Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Corona Diaries Vol. 1

When this whole thing started, there were ten million tweets about how famous people like Shakespeare did great things when quarantined from plague, or whatever.  And I have to admit, I got sucked into that whole 'I'll use this time effectively' mindset.  I had this idea that I'd do something I always wanted to do and take up online piano lessons.  It is a really nice idea, in theory, reading more, doing more, being creative in this time where we are all stuck at home and have seemingly an endless amount of time on our hands where we're not commuting, not going out.  In practice? It's a whole different thing.  

Because I'm still working full-time.  I am hugely grateful to still have a job and one that I can do from home.  But it is still what takes up my time and brain power and energy between 9 and 5:30 Monday to Friday.  

I also have both boys at home.  N's home too, so we're sharing the cooking and cleaning as always.  We're also sharing supervising the boys' educational activities.  We're trying to reach that balance between having a structure to the day and letting them just kind kind of get on with fun stuff.  I'm sure everyone is doing this too.  I don't for one second think I'm unique in anything I've written in this blog post.

I'm doing a qualification with a local college right now.  It runs for a full academic year so will finish in June.  Lessons switched from face-to-face to video calls every week.  It's been nice to keep in touch with everyone but good god, it's been difficult trying to concentrate on writing assignments and juggling things like management concepts and 'assess four different contemporary external factors impacting on organisation's business and the HR function' right now.  I don't want to give up on this course but I'm also just finding it hard to focus.  Harvard referencing and report writing just don't really fit in to this world that has been changed so much.

There's also the significant portion of my day spent reading the news.  I have taken to doom surfing quite a lot, looking at the numbers, keeping up to date on the latest guidelines, advice. Reading expert recommendations of how long this will last, reading about survivor stories.  I check my temperature a lot, I keep track of how many times I've coughed.  How many times N or the boys do. I've been sucked into every detail and sometimes I need to pull myself away before I break my heart every day.

I'm also addicted to the good stuff too.  People doing nice things for others, the celebration of NHS workers, shop workers, delivery drivers, postal workers, cleaners, the police, and teachers amongst others.  I can't get enough of this right now.  I love looking at twitter and reading about personal stories too: the niceness of strangers, neighbours, friends.  How we're all stuck at home on our own but we're also all in this together.  All these stories restore my faith in humanity. 

I don't know what I'm trying to say here.  I think it's mostly just a reminder to myself that it's okay to do what I've been doing - which is the bare minimum.  I do my work, I do my bit around the house, I check in with friends and loved ones, I open the Word document with my assignments due on them and at least try to make some progress.  I also binge watched the first season of Riverdale on the weekend and there was no guilt whatsoever.  It's okay to just get by right now.  

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Favourite Books of 2019

I haven't read many books this year.  I've read 44 books so far and will possibly finish another before the end of the year.  (Looking at what books I have completed though include three textbooks for  my HR course!)

Unlike previous years, 2019's reading habits features much more books aimed at adults and non-fiction books than ever.  But still, which are my favourite books read this year?  YA.  My heart will always be with you, YA.  So without further ado, here are my top three books read in 2019. 


Autoboyography by Christina Lauren 

This is the first book I read in 2019 and at the end of the year it has remained one of my favourites.  I even wrote a review of it earlier this year (I'm just as shocked as you are) but this one's about an openly bisexual boy who has to go back into the closet after his mom takes a job in a predominantly Mormon community.  He takes a seminar for creative writing and falls in love with another boy.  It's about this hugely adorable and swoon-worthy romance between these two but also about the power of words and story-telling and the exploration of identity, acceptance and sexuality.

Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner 

I am such a sucker for an emotional contemporary love story.  I won't apologise for that!  I loved Phantom Limbs and how much this story was about the relationships between the characters.  The main character is Otis and three years ago, his little brother died in a tragic accident that tore apart his family and around the same time his best friend moves away.  In order to cope with the grief, he turns to swimming and his mentored by ex-Olympic hopeful, Dara.  Then Meg comes back and Otis, Meg and Dara are left trying to deal with how to navigate this new situation.  This book was so emotional, the grief and confusion, heartbreak and friendship. 


