Recent Reads December to January

Sorry it’s been so long since I posted! I’ve had camera, computer and motivation issues (the last a mental health thing, not just not feeling like it!) but the first two at least have been sorted for now, and that’s helped with the last one… Here are some books that I’ve read in the past few months that I wanted to write about, but that weren’t part of reading challenges

Magic, Murder & Mistletoe by  Ellen Jane

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I’ve always been interested in the idea of the fantasy and detective genres being combined in a book, and this one doesn’t only do that, but it also includes an adorable lesbian romance! I found out about it through the author’s Instagram account, which is also where I heard that there’s going to be a sequel sometime soon!  It’s a really sweet, Christmassy mystery with a really interesting magic system and some very cute dogs!  The only thing about it that I’m not keen on is the cover, but that’s just because I’m not personally a fan of that style of artwork… It contains a really good use of the trope ‘pet the dog’ because it not only shows that Sinead is not as aloof as she at first seems, but also shows that she and Heather are more compatible than they at first think!

Love Around The Corner by Sally Malcolm

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Another sweet LGBT Christmas book! This one isn’t a mystery, but a gay retelling of The Shop Around The Corner/You’ve Got Mail with some very endearing bookiness!  The two guys meet online in a Jane Austen forum, though in real life Leo (who runs a bookshop) has the impression that Alfie wouldn’t be much a reader (thanks in part to a woefully ungrammatical sign at his garage…)  Obviously there are plot points that have to be hit during it (such as the looking in the window and seeing it’s the rival/enemy who is the blind date) but it also does it its own way as well.  The way Alfie apologies for not admitting he knew it was Leo is so sweet, so book-nerdy and may or may not have something to do with a certain letter a certain Captain writes in Persuasion (the book they first bonded over). It’s really really sweet and I was actually a bit teary during that scene, even though I’d only expected to enjoy it well enough!  If you don’t like sex scenes, however, you may want to skip a couple of chapters!

Carol/The Price Of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

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And rounding out the gay festive trilogy, I finally read Carol (for the Rainbow Readers Bookclub on Instagram) and I fell so in love with Patricia Highsmith’s writing in general and this book in particular!  If you’re weird in the same ways that I am, it can almost seem like cheating to pick one of your favourite books of the year from one of the last you read (no, I don’t know why it does, but it does!) but I couldn’t help it with this one as it’s so amazing!!  The romance is so beautiful, and I was very glad to see that Carol was already going through a divorce at the beginning, as I would have been uncomfortable with it had she been married when she gets together with Therese!  Even though it’s not a thriller, when most of the author’s other works are, you can still clearly see that that’s her genre as the air of suspense throughout the book is so vivid!  When I was doing one of these ‘tell the book by the first line’ quizzes afterwards, I was able to identify another of her works just by the style!  I really need to read more of her stuff, and I need to watch the film!

Danganronpa 2 Volume One

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Completely different style now (though with a central mystery theme just like the first mentioned!), but I’m such a big fan, I wanted to at least mention it!  This is a manga adaptation of a computer game that’s also part of a series that includes anime series as well!  The second game contains my favourite characters and my favourite overall story arc so I was thrilled to discover they’d finally translated the manga into English, and thrilled to get it as one of my Christmas presents from my Girlfriend!  She got me into the series, knowing my love of mysteries would make it appeal to me, though she has somewhat created a monster with this as I’m far more obsessive about it than she ever has been!  What’s particularly exciting about this adaptation is that it tells the story from a different POV from the game!  Incidentally, that helped me with my own Work In Progress, as I suddenly realised how much better the opening would flow if I showed it form a different character’s perspective!  I may have read this all in one go on Christmas Day…

Ruin And Rising by Leigh Bardugo

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In my opinion this is by far the best of the Grisha Trilogy! Everything about the writing, characters and plot just falls into place here!  There were twists I didn’t see coming, twists I thought I saw coming and really really hoped I had and lots of crying for different reasons!  It was my first five star read of the new year, and managed to pull me out of the reading slump I’d been in since being ill at Christmas! The side characters really blossom in this one, but I’d say the leads do as well… And while everyone in the fandom is clamouring over a backstory novella or book about The Darkling (who is a very interesting villain, if not a swoonworthy or shippable character in my opinion!) I’d be more interested in reading one about his mother… we hear some more of her story in this one and I think there’s plenty of material there for a Greek Tragedy style book!


I fully intend to write a lot more frequently again now that I’ve done the first step of actually getting a blog post done!  It’ll be a lot less intimidating now to get back to than it was when I hadn’t posted since 10th of December!  I’ve started new reading challenges, have some tags I want to get round to, and more recent reads to catch up on reviewing…. although the next post of that won’t be as overall positive as this one, there’s stuff I really want to discuss about the books I’ll be including!

Please feel free to comment!

