Reading Groups

A while ago now, I did a group read along for The Familiars by Stacey Halls. It was such a good experience! It was amazing and exciting to read the same book at the same pace with a group of others. I really appreciated being able to talk about what has happened, the characters and also see from other perspectives.

I am currently reading Rainbow Milk for a read-along. We are on day two of the reading (at the time of writing this) so we haven’t got through a lot of the book but I love Norman Alonso’s journey from Jamica to the England in 1958 and his experience being part of the Windrush generation. I find his perspective so engrossing and loved reading about his love for gardening. The character perspective has changed in the second section of the book and is set in 2002 so I’m sad that Norman’s perspective hasn’t continued but we will see how I get on with this book!


Do you like to take part in book clubs/ read-alongs?


Thanks for reading,

Charlon ♦︎

Book Review: Starling Days by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan


Rating: ★★★☆☆

Genre: General Fiction

Source: Watertones purchase


What Is It About?

I was originally drawn to this book because the synopsis said it was about a love triangle split between New York and London. I love books set in cities so I was immediately drawn to this. The book also covers Mina’s deep depression, and the effects it has on her life.

What I Thought

I kept plodding along with this thinking that it was going to amount to some big revelation or that something significant was going to happen but nothing ever did. The characters just plodded along, and although this is probably a commentary on how Mina lives her life dealing with depression, I just found it quite mundane to read. I thought Mina’s husband dealt with her depression atrociously and it was awful to read. One minute he wouldn’t leave her alone and the next he was across the world ignoring her messages when she needed him. I couldn’t understand what the book was trying to convey and I really struggled with it. This book is essentially a glimpse into the character’s lives rather than a strong storyline or plot that it implied with a love triangle in the synopsis.

I think this book was good in that the author didn’t ‘cure’ Mina’s depression. Recently, I have seen a lot of critique on books such as The Midnight Library where it is argued that depression is over-simlplified in this book and that just a change in perspective can make someone happy again, which is of course not the case.

I didn’t connect with this book overall, I think the characters were unlikeable and were shitty to each other and ulitimately I thought it was going to be a lot different to what it was.

The author’s writing is undeniably beautiful and parts of this book were stunning but if youre looking for something that glamorises cities and features a love triangle, this isn’t it.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Happy reading,

Charlon ♦︎

Kindle versus Paperback (or basically) Amazon versus Waterstones

Which do you prefer?


Reading Habits

I’ve recently bought myself a Kindle. I wanted to get it because I’m going to be travelling more to work and I wanted something light. I also have changed my reading habits… I used to have a Kindle in uni about 7 years ago now (don’t want to think about how long ago that was) and I really didn’t like it.

When I would read in uni, I loved non-fiction books or classic fiction novels and I wanted to devour them. I just wanted to speed through them, feel acomplished that I’d learnt something and then move on to the next one. I never got lost in a book, I always counted how many pages were left and I just wanted to finish the books. The kindle didnt give book pages, it wasn’t easy to see how far through the book you were (back then) and I just hated the experience of not having a physical copy. I ended up giving the Kindle to my mum who let me know that it is nowhere to be found when I went looking for it recently (maybe she felt the same about it). So I bought myself a brand new one, its smaller, lighter and I got it in white.

Nowadays, I honestly just have more time to read and get lost in books. I have a brand new appreciation for contemporary fiction and am not obsessed with ‘learning’ anything from books. I don’t have any deadlines over my head or any guilt about spending time to myself and not thinking that I could be learning or working on uni assignments instead. Now I read a variety of non-fiction books, I love them as a source of entertainment and especially in being part of the Bookstagram world, I love reviewing books, sharing reading experiences with others and immersing myself in the book world.


Amazon versus Brick and Mortar Stores

I did a Master’s Degree in Publishing and when I tell you the publishing industry has a gripe with Amazon it is the understatement of the century.

The bones of the argument is that Amazon needs physical bookshops for the consumer to browse books. They directly benefit from this browsing experience without having to provide a shop themselves. All whilst the publisher is trying to not have to sell their books dirt cheap to Amazon.

A customer walks into Waterstones, finds a book they like the look of, goes on to amazon, searches for it directly and buys it for a cheaper price. Amazon doesn’t pay for a physical store, they don’t have this ‘middleman’ so to speak. Amazon buys directly from publishers at a lower price because they have huge marketshare and buying power. Books are more expensive in stores because Waterstones is buying them for a more expensive price than Amazon from the publisher and adding their own cut to the book to keep the shop and pay the workers.