With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo 

I read Elizabeth Acevedo's debut book this year as well, The Poet X, and that book also stole my heart.  But I preferred Emoni's story.  With a daughter to care for and only her abuela's help, Emoni has to face the realities of her world.  She wants to take the new culinary arts class at school, she'd love to go on the accompanying school trip to Spain but she has to balance her dreams with practicalities.  I really loved this one.  I thought Emoni was a brilliant character, I loved the descriptions of her cooking, her relationships with her daughter's father, her abuela, her best friend, the new love interest.  One of my favourite aspects of the book was also her relationship with her father who moved away and keeping up with that relationship which really touched on some of my own personal experiences.  I think I'll always pick up new books by Acevedo.

Well, who is surprised there?  All three books are contemporary.  They all feature a range of diverse characters in terms of religion, sexuality, race, and disability.  Bring on 2020 with more emotional contemporary stories. 

What were your favourite reads of 2019? 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

What attracted me to #HR

I don't seem to have updated this blog on my latest career developments - I guess I leave that to Facebook and Twitter - but for the past 10 months I've been working in recruitment and from the start of January 2020 I make the step into an HR generalist role.  I'm equal parts thrilled and terrified about this.  And in the process of making this change, I've been to countless interviews.  And something that comes up quite a lot is 'why HR?' which I thought I'd discuss briefly today because I think it's interesting and maybe you do too?

If you were to look at my CV you'd see that I kind of swayed between retail jobs for a bit, took a really long career break and then went back into retail.  My first job after moving to the UK was at WHSmith.  Because they were hiring, really.  I got moved from the stationery department, to the front tills, to the book department.  And I liked working with books, so I thought I'd move to being a bookseller when a bookstore opened in the same town.  Then I gave that up to raise my children.  And when I went back into paid employment the only job I could find was at Accessorize.  



And as an aside, I used this as a selling point during interviews (I didn't know anything about stationery when I started at WHSmith, I didn't know anything about children's books when I took over that department at Books Etc, I knew zip about fashion before Accessorize but I am comfortable with the uncomfortable.  I like tackling these types of challenges, so take a chance on me etc.) 

Whilst I did enjoy my work at Accessorize I definitely did not love being on my feet all day. Or working late nights. Or weekends. Or bank holidays. Or working over the Christmas period.  Or working in a store constantly under threat of closure because of how poorly UK high streets and stores are facing in these trying economic times.  So what did I do?  I knew quite obviously what I didn't enjoy about my job.  So instead, I sat down and I wrote a list of all the things that I did enjoy about my job.  

And that list included recruitment processes, inductions for new employees, overseeing disciplinary meetings, performance reviews, updating personnel records, looking after the training in the store, the upkeep of payroll.  I liked getting to know the girls I worked with (and when I left some of them said I felt like their 'second mother' which made me feel pretty weepy, ngl).  That paired with my customer service skills, the juggling of priorities that anyone in retail must have. A good sense of humour in times of crisis, that sort of thing.  A bit of time with google and I came across an entry level Human Resources course at a local college that covered a lot of things that I loved to do and I could see myself doing elsewhere as a proper career.  It was perhaps the only time in my entire life that I'd had this actual light bulb moment.  I'm so grateful for my time at Accessorize

The rest of this story could be rushed along because I got my job in recruitment and now I have this other job in HR.  But the truth of it is that me figuring out (finally!) what I wanted to do with my life in my late-30s was just the first step, really.  

What follows was me working my ass off to work full-time AND study for that first HR course.  Writing essays, taking part in excruciating role play scenarios. Selling myself at interview after interview until I got my recruitment job.  Passing my HR course, promptly starting the Intermediate course.  Doing that while working full-time again, juggling it with family life.  Being under pressure to find another job (my recruitment job was a Fixed Term Contract).  Selling myself at more interviews, pushing myself further and further to fight for my right to sit at the HR table, to be included in the conversations, to be considered for HR roles.  

I know what I want to do now (and importantly, why).  And I'm willing to fight for it.  

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Ch-ch-changes





There have been a lot of changes in my life recently.  A lot of changes.  I was having dinner with an old friend lately who asked me about one particular change: the (in)activity on this blog.  She asked why I thought I'd stopped blogging? 