Completed Reading Challenges

I know I haven’t been posting as much this month, and after promising Christmas Tags! I had more trouble coming up with the right books for the right prompts in the Tags and, even more, then getting photos that looked right and then my Girlfriend was ill and now I am, too! So I’m afraid that this post isn’t going to contain much new material. Instead, it’s going to be the lists of all the prompts in the Book Riot Read Harder and Reading Women Challenges for this year, and what books I read for them. Although I’ve done wrap up posts already as I went along, this time they will be in challenge order and all in one place, but just titles, rather than further information. I was going to include the photos, but since that’d be almost 50 photos, I thought it might overload things a little! All photos can be found in the wrap ups.  I intend to do the 2019 versions of both these challenges, as well, so it makes sense to gather all the titles together on the last day of this year! Obviously I read only books written by women for the Reading Women Challenge, however this year I had challenged myself personally to do the same with all my reading, so all the authors for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge were women as well.  I will continue this next year in the case of Reading Women, but for the rest will include men and Non Binary authors back into my reading!


1. A Book Published Posthumously – Come Close by Sappho

2. A Book Of True Crime: Mary Queen Of Scots And The Murder Of Lord Darnley by Alison Weir

3. A Classic Of Genre Fiction: The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin

4. A Comic Written And Illustrated By The Same Person: Fruits Basket Volume One by Natsuki Takaya

5. A Book Set In Or About One Of The Five BRICS Countries: The Tiger Ladies by Sudha Koul (India plays a major role)

6. A Book About Nature: Seeds Of Fortune by Sue Shepard

7. A Western: Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

8. A Comic Written Or Illustrated By A POC: Gakuen Polizi by Milk Morinaga

9. A Book Of Colonial  Or Postcolonial Literature: Chainbreaker by Tara Sim

10. A Romance By Or About A POC: A Christmas Kiss by Jade Winters

11. A Children’s Classic Published Before 1980: Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson (1957)

12. A Celebrity Memoir : Around The World In 72 Days by Nellie Bly (celebrity journalist on publicity stunt)

13. An Oprah Book Club Selection: Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

14. A Book Of Social Science: The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klien

15. A One-Sitting Book: Gone Away by Hazel Holt

16. The First Book In A New-To-You YA Or MG Series: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

17. A Sci Fi Novel By A Female Author With A Female Protagonist: Rebel Rising by Beth Revis

18. A Comic That Isn’t Published By Marvel, DC Or Image: Sailor Moon Volume One by Naoko Takeuchi

19. A Book Of Genre Fiction In Translation: Betty Boo by Claudia Pineiro

20. A Book With A Cover You Hate: Human Acts by Han Kang

21. A Mystery By A POC Or LGBTQ+ Author: The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka

22. An Essay Anthology: Anarchism And Other Essays by Emma Goldman

23. A Book With A Female Protagonist Over The Age Of 60: The Christmas Mouse by Miss Read

24. An Assigned Book You Hated (Or Never Finished): To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (hated in Uni)


1. A Book By A Woman In Translation (Bonus If Translated By A Woman): Near To The Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector (translated by Alison Entrekin)

2. A Fantasy Novel By A Woman Of Colour: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

3. A Book Set In The American South: Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

4. A Short Story Collection: Magic & Romance by Niamh Murphy

5. A Graphic Novel Or Memoir: The Guild Volume One by Felicia Day

6. A Book Published By An Independent Press: Margaret The First by Danielle Dutton

7. A Book Set In Russia Or By A Russian Author: The Mass Strike by Rosa Luxemburg

8. A Book With A Viewpoint Character Who Is An Immigrant Or Refugee: The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis-Pickney

9. A Book By A Canadian Or Australian Author: The Heart Of Valour by Tanya Huff (Canadian)

10. An Essay Collection: Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit

11. A Book About Someone With A Chronic Illness: As I Descended by Robin Talley (chronic pain and PTSD/panic attacks)

12. A True Crime Book: Mary Queen Of Scots And The Murder OF Lord Darnley by Alison Weir

13.A Book By An African-American Woman About Civil Rights: Meridian by Alice Walker

14. A Classic Written By A Woman (Bonus If Not Austen Or Bronte): Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

15. A Poetry Collection: Female Poets Of The First World War ed. Lucy London

16. A Book Where The Characters Are Travelling Somewhere: Around The World In 72 Days by Nellie Bly

17. A Book With A Food Item In The Title: Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

18. A Book Written By A Female Nobel Prize Winner: I, Rigoberta Menchu, An Indian Woman In Guatemala by Rigoberta Menchu and Elisabeth Burgos-Debray

19. A Book From The Reading Women Award 2017 Shortlist: The Strays by Emily Bitto

20. A Memoir By Someone Who Lives In A Country Different From Yours: The Tiger LAdies by Sudha Koul

21. A Book Inspired By A Fairytale: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

22. A Book By A Local Author Or Recommended By A Local Bookseller: The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan (both)

23. The Book That’s Been On Your TBR The Longest: Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

24. A Book In A Genre You’ve Never Read Before: The Canon The Beautiful Basics Of Science by Natalie Angier (adult pop-sci)

25. A Book By Virginia Woolf: To The Lighthouse

26. A Book By Flannery O’Connor: A Good Man Is Hard To Find

As you can see, I mostly managed to find different books, but doubled up between the two challenges on a few occasions. A couple of them I didn’t review as part of the challenge as I thought at the time that I was bound to read others that would fit the challenge as well (fairytale and Canadian or Australian) but ended up not.

I’m so excited to get into my new reading year, and the new reading challenges! Please feel free to comment in the section just below the post title!

