I haven’t updated you on what I’ve been reading since March. (You can find that post here.) I’ve now read 57 books in my Goodreads challenge to hit 75 before the year is out. I’m totally on target this year and pretty happy about that!
What I’ve been reading recently
This lovely coffee table book was gifted to me. It’s by the Nordic Bakery in celebration of their 10th anniversary. The Nordic Bakery is one of my favourite places in London, so I was very excited to see that they’d released a book. (Those cinnamon buns…) The book focuses a lot on the establishment and the aesthetic of the bakery- it goes quite deeply into product sourcing.
My favourite chunk of the book was the description of the combination of London elements and atmosphere with Nordic design; and how the two influences intermingle within the bakery’s look. I wish I could live in a home designed by the same team, to be completely honest! The design is practical yet stylish, perfect for a celebration of all things culinary, yet still cosy. Everything is minimal and simplistic without being simple – striped back would be quite an accurate description.
The photography in the book is stunning and very atmospheric – it made me want to curl on a comfy chair with a blanket, a cup of coffee, a good novel and a sweet treat. The book is basically hygge in book form. (My favourite photo is one of a Finnish lake at sunrise.) My only slight criticism is the I wish they had thrown in a few more recipes; and only because I loved their baked goods so much!
I loved Dietland. It’s one of my favourite books that I’ve read recently. The subject sounds really serious, but it’s definitely a wickedly dark and hilarious look at taking down the patriarchy and the diet and beauty industry. As soon as I finished it, I turned around and recommended it to others.
The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects
I really liked the personal stories and some of the background that Lutz reveals in this Brontë family autobiography, but I didn’t feel like using the “objects” to centre the biographical information around actually worked. Lutz tried to use physical objects owned by the Brontës (clothing, desks, walking sticks, dog collars, jewelry) to reveal her insights and research. It felt more like a gimmick when it could have just been a straight-forward piece of interesting non-fiction.
It’s a slight problem that I have with a lot of John Green novels. All the main female characters are boring Manic Pixie Dream Girls that aren’t particularly likeable. But I find the main girl in Paper Towns extremely unlikeable to the point where I wished they’d all give up looking for her.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here
I absolutely adored the premise of this novel: imagine a horror story told from the background character’s perspective, the rest of the high school, not Buffy and her crew. I just felt like it could have been pushed farther.
Harmless Like You
The novel jumps around in time between when Yuki, a recent Japanese immigrant tries to “make it” in New York as an artist and later on when her son is struggling with being a new father and trying to find his birth mother. I think Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s writing style is gorgeous but I found myself feeling rather blank by the end.
Milk and Honey
I love Kaur’s poetry and I think it’s plain-ness is what adds to its beauty and elegance. This is also what some people hate about it. I related to this book in a lot of ways, but what I especially hated reading in reviews is the sheer pretentiousness of people complaining that this isn’t “real”poetry. There is no such thing as “real” poetry. That’s the beauty of it. I find the complaint that this is “tumblr” poetry fairly ridiculous. Maybe it’s not a style that you like. Maybe you don’t think it’s “good” poetry. That doesn’t un-make its poetry status. Rupi Kaur’s poetry pulled at me the same way that I found Alice Notley’s to do.
Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley
I loved getting to learn more about Mary Shelly and Mary Wollstonecraft (a mother and daughter, if you didn’t realise). One wrote “Frankenstein” the other “The Vindication of the Rights of Women” both at a time when women were worthless baby-makers. And to be honest, they were both pretty bad-ass. I found their lives fascinating.
Difficult Women is a collection of short stories from Roxane Gay, all about, you guessed it, women. Some of the stories I LOVED. Some I was less interested in, which makes it hard for me to give it an overall rating, but I definitely think it’s worth reading. I particularly enjoyed the stories “North Country” and “Break All the Way Down.”
Where’d You Go, Bernadette
I flew through this read because I loved their quirky family and the search for Bernadette. But they ending just left me a bit cold.
The Girl With All The Gifts
Set in a post-zombie apocalypse England, I was quickly sucked into the world. I throughly enjoyed this book and it is so not your typical zombie novel. I won’t say much more as there are a lot of surprises but it’s worth reading. I’m scared to see the film because I enjoyed the book so much.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
I feel slightly guilty in not liking this book because I know so many people who love it. It all centers around animal testing and experiments and I really, really wanted to like it… but… I just didn’t. After the initial “twist” is revealed after the first third of the book is finished, I feel like it really labours to wrap up. And we still have 2/3rds to go. (Yet again another Booker Prize book that I’ve disliked. I never learn my lesson and stay clear of Booker Prize books!)