I hadn't given it much thought but within seconds I gave her my honest answer 'Grief.' Grief has really hampered my creativity and I found it quite surprising that it's had the lasting impact that it has.  I've faced loss recently and I'm a different person than I was before. 


But it isn't the only reason.  I think some of the reason is that life moves on and I have too.  I'm in a different job than I was when I was a regular blogger here, I'm studying at an evening course for the second academic year in a row, my kids are growing up and ... I'm not reading as much.  All this other stuff has taken up so much time that I now find it more difficult to sit down and write. 


And I think part of my problem was that I was so focused on what I used to write about. I was so focused on getting back to how I used to write that I lost sight of everything else I could be writing about if I gave it some proper thought.  Like my new career, my new life experiences, my new interests that I've taken on.  Which doesn't replace my interest in books, not at all.  But it gives my life meaning in a way that books and book blogging used to give me. 


So perhaps in the New Year, if anyone is still interested (and even if you aren't!) I'll be making some changes around here.  I don't want to define those changes too narrowly but I am excited.  I hope you are too.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Being a Person of Colour in the UK

This past weekend I was in London.  My husband N and I wanted to take our two children into London in order to see some theater on the West End.  It was something we were all looking forward to and was to be a weekend that was one of the highlights of our summer.  It was also a nice time for the four of us to spend some time together and see some sights.  Two things happened over the weekend that I wanted to share today.

The first thing happens so regularly that I cannot even count the number of times it's happened:  The four of us enter a restaurant in a group all at the same time, obviously a family of four.  The hostess takes one look at us and says 'Table for three?'


This photo is to help anybody who might not be familiar with what my absolutely beautiful family looks like.  N is of Indian descent and together with my half Native American heritage everyone else in my family has a darker shade of skin than me.  Because of this strangers all over the place take one look at my family and decide that one of these things is not like the others and I am it.

So, we stayed in a hotel equidistant from the two theaters we were planning to visit.  And we come out of a tube station and go to stand at a cross-walk and we're standing with a group of people who are already there. Within seconds of standing at this cross-walk this older white woman taps me on the arm and when I turn to look at her she says in this loud, exaggerated way, 'If you need to cross the street, you have to PUSH the BUTTON.' then nods her head to check if I've understood her.  She even pushes the button as a demonstration.

I give her two shocked blinks before I say 'I know that.' and she comes across all, 'Well, I was only trying to help' but somehow this time around she manages to speak to me in a normal tone of voice without the unnecessary pauses and emphasis on words. She even manages to look offended when I go to stand on the other side of N, and ask 'Did she just speak to me like I don't understand English?' because I really needed someone else to validate that that was a thing that had just happened. 

These things were just two little things that I happened to remember when I came to sitting down to write this.  Due to the regularity of these types of experiences it didn't affect the enjoyment of the musicals we saw or the time we spent together.  But it does make me a little sad.  That these are still things that I, or other POC, experience on a regular basis.

For these reasons, it's definitely necessary for this book, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge to be out there in the world.  She very intelligently puts into words a lot of the thoughts and experiences, things that make me angry about being a POC in this world (but specifically about living in the UK).  I've written a (very) little bit on this blog about some of the racism that I've dealt with in my life and every time I'm more vocal about my opinions or my experiences (especially online) I get (mostly white) people who are there to argue with me, have me explain to them who don't believe it is a thing why white privilege is an actual thing or similar.

This is my long-winded way of saying that I loved this book and that I'm recommending it if you haven't yet read it.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Reading Diary: Joe All Alone by Joanna Nadin

I'd heard good things about Joe All Alone by Joanna Nadin but I put off reading this book for the same reason that I've also put off writing this review: it all feels a little personal.

The basis of Joe All Alone is that this 13 year old boy, Joe, is left all alone in his flat whilst his mum and her boyfriend go off on holiday.  It was only when I sat down to write this blog post that I saw that this book was being described as 'Home Alone meets Jacqueline Wilson' and I feel that that description is pretty apt.  It has elements of 'this is the coolest thing ever' with all the freedom that comes with being alone.  But also the heartbreaking reality of being faced with the responsibility of things no 13 year old should have to deal with or consider.  Things like what to do when the food runs out or the electricity. 