The Year End Book Superlative Tag

This is one of the book tags that I actually know the creator of! I don’t always make a note when writing them down, or otherwise can’t find the original, but in this case I know it was A Book Olive on BookTube!

Most Likely To Be In The Movies: The Book That Would Make The Best Movie


There are various books that I read this year that I’d LIKE to see adapted into films, but the one I think would work best, and wouldn’t lose too much of the feel in the change of media, is Cinder.  It’s a Sci-Fi/Fantasy dystopian retelling of Cinderella with droids and cyborgs and plagues and Evil Queens and I think it’d lend itself well to sweeping establishing shots and so on! And also, Iko in her first droid form would be no doubt adorable!

Biggest Drama Queen/King: Most (Overly) Dramatic Book


Maybe I just don’t ‘get’ short stories and there’s more to it, but I found A Good Man Is Hard To Find to be needlessly bleak and violent…

Best Dressed: The Book With The Best Cover


Just LOOK at it!

Most Creative: The Book With The Most Unique Plot, Characters Or Structure


I loved this book so much! It;s a really strange, beautiful, lyrical sad story! I intend to read all of her books, now! And I actually have a reasonable chance of meeting her sometime, as my brother knew her at uni and my boss is friends with her!

Most Popular: The Book With The Most Ratings On Goodreads


Apparently Cinder has been marked as ‘read’ by more people but either some of them didn’t rate it, or some people have rated City Of Glass without actually reading it…

Most Likely To Succeed: The Book That Is Going To Be Appreciated For Many Years To Come


I think that in general Ali Smith’s books are going to become considered as classics, but I chose this one in particular for two reasons: 1. It’s the only one I’ve read this year! 2. The fact that it is so closely tied to the Brexit vote and the immediate horrible repercussions means that it will, in my opinion, become more rather than less popular. Books that are considered classics very often deal specifically with events around the time they were written and provide a view into that time for later readers, instead of being considered ‘dated’

Class Clown: The Book You Couldn’t Help But Laugh At


This is such a funny, short book! It’s really sad in places, too, but the writing is so funny that I actually laughed out loud, which I rarely do with books!

Most Improved: Book That Started Off Slow, But Really Picked Up


I was struggling a bit with Frog Music at first, but not only did getting an edition I could hold more easily (as opposed to one of those over-tall paperbacks) help, but then I accidentally found out it’s based on a true story, and I got a lot more interested then! Ended up loving it!

Cutest Couple: The Cutest Couple In A Book


Simon and ‘Blue’!!! No contest! And that’s saying something since I read another Timekeeper book this year! Although my personal favourite scene with them, and the cutest in my opinion, is in the sequel, when they’re already an established couple…

Biggest Heartbreaker: The Book That Broke Your Heart


A series, rather than a single book, but it is Manga, so there’s less content in each one… Fruits Basket consistently breaks my heart! But I knew what I was getting into! I’d heard that thought the premise sounds whimsical, it’s actually an engrossing, heartbreaking series where you care A LOT about the characters and then have to see them go through so much!


Please feel free to leave comments! They are always welcome!



Reading Challenges Final Wrap Up

I’ve finished both The Reading Women Challenge and Book Riot Read Harder Challenge for this year! Here are the last three books I read for them.  Again, the challenge names are abbreviated and the numbers refer to the place in the challenges, not the order in which I read them

RH6. A Book About Nature: Seeds Of Fortune by Sue Shepard


Sorry for the small cover, I read this through Overdrive, and they don’t put the covers full screen… The reason I chose this book was that it’s about the gardening/plant import dynasty of the Veitches, and Veitch is my surname, too! Also, the dynasty was founded by someone with the same name as both my father and brother, and my father is heavily into gardening, too! Until stumbling on this book, as a direct result of the challenge, I had had no idea about this family! However, if they are relatives, the families must have branched in the 1700s so it barely counts, but it’s interesting nonetheless.  I even think that one of the portraits near the end bears a bit of a resemblance to my father! Obviously, since this involves people in Victorian britain, especially in relation to other countries, there is a lot of casual imperialism and disregard for the safty and lives of underlings. When they sent their lackeys to collect plant samples, they frequently put them in danger, didn’t pay them enough and, of course, encouraged the duping of the people living in those countries and destruction of the plants’ habitats… A really interesting microhistory, even if you don’t have tenuous familial connections

RW19. A Book From The Reading Women Award 2017 Shortlist: The Strays by Emily Bitto