Amazon has done its best to recreate the browser expeience, you can search through genres, it will suggest books to you etc. but nothing is like walking into a bookshop is there? Picking up the book, seeing how large the text is, the print of the book and a personalised bookseller review next to it on the shelf.


Do you have a Kindle? What is your experience with it?

Happy reading,

Charlon ♦︎

Recommendations From Friends ♡

I’ve been given good book recommendations from 2 of my friends lately and wanted to showcase them on here!

It is so, so lovely to share experiences with books. There’s nothing like lending books, recommending them and bonding over them. I am lucky to have friends who love to read and who have different reading tastes to me.

I never want to stick to one genre/theme with books but I think it is difficult to buy books from genres you’re not drawn to. I often find that reading a synopsis puts me off a lot of books, but when someone close to you has said they loved a particular book and tells you their personal experience with it, it is more appealing. I definitely rely on my friends (and now Bookstagram accounts) to tell me about books from other genres whch they loved.


My friend, Amy, sent me some recommendations after seeing my Bookstagram account which was so kind and I always love her recommendations, she has the best taste from books to films to TV shows!

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix ★★★★★

I’ve already read this book, I couldn’t resist this cover and wanted to read it straight away. It’s oversized, looks live a video and was so perfect! It is set in the ’80s in a highschool and is centred around music, frienship and the supernatural. I loved this book! I usually like books around heavier topics but I always want recommendations because I would never usually go for a book like this but had the best experience reading it.

I’ve yet to buy a few more recommended to me from Amy but they will be on the way next month!


Ellie recommended me this next book! I lent Ellie Selected Poems by Silvia Plath and got this in return.

The Graduate by Charles Webb

I have yet to read this book. It is a bout a graduate called Benjamin who’s life is laid out for him but he wants more. He ends up having an affair with a family friend and which runs into a few complications to say the leasr. It sounds dramatic, I like the premise and I always trust Ellie’s recommendations! I can’t wait to start this book.


Have you been recommended any good books lately?

Thanks for reading,

Charlon ♦︎

Book Review: Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce

Rating: ★★★★☆

Genre: Thriller

Source: My lovely boyfriend bought this for me as a gift!


Synopsis

Alison is in a loveless marriage, she’s a ‘bad’ mother and is having an affair with her workmate… what could possibly go wrong?

What I thought

Initially, I found this storyline very different. The author played on traditional nuclear family roles; the father was a stay-at-home dad and the mother worked as a prosecutor, was working a lot and was pushed out of activities with her child because the father said she was doing everything wrong. I couldn’t tell what was going to happen in this story for the longest time. In one respect, this meant that there was a lot of filler in the book, I believe the first half could have been more condensed, but I did still find it interesting and never wanted to give up with it.

The second half of the book was so intense. I never caught on to how much Alison’s husband and lover were so filled with hatred. They were very twisted characters and I will say there is a trigger warning for SA and R in this book. I honestly felt like I was watching a television show rather than reading a book it was intense and messed up in places.

The book is well written, the plot came together so well and mirrored a murder case that Alison was working on. This is definitely not my usual read but it was entertaining to say the least!


Thanks for reading,

Charlon ♦︎

April| Celebratory TBR: April Fools, Autism Awareness Day, Earth Day…

April brings many events such as April Fools, Autism Awareness Day, Earth Day and St. George’s Day. I wanted to create a TBR inspired by these events to celebrate them or raise more awareness around them. So let’s have a look into these events!


April Fools Day

Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams

I wanted to go with a fool in love theme with a rom-com style book for this event. This is a commute to work turned love story where there is an ad posted in the daily paper saying ‘to the girl with the coffee.. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… drink sometime?’ I’ve seen a lot of memes about these messages in papers before, bringing the daily commute to life, and thought it would be fun to read a story about it.


Autism Awareness Day

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

This is a remarkable book written by Higashida, who’s autism makes spoken communication impossible, but an ambitious teacher taught him to point to letters, build words and paragraphs to communicate. This is an extraordinary account of what it is like to be autistic, to answer all the questions people have about autism and to see life through the eyes of someone with autism. This book raises awareness and is a bid for more education and awareness on autism.