I loved Joe.  His voice was endearing and I really felt for him immediately. I loved his friendship with Asha and the ways in which people show Joe that there is still goodness in the world after the shocking abandonment of his mother. 

It was definitely hard for me to read some parts of Joe All Alone.  Which is mostly because I grew up in a similarly neglectful environment.  There was no bad influence-boyfriend that swayed an otherwise good parent into making bad decisions in my case - I was left at home the first time around Joe's age.  For a weekend at first and then it would become longer (and it was never easier).  There were moments of Joe's narrative that really brought up the confusion and fear that really brought home my own childhood memories. 

Joe All Alone was a challenging read for me because of my own history.  It really shined a torch at poverty and neglect, for sure, but it balanced that out with Joe's positivity and optimism.  The end result felt realistic but ultimately hopeful.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Reading Diary: The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

I don't remember where I first heard about The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis?  It must have been an American blog or a link on Twitter.  I feel like every so often I really like to read something that I know nothing about, that I've heard nothing (or very little about).  It makes reading more refreshing for me bringing in that element of surprise that is often lost as a book blogger - even one like me who hasn't kept up with the news or gossip and has entirely fallen off social media over the past year.

For whatever reason, I became aware of this book, had it downloaded onto my  Kindle and earlier this year chose it to read knowing absolutely nothing about it beforehand.  It turned out to be a good gamble.  I really enjoyed reading this one.  It's told in three parts each part from the perspective of either Ryan, Miles or Harley.  These boys have nothing in common, they don't like each other, their only link is that they were each friends with Isaac, who at the start of the story has died.

I had several favourite parts of the story.  I really liked each of the boys' voices.  Each part of the story was really captivating and I wanted to read more about each of them.  Another favourite aspect: I liked how my opinion of each of the boys changed (including my opinion of Isaac) as the story progresses and because of the decisions the boys make.

I loved the exploration of friendship, identity and grief in The Sidekicks.  The boys are so vastly different: a nerd, an athlete, a rebel.  But the ways in which each of them finds common ground with the others usually begrudgingly was really sweet to unravel in this story.  I also liked that whilst each of the boys had a strong element of identity at the start: Swimmer, Rebel, Nerd, by the end of it each of the boys had much more complexity to themselves and within their friendship group.  Also, the treatment of their grief was really well done. Plus points also for the LGBT story line of a main character and someone tell me why AusYA is so appealing to me?

I think part of my enjoyment of reading this book is because in high school I perhaps took some elements from this book for granted a little too much.  I fell into a friendship group and never really questioned 'are these friends the right people for me? are these friendships providing me with what I need?' and also I never really fought against the identities that other people figured me for.  I think it took me a really long time to work out these tough but important considerations.

It's been several months since I finished The Sidekicks but I'm super glad that I gave this book a chance.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Reading Diary: Thinner Leaner Stronger by Michael Matthews

Another book I've read so far this year is this book: Thinner Leaner Stronger by Michael Matthews.  The title goes on to say 'The simple science of building the ultimate female body'  and it's a really interesting book about gaining muscle, shedding fat, eating the right types of food and all of it has a very scientific basis for success.  I read it fairly quickly and this book had my attention throughout. 

I think it's through reading this book in particular that helped me so far in my weight loss goals.  Namely, that I wrote down my goals and I was SMART about them.  (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) The author also suggests a mood board and some other ideas but the one goal I have achieved this year was to run for 30 minutes non-stop, which I did by focusing on my breathing throughout and keeping an idea in my head about why I was running.  Part of my goals are to be fitter and healthier, to be a healthy weight for my age and height, some of it is for other reasons. 

Since I was pretty young, I've always struggled with my appearance.  The way my face looks, my body, my hair.  I've found that I hate my facial expressions, I've hated the way my face changes when I smile.  I don't like seeing my hair from the back, I don't like my profile.  I don't like wearing clothes that would my emphasise my thighs or stomach or flab around my arms.  I don't like my wide shoulders, the thickness of my body, I've hidden behind my glasses since I was three years old. 