We Should All Be Feminists
This is basically a transcribed version of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s now famous TED talk. It covers what feminism means today and why we still need it. It’s very short (you could read it on one sitting) but still manages to be sharp in describing how the gender divide hurts everyone.
I should first admit that I LOVE Roxane Gay’s essays so I’m a bit biased. Bad Feminist is a series of personal essays about her life as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. It’s super high up there on my recommendation list for the year!
Quarter Life Poetry
Think Shell Silverstein poems and illustrations for a 25 year old, just not quite as clever. Very, very occasionally funny, but mostly bland. We get it. We are all broke and like brunch.
Love in a Cold Climate
I can appreciate the wit in Nancy Mitford’s novels and stories but I just don’t actually enjoy them that much. But if you love to read satire about the upper classes then give it a go!
The Roanoke Girls
Honestly, it’s a modern day VC Andrews book (meets a bit of Gillian Flynn with some August Osage County thrown in). There’s sexual violence just for the sake of driving the plot forward (because of course there is in a book like this – it’s one of my pet peeves).
The Runaway Princess
Part of me was ashamed for enjoying this book so much and part of me wants to embrace it. It’s escapism a la The Princess Diaries. Real girl meets prince will always be a pretty relaxing read for me. It’s warm and occasionally funny. I felt the beginning was a bit slow, but I enjoyed it over all. Don’t read the back of the book or pretty much any blurbs because they give the ending away.
A Conjuring of Light (A Darker Shade of Magic 3)
It’s hard to look forward to the last book in a series that you’ve enjoyed due to the fear of ending badly. I thought this was a fairly safe but satisfying ending. I never expected to care about Holland so much. Lila’s character was unfortunately one-dimensional here though.
House of Bones (Point Horror Unleashed)
I just don’t understand the appeal of Graham Masterson. Yes, he is prolific and one of the most popular in the field. But I’ve given his work a chance time and time again and I just don’t think it’s any good. This story is a super simplistic twist on the classic haunted house trope. If you really hate estate agents, you might enjoy it a tiny bit, just for the schadenfreude of it.
The Bone Witch
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It’s set in a world where there are different classes of witches and the most rare (and almost most valued/feared) are the necromancers. Our main character is obviously a necromancer. I can’t wait for the second to come out next year.
The Woman in Cabin 10
I must confess, I only downloaded this title because it cost less than a £1 on Kindle. But in the past, I’ve found some great reads that way. This time, I did not. It’s so blah and the main character is such a wet blanket and it’s trope city.
I absolutely loved the concept. Set in our time period, a DNA test can confirm who is your perfect DNA match aka the person that you’re destined to be with. The social impact on families (husbands and wives getting divorced because they’ve done the test and found out that their spouse isn’t their DNA “one”) seems so realistic. The book takes a surprise thriller turn, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I wouldn’t be surprised if this didn’t come out as a film in the next year or two.
The Keeper of Lost Things
It’s a pretty bog-standard tear-jerker but my favourite parts were when we delved into the stories of individual lost objects. I could have lived in that world much, much longer than that of the main characters. Bomber’s story was my absolute favourite and I would have rather spent more time with his story.
The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger (Volume 1)
After seeing the trailer for the new film with Idris Elba, I decided that I must smash my way though the series first before the film comes out. The first in The Dark Tower series was written when Stephen King was only 19 and you can really tell how much his voice has grown since then. I didn’t fall in love with the series immediately, but it piqued my interest enough that I immediately turned around to find the second book in the series.
I Am Not A Serial Killer
I liked the premise of it more than I liked the actualisation. I don’t think I’ll read any more in the series, but I didn’t not enjoy reading this first instalment. The main character has an interesting voice, but I found myself fairly sympathetic to the villain of the novel and rooting against the main character. (Maybe that means that I’m a serial killer?)
The Dark Tower II: The Drawing Of The Three: (Volume 2)
I enjoyed the second Dark Tower novel more than the first. I think it’s because the world is really broadening and more characters are being added in. Everyone was quite flat in the first novel and I really liked the fleshing out of “the three” companions. It made me super excited to see what happens in volume 3.
Me Before You
Or as I called it whilst I slogged my way through “Me Before Poo”. Because this novel is rubbish. The main character is brainless and has no real personality until a man gives her one. It’s also incredibly offensive to disabled people because there’s a super easy reading of it that implies that life isn’t worth living unless you’re able bodied.
This was a Gillian Flynn novella. It has a very open ending, and I prefer the supernatural option myself but I appreciated that there are so many different ways to interpret it. I usually find Flynn overrated, but I enjoyed this short read.
Favourite Reads: Bad Feminist, Milk & Honey and Dietland.
What have you been reading recently? Any great recommendations for me?