Earth Day

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This is a remarkable novel which is a true love story to nature, the wild and the free. I have already read this but I could not think of another book that is such an ode to nature, a novel with a strong pull to the earth and its beauty. Aside from this focus, this is a masterpiece of a novel. It is a love story, an abandonment story, an outsider story and a murder mystery tied all into one.


St. George’s Day

The Best of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Can you get more british than Sherlock Holmes? I have always loved the films and the series shows. I want to read the stories this month! St. George’s Day is also my birthday, so I prefer to refer to this date as St. Charlon’s day but the rest of the world is yet to go along with this.


What will you be reading this month?

Happy reading,

Charlon ♦︎

March| Wrap-up: Gods and Monsters

I managed to read a lot in March, these are the highlights! There was some godly stories, and some horrors (and I’m not talking about the genre).


I saw so many lovely posts for World Book Day at the beginning of the month, it’s so lovely to see sucha lovely event celebrated and to remember all the dress-ups and book fairs at school and the true beauty of reading.

I did do a celebratory TBR for March and in this post, I said I wanted to read Gods of Jade and Shadow to celebrate my younger love for gods, mythology and the magic in reading.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno- Garcia ★★★☆☆

I loved the chance to read Mayan mythology for this book. I loved the god of death and the romance element to this book but I thought that it would be so much more of a wild ride than it was and fell short in a lot of places for me. I wanted this book to be dripped in magic and I beleive there was a lot of lost opportunity for more magic in this book. Overall it wasn’t the best in my opinion but I don’t regret reading it at the same time.


In celebration for World Poetry Day, I read Selected Poems.

Selected Poems by Sylvia Plath ★★★★★

I haven’t read poetry since university where I really didnt enjoy it because I felt like I didn’t understand it at all. I have previously read The Bell Jar by Silvia Plath (which I loved) so thought her poetry would be a comfortable place to start. I loved these poems! My favourite was Mirror and Resolve. I definitely want to read more poetry from now on.


For Mother’s Day, I chose a strange one. This book was about a toxic mother-daughter relationship. The main character has to care for a mother who never cared for her after an Alzeimer’s diagnosis.

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi ★★☆☆☆

I really struggled no to hate this. The female characters were awful to each other, I couldn’t ignore the misogyny in the book and really struggled with the concept. I feel bad that I didn’t like this and really want to re-read it and not get so hung up on the ‘bad mother’ concept. This title was later released for the International Women’s Prize Award 2020 and after these I felt even more like I had missed the main object of this book. I am aware that I’ve missed the underlying theme to this book but I really didn’t enjoy it.


Ok, a five star read to change the pace!

My Policeman by Bethan Roberts ★★★★★

This book was a masterpiece! It’s a journal to the other lover in a triangle. Set in 1950s Brighton, Tom settles for Marion in an intolerant society where he cannot show his love for Patrick. It is a story of how everyone gets hurt when you can’t just be with the person you love. There was commentary on fascism, women’s rights and homophobia. This is my type of book, it was littered with greek mythological metaphor, literary references to Anna Karenina and said something about society. It was perfection.


Then I ended March on a high…

In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan ★★★★★

Reading this was a Watermelon Sugar high! It was such a trippy book and was so so unique and interesting. Harry Styles was definitely inspired by reading this (he has actually read it) and I’d definitely recommend this read it was fantastic! It was set in a town called iDeath where everything is made of watermelon sugar, the sun shines a different colour every day and they live in an alternative version to society.


I can’t wait for April’s reads!

Happy reading,

Charlon ♦︎

Book Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

My rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Genre: General Fiction

Source: Waterstone’s website


I have seen the trailer for the movie adaptation for this film and it came up in an Amazon bestseller list so thought I’d give it a go. I’ve also gotten over my fear of reading bigger books after I read The Shining and loved it so I gave this a go. This was also promised to be an epic love story which I was in the mood for.

This was a frustrating read. I always want characters to do different things than what I read. I liked one message in the book, that you should pursue your dreams and live a life you can be proud of. But there are huge issues in this book that need to be addressed related to disability.

Lou is employed by Will’s family with 2 months to convince him not to commit assisted suicide.

The relationship and love elements to this book ruined it completely, it’s not what anyone signed up for. There was a massive build up to an epic love story where love conquers all which never happened. Will (who had suffered a bike accident and left him with disability) was intent on ending his life. Which leads to the underlying dangerous message of this book, where even when Will has everything he wants, living a disabled life is enough for him to want to die.