One thing I can say with certainty is that I won’t stop thinking about this book for a long, long time. That’s about all I can say with certainty, though, as it gave me incredibly strong and incredibly mixed feelings.  This is a historical novel centring around an attempted artist commune in Australia. The flashback parts are in the thirties and the ‘present day’ narration frame is in the eighties, though it’s a more recent book.  It’s entirely possible that the problems I have with this book are there only because it’s told in the first person by someone in a past era…. There are some ways in which it is incredibly predictable, which I was disappointed by, especially given what it was that I saw coming. I was glad to see that it didn’t go down the incredibly obvious route of having the parents, who lead the commune, have affairs with anyone and have that as the reason it collapsed, but the other obvious way for it to go was for one of the artists to abuse the children of the commune leaders. This is what happens. He runs off with two girls, one in her later teens (but still underage) and one in her very early teens. And then… HE GETS AWAY WITH IT AND HAS AN ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER.  That probably is supposed to make you incredibly angry, as the inspiration for the book was apparently the way in which the women (sic, since they’re girls in this case!) in the lives of male artists become ‘footnotes’ in their stories, rather than being seen as their own people. But even our narrator, the friend of the girls, NEVER says anything to condemn him for his pedophilia, or to suggest that he shouldn’t have been allowed to have this fame and career.  One person even says he was ‘practically a child himself’ at the time.  No. He was twenty-six.  This could just be because it’s in the eighties and whistle blowing wasn’t as much of a thing, but still.  On a lesser note I could have done without the (I don’t use the word usually myself, as I know it has negative connotations, but this is what the trope is called) ‘queer baiting’. The language used to describe the level of intimacy of the female friendships in this is very often highly romantic or sexual.  But just as often, it tells you how entirely platonic it was.  Again, this could just be because of the era in which it takes place, it could be denial on the part of the characters.  It was, however, an incredibly evocatively written book and if the anger over the man getting away with it is the intention (again, in things I’ve read and heard from the author about it they are refered to as ‘women’ and pedophilia is not mentioned by name) then it does a really good job.  I just don’t know how to feel about this book.

RW14. A Classic By A Woman (Bonus If Not Austen Or Bronte): Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell


On the other hand, I do know how I feel about this book. I love Cranford so, so much! It has instantly become a favourite!  I’m really surprised this was the last challenge I completed! I read classics by women ALL the time! How did it take me all year to get to this one? Maybe because I was complacent? Because I thought that I was bound to get to this and so I needn’t worry about it? Anyway, I loved it and it was a perfect cosy, early winter, read! I very rarely laugh out loud at books, possibly because I need other people’s laughter to set me off, but I laughed aloud repeatedly at this! I do, however, frequently cry at books and did so with this one, too! It’s a tiny, tiny book, possible a novella even, but is so packed and so not rushed! It’s close to a perfect book, in my opinion! A really good way to finish off my challenges!


Soon I’ll do a post where I just list the titles for the books I read for each challenge, all in one post, with photos of the covers.  I’ll also post more text heavy posts, preferably Christmas related!  Please feel free to comment, the comments section is located just below the title of the post.

Reading Challenge Wrap Up 11 (With HoHoHo Readathon)


I pretty much launched this blog with the Ho Ho Ho Readathon last year! I may not have completed all the bingo challenges this year, but I did read a lot of good festive stuff and was able to tie in a few challenges from my Reading Challenges (which, by the way, I have now COMPLETED!!!). Not that I ONLY read books for the challenges… I also read one which didn’t fit either Read Harder or The Reading Women! As always, reading challenge titles are abbreviated and the numbers refer to the prompt’s place in the challenge rather than the order in which I read them!

An Audiobook/RH 11. A Children’s Classic Published Before 1980: Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson (1957)


(Sorry, but that really is as close in as the cover would go) Now, I think we can all assume that the time stipulation was added to this prompt so that people wouldn’t just reread Harry Potter, can’t we? Pretty much as soon as I saw this prompt, I knew it was one I wanted to reserve for Christmas! Although Moominland Midwinter is, in fact, all set after New Year… I was a big fan of the Moomins when I was little! I watched the cartoons and even collected little toy/figurines from a newsagents in the next town, and I’m pretty sure we must have read some of the books, too! If we did, however, I can’t remember any of them in enough detail to consider them rereads, even though the challenge didn’t say that it had to be a first time read… In this one, Moomintroll wakes up unexpectedly from hibernation, and though he is able to sleep after that, he can’t get into the deep sleep of hybernation.  Along with a similarly woken Little Mi, he meets the people who are awake during winter. I certainly don’t remember if we did read this, because I had forgotten that squirrels don’t fully hibernate, and there is evidence of this in the book! Another thing I particularly liked was ‘The Ancestor’, a critter who would no doubt help kids learn about evolution if they were reading it at the intended age! ‘The Ancestor’ is a little troll who Too-Ticky (a little humanoid) tells Moomintroll is what Moomins descended from.  Moomintroll, being fairly young, takes this to mean that the creature is himself a literal ancestor of him and his family, and he graciously allows him to take up residence in the stove.  There is also some adorable stuff at the end, when Moominmama wakes up just when Moomintroll need her most, before the rest of the family wakes up

Snow On The Cover: Holiday Perks by Lanai Juniper


I read a Lanai Juniper last year for the Ho Ho Ho Readathon, after trying to find a contemporary lesbian romance that would fit for me! She’s written a trilogy of semi-companion short story/novellas centred around coffee shops at Christmas! I read Comfort And Joy last year and so far this year Holiday Perks. This one, besides having an adorable romance, has a really sweet platonic friendship in it! Andi, our hero, and Noah run the coffee shop together and Noah is always crushing on the customers while Andi is still trying to get over a bad break up. But when Noah finds out his latest crush is a lesbian and also has been chatting with Andi, he switches to supporting them whole heartedly!  None of this ‘but I had a mild crush on that person, you’re not allowed to be interested in them’ stuff that you see too much in fictional friendships!

