ready. I’m excited, in fact!

KM Pohlkamp’s sequel to the Historical Novel Society’s Editors’ Choice Selection, Apricots and Wolfsbane is called…

Shadows of Hemlock

I love this title. I think it keeps the theme going by naming a poison, but changes it enough that we know it’s going to be about someone other than Lavinia (for reasons that are really clear to anybody who’s actually read the first book).

I’ve also got the cover, and I think it’s absolutely fabulous. The gothic choice of typeface for the author’s name. The white-blonde hair of the cover model. Super.

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ljeez9JzRGWDw7TT7BsM_Publisher'sLogoThis second book is still published by Filles Vertes Publishing (Facebook: @FVpublishing; Twitter: @FillesVertesPub; Instagram: @fillesvertespub; website: www.fillesvertespublishing.com), and it’s obviously still written by KM Pohlkamp. A little reminder, in case you might have forgotten:

K.M. Pohlkamp is a blessed wife to the love of her life, proud mother of two young children, and a Mission Control flight controller. A Cheesehead by birth, she now resides in Texas for her day job and writes to maintain her sanity. Her other hobbies include ballet and piano. K.M. has come a long way from the wallpaper and cardboard books she created as a child. Her debut novel, Apricots and Wolfsbane, was published October 2017 and was designated an Editors’ Choice Selection by the Historical Novel Society, among other accolades. She can be found at www.kmpohlkamp.com or @KMPohlkamp.

I’m not sure what a Cheesehead is, but google assures me it’s a person from Wisconsin. So there’s a new fact for me.

What about the book, though? What’s Aselin getting up to? Well, wonder no longer, because I have the blurb as well!

Regret is a bitter poison.
In a desperate grasp for prestige, Aselin Gavrell betrayed her master to the execution block for the advantage of the onyx pendant now around her neck. Shelter from her master’s crimes comes with an unwanted allegiance and a list of innocents to murder. But the Guild of poison assassins will not be so easily pacified and charge Aselin to develop an antidote as retribution for her betrayal.

Unprepared for the independence she craved, Aselin is forced to seek aid from a fickle contact who wants only one means of payment: a ruby ring with a mare’s head. To save herself from her master’s fate, Aselin must navigate a growing list of debtors eager to toss her aside and confront her guilt in this fast-paced tale of growth and redemption in Tudor England.

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Shadows of Hemlock publishes on November 19th 2019, which is my dad’s birthday, actually. You can add it on Goodreads already though.

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