Since I was very young I have hated so many aspects of the way I look, I've hated my body.  I feel like I've been conditioned to hate that by everything and everyone around me.  The comments that other people have made about me - not even just in the media - but family members, friends, adults in my life.  It's felt never-ending and I've battled against my own self-hatred for a very long time.  I can't say that any of that will be completely erased anytime soon but what I can say is that things have improved. 



I used to avoid looking in mirrors, I used to avoid having my photo taken.  But it got to the point where I thought, why don't I have my photo taken? Why do I want to erase any memory of myself living this life?  I try not to be as overly critical when I do look in the mirror (I try to focus on one thing I DO like about myself every time I start to feel the negativity creep in) and I make a point of taking a selfie every now and then.  Sometimes I even post them on social media.  I've talked to several other people about similar thoughts.  It helps knowing that I'm not alone though it is sad.  Please note that I'm not posting this in order to receive any compliments.  Logically I know that I'm not hideous to look at.  I just need to build the confidence to be okay with what I look like and that is a process. 

I'm not happy with the weight that I am but I am working towards a realistic weight loss goal, possibly including some of the advice or suggestions I read in this book.  I'm working on other things too, like processing the comments and experiences I've had about my weight or appearance and framing them more in  a positive light in an attempt to free myself of some that.  I'll get there.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Two Years

Two years ago today my dad died.  I still find that incredibly unbelievable.  That I've lived in a world without him for two whole years.  How did that happen?  It doesn't feel that long ago at all.  Some days hit me harder than others.  When I think of something he'd love to hear about, when I read a news article or hear something particularly interesting or funny and I want to share it with him.  And for that split second I forget that he's gone.  And I'll never get to tell him anything ever again.  Or hear his laugh or give him a hug.

I'm not sad all the time.  Just sometimes.  It helps that he knew how I felt about him and I knew how he felt about me.  We both just knew and that knowledge brings me some sense of peace.  I often wonder what he'd think about my decisions, about my life.  I know he'd be proud of me, even if he might not always agree.  He was always so proud of me.  And N and the boys and couldn't hear enough stories and details of our life together.  I miss him.  Quite a lot.

Tonight I ate carrot cake as my small little way to celebrate his life and in my head I can just hear him biting into some really good food, closing his eyes and saying 'mmm, to die for' in this booming voice.  My memories of him are all around me and today I needed those reminders.




Here's a video I made years ago when he was getting more and more ill.  You can watch me fight back tears as I share a personal anecdote of one of his trips to visit me.  Incidentally, he bought me the entire Boxcar Children series because I adored the books so much.  And he'd have bought me that copy of Charlotte's Web.  The only book I mention in this video that doesn't have some connection to my dad is The Book of Questions.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Reading Diary: Maya Angelou Still I Rise


Today's Reading Diary is a little different as it is about a documentary that I recently watched.  So, around Christmas, I signed up for Netflix - mostly to watch To All the Boys I've Loved Before if I'm perfectly honest. But I figured, while I have it, I may as well watch all the things I'm interested in.

This was the first documentary I watched, all about the life of Maya Angelou.  And I was pretty surprised when I started watching it.  I realised pretty quickly that I knew very little about the woman herself, or her life.  I had no idea she was a dancer, a singer, an actress.  In fact, she was so many things in her life: a lecturer, a director, a screenwriter.  I really only knew her as a poet and the author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.



I found it fascinating about her travels, her marriages, her friendships.  And I suppose it is for that reason that I wanted to write this Reading Diary entry today.  Because on the back of watching this documentary, I added a great number of books to my wish list.  I not only want to read the rest of her autobiographies to read about her life in her own words but I added most of James Baldwin's books as well.  Maya Angelou and James Baldwin seemed to be particular friends and I became quite curious to read something of his.

If Beale Street Could Talk is soon going to be released as a film adaptation so now seems like a good time to read that book.  Also, Giovanni's Room is on my list because of the LGBT aspects of the story itself.  Also, Go Tell It on the Mountain.

Another book I added to my list is The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which I of course have heard about but have never read.  There was also a segment on the set of Poetic Justice where Maya Angelou had this intense interaction with Tupac Shakur that made me quite curious to read his poetry, The Rose The Grew From Concrete, so that made it on the list as well.