Romance/RH.10. A Romance Novel By Or About A POC: A Christmas Kiss by Jade Winters


I thought that Lanai Juniper’s books might have been a fluke, but now I know what the real issue I have when choosing contemporaries is! I thought I needed to be able to identify with the characters and their lives, and that was why I didn’t like all the ones with high flying workers, but turns out I just need to find them interesting! I enjoy the Lanai Juniper coffee shop ones, and in A Christmas Kiss, Emma, one of the leads, runs an independent art gallery! There was a subplot to this one that started out to show some backstory to Zara, the other lead, and then was used for some mistaken identity, but it seemed to have been resolved a little bit too quickly and with too little explanation. I mean, it IS a novella, but about one line could have explained things better than what we got! Other than that it’s a really cute (and kinda raunchy!) romantic festive story!

A Novella/RH 23. A Book With A Female Protagonist Over The Age Of 60: The Christmas Mouse by Miss Read


A couple of years ago, I read and loved Village Christmas by Miss Read, and this takes place in the same village, but focusing on different people. While we see things from the perspective of both Mrs Amelia Berry and her daughter Mary, the main focus is on Mrs Berry, who is a fair bit over 60.  Both are widows, and live together, along with Mary’s two wee daughters. With these two daughter/granddaughters, we see again, as in Village Christmas, how Miss Read seemed to think kids should be brought up: with love and the ability to do their own thing, but to know when they needed to do as they were told. This makes the girls, like the kids in Village Christmas, really sweet and happy kids! But when Amelia is scared out of bed by a mouse, she ends up encountering a child who hasn’t had this kind of upbringing. Stephen has been dragged about between being fostered and living with his not very responsible mother and has ended up jealous and equating any not getting his own way with his abandonment issues. I like the fact that, unlike in a lot of books, Stephen’s current (and we hope, final) foster family are shown in a positive light, trying their best to fit him into their family, despite not having enough money to lavish him as he thinks he wants. Some of Amelia’s ways are a little old fashioned and religious for my liking, but she is kind to Stephen as well as pointing out when he’s being a selfish brat. There’s also a very hopeful ending for Mary, and a more immediate, Christmassy happy ending for the wee girls. Oh, and I wondered from the start if this would end up being the book I picked for this challenge!

Couple On The Cover/RW 4. A Short Story Collection: Magic & Romance by Niamh Murphy


I tried various short story collections throughout the year that had multiple authors and ended up abandoning them or ‘putting them on indefinite hold’ as I tend to phrase it when I don’t want to fully commit to a DNF! However, I’d read a novella by Niamh Murphy before and really enjoyed it, so decided to just go for her short story collection, especially since the last story in the collection is set at New Year! That was the only completely festive  story in the collection, but there was a semi-fesitve feel to some of the others, such as the ballroom dancing competition story. Niamh Murphy is also a historian, which I find really interesting since she writes some historical romances in amongst the others, and so you know she’ll have done her research for them! There is such a mix of genres in this! I loved every single story, and a few of them even managed to play with expectations within their short frame! There’s gothic, vampire, contemporary adult, YA, non-gothic historical and even a semi Arthurian story, which was obviously a favourite! And she somehow manages to capture a very festive feel in Delicious, the final story, even though I can’t put my finger on what exactly conjures up that feel!

Those are all the books/short stories I managed to get to, but I’m pretty happy with how the Ho Ho Ho Readathon went for me this year! My final reading challenge wrap up will be coming soon, along with list (rather than review) wrap ups of the whole challenges and some Christmas posts! PLEASE feel free to comment! I don’t like to beg, but seriously, even just a ‘great post’ comment would mean a lot to me!


Combined Reading Challenge Wrap Up 10

As with last time, I’m combining books I’ve read for both The Reading Women Challenge and Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, especially when it’s books that I used for both! Initials will be used for the challenges at the beginning of each heading and the numbers before each prompt reflect the place in the challenge, not the order in which I read them!

RW 11. A Book About Someone With A Chronic Illness: As I Descended by Robin Talley


I was feeling in a bit of a reading rut, just plodding along, but this book was so wonderful it’s as if I was falling in love with reading all over again! It’s a female/female retelling of Macbeth set in a posh boarding school in the southern states of America.  It’s incredibly creepy and I love how there are so many ties and references to the original, even little throw away ones that you wouldn’t necessarily know if you don’t know the play as well as I do! A funny thing related to this is how I was thinking about how the fact that the Banquo character is the boyfriend of the MacDuff character, which means that there are references to Macbeth’s ordered killing of Banquo and of MacDuff’s family combined in ‘one fell swoop’…and then remembered straight away that this was not just a quote from Macbeth, but one relating to the very events I was thinking off!