Disability and assisted suicide has been a huge topic of conversation on this book, one reviewer in Goodreads writes;

‘This [book] sic. reinforces dangerous assumptions society already has about people with disabilities. Many (able bodied) [characters] sic. have commented that they completely understand Will and if they were in his position they’d want to die too. They are wrong… there is data on this- that the vast majority of people with similar disabilities as Will do not want to die.’ – Ela, Goodreads.

I doubt this was the intention of the author but it is an issue with the book that cannot be ignored. I cannot find anything online that states her opinion on this matter.


Happy reading,

Charlon ♦︎

Featured image by Pedro Monteiro @ unsplash.com

Book review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Genre: Fantasy

Source: Waterstones listing


Synopsis

Casiopea and her mother are servants in their own family home, with the loss of her father who dreamt of stars and wrote poetry, they are under Casiopea’s grandfather’s control. He has a secret past in helping the ancient Mayan god of death Yacub- Kamé with a quest to entrap his brother, Hun-Kamé, the true ruler of Xibalba (the underworld), to a lifetime locked in a treasure chest. Casiopea unwittingly frees Hun-Kamé and is tethered to him, she is becoming more godly and he is becoming more human. They go on a magical journey to save the world from Yacub-Kamé, who wants to increase his power by sacrificing humanity. Can they regain him his throne and give Casiopea a life of wonder even the stars would be jealous of?

What I Thought

I really liked the premise of this book, Casiopea was at war with her cousin and with him being a man, he had the respect of the family and she was blamed for everything. She had a lot of strength and sass from the offset and I was so excited for her journey. When we met Hun-Kamé it was amazing, they left Yucatán and started an adventure. As the story went on, I couldn’t help but think it was slow and missed a lot of opportunity for more magic. When we met Loray, the devil, he handed over what Casiopea and Hun-Kamé sought, they moved on to the next place and the next person and the same situation happened, their encounters seemed brief. I wanted to get lost in the mythology of this, I think I definitely amped it up in my mind when in reality it was more of a tale of adventure. I haven’t read a lot of mythology fiction before and I thought it would be a lot more fantastical and dripped in magic.

For the first time in my reading history, I was really into the romance element of this book. I usually hate romance storylines, but the story here was a more will-they-won’t-they storyline and I stuck with this book mainly to see this out because it was a really lovely element to the book.

What I Appreciated

Learning more about Mayan mythology was amazing, I had only ever read Greek mythology before and was excited to meet these gods. There was a lot of travelling around Mexico in this story, I loved to learn more about the cities and the culture. If I wasn’t so scared of flying this is somewhere where I would love to visit!

It was very interesting how the main characters were linked together, the brothers were at war with each other and Casiopea was at war with her cousin. As the story progressed, Hun-Kamé became more human, Casiopea was turning into a goddess, there was a pull between humanity and diety and a duality betweeen love and hate which was amazing to read.


Overall, the premise of this book was good but I felt frustrated a lot of the time reading this because I was greedy and just wanted so much more magic. I would highly recommend this book if you like adventures and Mayan mythology!

Thanks for reading,

Charlon ♦︎

Book Review: Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Genre: Fiction/ General Fiction

Source: Waterstones online order


Synopsis

Antara has suffered at the hands of her mother for years, she was abusive and never showed her love or affection. Now, her mother is suffering with Alzheimer’s disease and is relying on Anatara to look after her. This is a story of a toxic mother- daughter relationship without closure.

What I Thought

This was so difficult to get into, it was so flat and relied so much on the premise of Antara’s mother being awful and now Antara has to care for her mother and it didn’t move much further past that. Her father never cared for her either but this was much more overlooked. There was a lot of women hating women in this book and it really didn’t sit right with me. I think it was unknowingly very mysoginistic and I struggled to get to the point of the book unfortunately.

The novel is shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. I think that at some point down the line, I’ve really missed the underlying theme of this book. I think it’s gone over my head because of my initial issues with it. As the book progressed, I believe that Antara was a mirror image of her mother in some way, they were tied to eachother in such a strange way. I may have to read this again and try to have a different perspective on it.


Has anyone else read this book? I really want to see a different side of this book!

Thanks for reading,

Charlon ♦︎