It was definitely a worthwhile use of my time, watching this.  I love Maya's poetry and it was fascinating to learn more of her life.  I finished watching this and started reading my favourite poems of her's all over again.  Old favourites are favourites for a reason!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Reading Diary: Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

The first book I finished in 2019 was a book I started in December of last year: Autoboyography by Christina Lauren.  And I absolutely adored it. 

For Christmas, I received a very shiny, pretty new Kindle and I thought 'hey, maybe I can get back into reading with this' and I really wanted to some e-books that I'd had for awhile.  So, Autoboyography was started.  And it really is just so emotional. 

It's the story of a teenage boy, Tanner, who grows up in California and he's out to his friends and family and school that he's bisexual.  Nobody minds, his parents are hugely supportive.  But then his mom gets this amazing job offer and moves the family to Provo, Utah.  Provo, Utah being a hugely Mormon place to live.  The Mormon religion literally seeps into most things in Provo and for his own protection, Tanner's mom asks him to get back into the closet and he does. 

But of course, there would be no story here without something going against plans, right?  Tanner ends up joining this Seminar which encourages students to write the first draft of a novel within class.  And the Seminar's teaching assistant is Sebastian, last year's Seminar hotshot who ended up with a publishing deal.  The second Tanner sees Sebastian he feels this intense connection and attraction.  And the rest, as they say, is history. 

What I really loved about this book is the friendships and family relationships.  Tanner's parents in particular made me sob with their unwavering love and support for Tanner's sexuality.  I also loved the exploration of the Mormon religion - through Tanner's eyes the reader is able to delve more into what their religion and values look like both good and bad.  We see their commitment to service and the good they do to their communities but also see the narrow-mindedness of their views of same sex attraction and relationships. 

I loved Tanner and Sebastian.  There are so many awkward parts in the book where the two of them are sort of dancing around the fact that they are both attracted to one another but unable to say the words or make a move because of the uncertainty around their situation.  There's also such an intensity to their relationship.  The feeling of dread just builds and builds as the two of them dive in to this thing together and when they start behaving more recklessly it becomes inevitable that they will be found out.  And I just couldn't tear my eyes away from the words in this story and away from these two beautiful boys. 

The last thing I loved so much about this book is this sense of how writing can be such a catharsis.  Tanner writes his own story and turns it into not even a fictionalised account of his relationship.  But he is at least able to write everything down and try to find meaning in what is happening and what he's feeling, his doubts, his fears, his hopes.  I loved that Tanner had that as his disposal and it reminded me how much writing has been important in my own life for that same reason. 

This isn't really a review, just some thoughts on what I've been reading.  But I do highly recommend this book!

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all! 

I realise I haven't updated this blog in many months but writing this post has been on my mind for awhile now. 

I wanted to talk a little bit about the books I'm choosing lately.  I've been in a sort of reading slump for several years now.  Since my dad fell ill and after he died, I've just not felt that passion for reading or creating blog posts anymore.  ...But that isn't really true.  I haven't been reading as much, but I am reading.  And having a look at what I'm choosing to read and what I've really enjoyed has meant that I've got a better understand of my reading tastes now. 

I'm not going to set myself any reading targets or goals.  I just wanted to share with you all where I'm at lately.  The books I'm enjoying, reading and seeking out fall within several categories: 

I love reading books by British authors.  So UKYA.  Where's the surprise there, right?

I love reading books about LGBT story lines.  Main story lines, though secondary story lines make me happy too.

I love reading books about mental health issues.  YA, non-fiction, I'm not really fussed.

Any combination of the three categories above.  Honourable mention goes towards any story lines that delve more into diversity: POC characters, disability, differing economic statuses etc.

I know I'm not really stating anything new with this.  I've always enjoyed these types of books.  I'm just choosing them more regularly lately.  And I'm loving that.  So may this continue within my reading into 2019! 

I hope (though won't push myself) to bring some more of my thoughts on books I've been reading to you soon enough.

Happy New Year and good luck with all of your goals this year!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Adult Fiction I've Been Reading

Whenever I'm in a reading slump, I find that changing things up can sometimes help.  So at different points this year I've picked up the following adult fiction books.  I've really enjoyed all of these books though they are very different.  It's only made me realise that I don't always need to lock myself into a cycle of only reading young adult fiction ...there is a whole world of other books and stories out there for me.