The reason why I’m using the book for this prompt is that Lily, the Lady Macbeth character, has chronic pain as the result of an accident when she was younger and Brandon, Banquo, suffers from panic attacks and PTSD.  Lily’s chronic pain makes her more determined to get the things she feels she deserves, since she’s had so much bad stuff in her life, but also helps to make her a more sympathetic and well rounded person than she might be otherwise. Obviously it affects her character profoundly as it is a constant, though varying in intensity, part of her life.  It also leads to some further parallels to the original where her awareness of others viewing her as ‘a pair of crutches’ rather than a person ties in, I think, with Lady Macbeth’s ‘unsex me’ speech, where she is distancing herself from herself.  And I can personally vouch for the believability of the depictions of Brandon’s panic attacks.

RH 9. A Book Of Colonial Or Postcolonial Literature : Chainbreaker by Tara Sim


You may think that, on a surface level, a YA alternative history steampunk fantasy book would not be a postcolonial book, but Chainbreaker most certainly is.  There are many ways in which the world of the series is the same as our own, despite the differences, and sadly, the British Empire is one of them. The majority of this book is set in India, 20 years after the ‘mutiny’, and it’s written by a half Indian member of the diaspora and has an Own Voices character as one of the three lead characters. It discusses many examples of the mistreatment and casual disregard that the British soldiers treated the people of India with. It also doesn’t shy away from a discussion of the horrific losses of life that would result from any uprising, and how much it would be a choice of two evils.  Like all good Sci Fi and Fantasy, it uses the world and events within its story to say something important about the real world and real history and politics.

RH 13. An Oprah Book Club Selection: Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons


The past two books in this post were ones I would have read anyway, but which fit the challenges anyway.  This is one that I would never have read had it not been for the challenge… and I think I would have been OK with that… It’s not that bad a book, I just would have done fine never having read it… It seemed like every book on the Oprah Book Club list that I hadn’t already read was just about people living relentlessly miserable lives.  In the end, I picked one from those that was both short and cheap on kindle… Fortunately, it’s made clear at the beginning of the book that Ellen manages to escape from her bleak life and gets adopted into a loving family by the end.  If it hadn’t I wouldn’t have been able to make it through, as it’s about the terrible life of a young child.  There are interludes throughout where we get ‘flashforwards’ to her living in her new home, which help to break up the bleakness a lot.  I did worry that there would turn out to be some ‘catch’ and her adoptive mother would turn out to be evil in some way, but she doesn’t, so that’s a relief.

RW 8. A Book With A Viewpoint Character Who Is An Immigrant Or Refugee: The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney


By contrast, this is another book about a child with a difficult life which I would never have read without the challenge, but which I am very glad that I did read it! I didn’t want to go easy on myself with this prompt, but I also knew that I would have to make sure to find a book that I could cope with.  When I heard about  this book, which takes place  in part in a refugee camp but is written for children, I felt I’d found a good mix for that.  I think one of the reasons why I prefered this so much to Ellen Foster is its gut punching horror feels like it has a purpose to it, its educating those who would otherwise not know about these things, and making them realise it’s something that needs to be changed. I cried so much during this book, and I can’t help but not feel optimistic at the end, even though it’s open ended enough to make the kids it’s aimed at be hopeful… As well as discussing the horror of war and of overcrowded undersupplied refugee camps, it also talks about the power of education and artistic expression to improve things for people.  I was slightly thrown off at first by the fact that it’s in verse and I’m unused to novels in verse, but I soon got totally caught up.  This is also an instance where I would strongly urge you to read the author’s note at the end.


We’re getting close to both the end of the year and the end of my challenges! Please feel free to comment!

Combined Reading Challenges Wrap Up 9

As with last time, I’m combining books I’ve read for both The Reading Women Challenge and Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, especially when it’s books that I used for both! Initials will be used for the challenges at the beginning of each heading and the numbers before each prompt reflect the place in the challenge, not the order in which I read them!

RH 1. A Book Published Posthumously: Come Close by Sappho


This may be fudging things slightly, but this translation and edition were published long after Sappho’s death.  In fact, all her works were, since the publication industry did not exist when she was alive!  I know that there are more poems and fragments that have survived, but the brevity of most of the ones in this collection just brings home how sad it is that so little has survived! There are poems clearly addressed to both men and women (and even goddesses!) which strongly implies that Sappho was, in fact, bisexual… Some of this collection is really beautiful, despite its fragmented state.  Gay Girl Achievement Unlocked!

RH 24. An Assigned Book You Either Hated Or Never Finished & RW 25. A Book By Virginia Woolf: To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf


About eleven years ago, I read To The Lighthouse for university.  It was my first Virginia Woolf book and I really didn’t get on well with it. Later, I read that it is considered the worst choice for a first encounter with her writing! I have since started reading her novels in publication order, and it was now time in that for me to revisit this one.  I’m glad to say that I enjoyed it so much more this time! I’m not sure how much of that was because I’m used to her writing style and how much is just being a more mature person and reader… I didn’t remember how incredibly annoying Charles Tansley is! Maybe I just hadn’t encountered as many people like him when I first read it…. Mr Ramsey reminds me so much of the portrayal of WS Gilbert in the film Topsy Turvey!  I like the fact that Cam, the youngest Ramsey daughter, never loses her imagination