Some Girls Do by Clodagh Murphy

I'm not really sure how I first came to know about this book? Perhaps a recommendation on Amazon? But it was such a fun read. About a woman who writes incredibly saucy things on her anonymous sex blog ...but has very little actual experience with sex or relationships.  A random meeting with a man whore means she propositions him with a proposal - help her with a sex education for a period of time so she can make the moves on someone actually her type.  Which turns out to be the sexy editor at a publishing house who wants to publish her blog.  I thought it was nice to see Claire gradually gain confidence, in herself, in asking for what she wants sexually and what it means to be in a relationship and that Luca helps her get there.  I thought it was really sweet and just the right amount of sexiness.


Salvaged by Jay Crownover


Oh, Jay Crownover.  I find her books quite problematic ... and yet I find I also can't stop reading her books.  Salvaged is at least a big step away from the first (mostly horrible) book I read by her. And actually, one of the big draws for this book in particular was a) I think it's the last in the series and b) it was billed as more of a romance than the sex-heavy stories she's come out with in the past.

As I said, there is something very ...addictive about the way Jay Crownover writes.  But I can't stand the way she writes about and dramatises stories of abuse and trauma. I can't stand it.  So while I did mostly enjoy this story and I read it quickly, I could only ever give it three stars because there's no reason whatsoever to make the choices she does in writing Poppy's story.  None.


Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is one of the characters that will stay with me for a very, very long time. I was fairly shocked by how much I loved this book.  Me being fairly contrary, I was a little bit resistant to read this book at first because of the amount of hype surrounding it. Once I gave in though, I fell pretty hard for this story.  About loneliness in modern times.  It all just felt really heart-breaking.  But also hopeful.  I loved watching Eleanor's transformation and the way she breaks out of the small world she found herself in, isolated and alone, drinking away her weekends.  It felt real and believable.  I almost didn't want this book to end because I didn't want to say goodbye to her.

I really loved how abrasive she is.  Eleanor at the start of the book was howl-inducing but even as she softens, there was this straight to the point, don't give any fucks vibe to her that I really dug.


Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

Has there ever been a more gorgeous book than Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman?!  I'm not sure there has been.  I loved every second of this book.  All the longing and nostalgia, each tiny build-up in attraction between Elio and Oliver.  I wasn't prepared for the level of intensity that I got with this story.

I loved the Italian setting of the book and this circle of intellectuals that surround the two main characters.  But it was the romance between the two of them that consumed my whole being.  I couldn't get enough of it.  Such yearning, such longing.  Such intimacy once they both give in to how they feel for each other.  Not long after reading this I watched the film and now I have an inappropriate crush on Timothee Chalamet.


Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

I'll admit it ... I did watch the film before I read the book.  I really enjoyed the film, I find there's something quite compelling about Saoirse Ronan.  And I just found the storyline to be fascinating.  I really wish there were more immigrant stories like these. Or if there are, do let me know what I should be reading.

There was something quite ...subtle about this book.  It isn't showy or flashy.  There isn't a great deal that happens either.  It's about a girl, Eilis, who ends up immigrating to the US in the 1950s as there is very little for her in Ireland.  She ends up slowly adjusting to life in Brooklyn but misses home.  It's a book about straddling different cultures and leaving home.  I felt homesick and confused along with Eilis.  I can imagine this book won't be for everyone but I highly enjoyed it.

Do you ever read outside your preferred genres?

Monday, September 10, 2018

UKYA I've Been Reading

When in doubt or when in a reading slump, I pick up UKYA. I love UKYA. I love the familiarity of setting and language I know without question.  UKYA forever.


Truly Wildly Deeply by Jenny McLachlan

I adore Jenny McLachlan.  She's such a consistently good author for me.  I just know what I'm getting into with her and she really delivers.  Truly Wildly Deeply was such a lovely story.  It was so easy to fall in love with both Annie and Fab individually as well as a couple.  I fell pretty hard for these two.  I loved Annie's determination to be independent and her feminist views of love and romance. And Fab was just so charming and ... passionate.  About life and everything in it and about Annie.  This whole story was just so sweet.  Of course I also loved that the two main characters are a Polish immigrant and a girl who is many things but also has cerebral palsy.  This book was just so lovely and empowering and charming.


Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

I truly loved Goodbye, Perfect.  It isn't nearly as emotional as I've read by the same author before but I feel like it was a really interesting, topical story and it was important to read.  Goodbye, Perfect is a story about friendship, relationships, and about the unrealistic and dangerous expectations we put on young people today to do well academically.  Eden's world is turned upside down when her formally dependable and solid best friend runs off before their GCSEs.  Even worse is that Bonnie has run off with one of their teachers.  Most of the story is about  Eden questioning Bonnie and their friendship and also herself.  Trying to work out what she should do.  Turn in her best friend or keep to the friend code?  What I loved about this book in particular is that balancing out Bonnie's strive for perfection and excellence is Eden's more laid-back interest in other (just as important skills) and also her lovely and (most importantly!) healthy relationship with a boyfriend her own age.  Eden and Bonnie's stories really highlight the pressures put on teenagers and all the challenges they face.


The Last Days of Archie Maxwell by Annabel Pitcher

I hold my hands up now and admit that The Last Days of Archie Maxwell is the first book I've read by Annabel Pitcher.  I know.  But, for me, it was a great place to start.  I love Barrington Stoke and what they do for dyslexic and struggling readers.  They choose some of the best authors around and this book is no exception.  I was quite surprised by the amount Annabel Pitcher packed into this book.  It's pretty hard-hitting.  Touching on bullying, homophobia, suicide, grief.  But it all felt as though there was no sugar-coating.  Archie is struggling after his dad comes out as gay, it feels like his family is falling apart, he's not in a place to accept or support his father and he's being bullied at school.  This all leads Archie to spend time near the train tracks wondering how easy it would be to end all his struggles in an instant. 


Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

I really loved Only Love Can Break Your Heart.  I read Katherine Webber's debut book last year and loved that too so she's quickly becoming an author that I look out for. 

In this book I really enjoyed the setting (Californian desert) and also the exploration of heartbreak, grief, sisterhood, friendship and relationships. This book is mostly set during the summer as Keiko is dealing with the heartbreak of the death of her sister and also dealing with the added pressure that she feels being the one who is left behind, trying to compensate for the loss of her sister.  She feels all kinds of loss until she meets Seth.  A boy who is very different to the usual crowd of popular, beautiful people she's surrounded herself with. But they both love the desert and together they go on these night-time adventures and perhaps with each other they can find happiness? 

I really enjoyed Keiko's journey of self-discovery in this book.  With the guilt she feels, the way she views herself and her place within her family, her friendships and especially in her relationship with Seth.  This book was a really beautifully written and there were quite a few moments where tears threatened to spill over.


After the Fire by Will Hill

Why did it take me so long to read this book?  I'd heard about After the Fire by Will Hill from so many different people - literally everyone was talking about it.  But it wasn't until I heard Will Hill talk briefly about this book at YAShot earlier this year that I finally sat up and took notice.  I'm glad I finally did read it.  I think part of the problem is that I don't often get along well with books involving cults and I expected After the Fire to follow a linear format.  I'm not sure why I just assumed that would be the case.  But it isn't.   It's also based on real-life events that I had watched on the news growing up which gave it this added layer of emotional connection to Moonbeam's story. 

As I've already mentioned the format, I think that was my favourite aspect of this book.  This is Moonbeam telling her story to a psychologist after the fire occurs that ends the cult-environment that she's grown up in. You can see how she struggles against the brainwashing she's known all her life and how slowly she learns to see her life with new eyes and a new perspective.  Hers is a story of survival and a determined fight for freedom and it was heartbreaking and joyous to read.  I was amazed by how Will Hill managed to keep up the pace, the mystery and intrigue with the characters and story-line throughout.  You think you know but then you really don't. It's been awhile since I've been so emotionally invested in a character, in a story like I did with Moonbeam in After the Fire.  I felt both mentally and physically exhausted when I finished this book as I felt like I was with her every step of the way.  What an intense book.

What was the last UKYA book you've read?