RH 22. An Essay Anthology: Anarchism And Other Essays by Emma Goldman


A very interesting woman and a very interesting collection of essays!  I never fully understood about the concept of anarchism before… Most of her arguments had me nodding along as I was reading, but I can’t say that I agree with her argument that women didn’t need to get the vote… Of course, she was arguing for a complete overthrow of the style of government in power, but surely she could tell that it would make it at least a little bit fairer to have women have the vote, too? It’s also really depressing to see how many of the things she complains about are still relevent around a century later…

RW 26. A Book By Flannery O’Connor: A Good Man Is Hard To Find


I’m sorry Autumn Privett of Reading Women! Flannery O’Connor is just not for me! I couldn’t even make it through The Violent Bear It Away, and had to read a single short story instead, and that was hard enough…  I really like her style, and she paints vivid pictures with her descriptions, but I just find her subject matter bleak and unnecessarily violent. I’m not a fan of short stories in general, mostly because of Joyce Carol Oates’ Where Are You Going And Where Have You Been, which I read from this collection at uni, and everything I disliked about that was there in A Good Man Is Hard To Find… It was claustrophobicly depressing and felt like it’s point was solely to shock, rather than to shock people with a point that would make them think and try to change things.  In this one there’s a slight touching on the subject of the prison system in America and how it causes more harm than good when prisoners are hardened and can’t even remember what they were first arrested for, but this was only briefly there and soon brushed past. Also, I can’t help worrying what happened to the cat. Heavy content warning for the murder of children.


Quite a tumultuous mix this time! Please feel free to comment!

HoHoHoReadathon 2018 Goals

Very quick post, as I can’t really think of much to write as one of my family cats is very ill. I need to post my goals for the readathon today, though, in order to take part, and I’m sure I’ll need some cosy reading to keep my mind occupied over the next  while.  Here are four of the books I’m planning to read for the bingo. I’ll  write more about them and which challenges I’m using them for in a wrap up, afterwards.



HoHoHoRAT 2018 Button

Combined Reading Challenges Wrap Up 8

As with last time, I’m combining books I’ve read for both The Reading Women Challenge and Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, especially when it’s books that I used for both! Initials will be used for the challenges at the beginning of each heading and the numbers before each prompt reflect the place in the challenge, not the order in which I read them!

RH 8. A Comic Written Or Illustrated By A Person Of Colour: Gakuen Polizi by Milk Moringa


Apparently ‘Person Of Colour’ refers to anyone who’s not white, and therefore includes Japanese people. And if you’ve read (and remember) my previous wrap ups, it’s probably not a surprise that I’ve used Manga for all three comics challenges! This is the first volume in a cancelled-too-soon detective series.  It’s slightly 21 Jump Street, in that they’re undercover cops in a high school, but they’re actually teenagers in this, rather than just pretending to be. It’s got a really cute buddy cop/slow burn romance in it, that I hope wasn’t so slow burn that they didn’t get together by the end of volume two, since that’s the last one that was published! In this volume they take on a classmate’s stalker ex-boyfriend and someone being a creep to girls on the train to school.

RH 5. A Book Set In Or About One Of The Five BRICS Countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China or South Africa) & RWC 20. A Memoir By Someone Who Lives In A Different Country From You – The Tiger Ladies by Sudha Koul


Whether you consider Kashmir a part of it or not, India plays a very important role in its story, and in the author’s.  Sudha Koul was born the same year as my mother, the year of the partition of India and Pakistan. Throughout her life, Kashmir has been caught up in the violent fighting along the border between the two countries, despite the majority feeling themselves to be Kashmiri more than Indian, Pakistani, Hindu or Muslim. Although it’s mostly the story of the author’s life and its connections to the conflict, it’s also the story of her mother and hert grandmother and the effect that it all had on them.  It also goes into the dichotomy of a friendly way of life filled with traditions being lost but at the same time so many advantages being gained by greater access to education, especially for women, similarly to how I Rigoberta does.

RH 7. A Western: Frog Music by Emma Donoghue


This is one of the times where accidentally spotting something at the end of a book works out really well! It’s not a spoiler, I just didn’t realise until accidentally spotting the author’s note, that this is based on real events and people! Once I learned that, I found aspects that had irritated me were actually interesting! I was frustrated by the fact that the audience knows no more than Blanche about the real story of Jenny and has to rely on conflicting stories from others who had known her, however briefly. The fact that these were all that anyone can know about her made it more interesting in my view! There’s a lot in this about various intolerances and the many victims of the ‘lawless west’, including children and women. As the title might imply, music is a very important part of the book, and I loved the fact that there is a detailed guide to all the songs referenced at the end.

RWC 16. A Book Where The Characters Are Travelling Somewhere & RH12. A Celebrity Memoir : Around The World In 72 Days by Nellie Bly


Yes, it counts! Not only was Nellie Bly a celebrity for the journey that she recounts in this memoir, but she was also a celebrity journalist already! In this, she tells the story of her adventures attempting to beat the record set by the fictional characters in Jules Verne’s Around The World In 80 Days.  It was a publicity stunt, but interesting for the most part in that it was a  middle class young woman travelling alone in a time when this was a rare thing.  It in no way has the same punch or import as her expose of insane asylums, and sadly there are of course some elements of casual racism, even when she is at least acting more sympathetically towards the people she encounters than others she’s travelling with are.  My favourite bit was when she stops off to visit Jules Verne and his wife, how are really sweet and cosy and thrilled that she’s doing this.  They even compare her planned journey with the map that Jules Verne had used to plan out the fictional journey of his characters.


Please feel free to comment, especially to answer this question: how early is too early for me to start posting my Christmas related tags and posts?

Reading Challenges Wrap Up 7

From now on I’m going to just put both challenges in the same blog posts, as I have allowed myself to double up between challenges on occasion, as I said last time I planned to.. In order to make the paragraph headings succinct, I will use RH to refer to Read Harder and RW to refer to Reading Women. As always, the numbering refers to their place in each challenge, not to the order I read them in or am writing about them in

RW 1. A Book By A Woman In Translation (Bonus If Also Translated By A Woman) – Near To The Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector


First of all, I would like to explain a little about my process in writing these posts: I read the books and then write a paragraph of mini review or notes in one of my bullet journals, with the challenge prompts, so that even if it’s months later when I post about them, I will still remember what I wanted to say.  I then edit and expand on it in my posts. There will need to be more editing in the case of my paragraph about this book than usual, in order to keep things civil and fit for polite society.  I did not in any way like this book.  I found every single character to be unlikable and seriously pretentious. The protagonist, Joana, was the worst.  She seems to spend most of the book thinking about how clever and profound she is and I think she may be a literal psychopath.  She even has an affair with her creepy stalker.  Somehow, I felt that I was already to far in (after…it can only have been a few pages before I realised how much I disliked it!) and it’s a short book so I felt the need to persevere.  I should have been warned off by the fact that the title is a reference to James Joyce, another author I find deeply pretentious and unlikeable!

RW 12 and RH 2 : A Book Of True Crime – Mary Queen Of Scots And The Murder Of Lord Darnley by Alison Weir


When I’m asked what I like to read, I generally reply with something along the lines of ‘pretty much every genre…except true crime’! I just always feel uncomfortable about the potential for voyeurism in the genre, and I don’t like gory things… However, I am a huge fan of Alison Weir, I find the life of Mary Queen Of Scots to be fascinating and the mystery of her second husband’s murder is one that has caught my attention with its apparent unsolvablity.  Since I managed to find ONE true crime book I was fine with reading, I felt I had to combine the two challenges for this! I know that the point of both is to push us in our reading, but surely if it’s a genre you’re uncomfortable with, it’s OK to soften the blow like this? I found this book really interesting! Alison Weir in fact shows that it’s only if you let prejudice against Mary blind you to the clear evidence that you might think that it’s unsolvable! While there are still some large gaps in what we can know, there is more than enough evidence to exonerate Mary and point the finger at the true perpetrators! The fact that they actually signed a compact planning to kill Darnley and that FOUR of them directly benefited in being regents in succession is pretty damning, I would say! It also made me feel ashamed of myself for trusting the lies that other history books have regurgitated with regards to her ‘elopement’ with Bothwell! She was very blatantly abducted and again, only someone prejudiced against her would have said that her surrendering when her guard was severely outnumbered, so as to save bloodshed, was an indication that she was ‘in on it’! The book even closely examines the infamous casket letters and, with direct and lengthy quotations, shows just what flimsy and ill constructed forgeries they were. None of this is to say that Mary didn’t make some serious errors in judgement, such as thinking that telling the conspiring lords that there was no way she would sanction their plan to murder her husband and they’d better stop would actually stop them…

RW 13 A Book By An African American Woman About Civil Rights – Meridian by Alice Walker


There is SO much going on in this book, but not in an overly cluttered way! It’s about the eponymous Meridian’s life and involvement in Civil Rights and feminism throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties. Content warning, however, for a (non graphic, but still) rape chapter and the following mental health spiral out of control of the victim.   There is, of course given the subject matter, a lot of depressing stuff in general in the book.  The most hopeful aspect is that Meridian sticks to her principles of non violence and manages to help individuals, even in small ways.  I would have liked to have had more time spent on the college portion and more about her friend Anne-Marion, and the ending is just extremely confusing, but this is a very good and powerful book.

RW 17: A Book With A Food Item In The Title – Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson


Yes, I finally got around to this rite of passage read for girls who like girls! I’ve read other works by Jeanette Winterson before, and it was interesting to see how certain aspects of her writing style (specifically meandering fairytale/mythology interludes) were in place from the start. Yes, this was her debut.  And she was in her early to mid twenties at the time. And it is so well written it makes aspiring authors in their late twenties despair! I obviously knew the basic premise beforehand, but had somehow got the impression that there was a big set piece where her adoptive mother tried to exorcise her for being gay.  There are a couple of scenes where this happens, but the harrowing aspects are more the way that she slowly chips away at Jeanette’s confidence and happiness over the course of many many years.  It’s so heartbreaking to know that it was heavily inspired by her own life! I need to follow Kendra Winchester of The Reading Women’s example in reading Jeanette Winterson’s nonfiction version, Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal, in the not too distant future…


That’s all for now, but I promise to get back into posting roughly once a week, as I had managed to get to! I have some readathons coming up, too, which will also give me a push to post more! Also, soon it’ll be the Christmas season and I have a lot of posts planned for that! Hope you don’t mind starting Christmas in November!