The Testaments – A Review

I’ve always been a fan of Margaret Atwood.  Since this was announced I have been desperate to read it. Fortunately my fiancé got it me for Christmas, but as I was working through the books reviewed below I only got round to it recently. As this review may contain spoilers, if you haven’t read it, maybe skip this review and then come back when you have.

The Testaments

The Testaments is narrated by Aunt Lydia, which for me was such a good move by Atwood. The Testaments are provided by two girls Agnes, a young woman living in Gilead; and Daisy a young woman living in Canada. So from the get go there’s massive juxtaposition to the lives the two girls lead, though some very subtle similarities.

But as this develops and you realise that the two girls are connected, it enables them to use their unique differences to get them through tough times. However, by far, the best thing about this book is the amount we learn about Aunt Lydia, from her life pre-Gilead, to the days of first arriving there. Reading the plotting she weaves to bring down Gilead is so thrilling, and the interactions with the Commander make you hold your breath.

This was a page-turner (I finished it in two days) and well worth the wait, the only downside for me was the last chapter (I know it’s a small gripe to make) but I just don’t think I liked it being set so far in the future, with the authenticity of the testaments being doubted slightly. Other than that, a great read.

Star Rating out of 5: 4.5

Have you read it? What were your thoughts?

Happy Reading.

G.
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Meet the Bookworm – Jay Harley

It’s been a while since there’s been a “Meet the Bookworm” feature on the blog, so it’s great to introduce you to Jay Harley, they come from Worcestershire and have offered up some great ideas with their answers. Say hello to Jay everyone! 🙂

Jay Harley

What age did you get into reading? I loved reading from 4 or 5 – I remember moving from my mum making up stories at bedtime to getting deep into books I couldn’t put down.

What’s the first book that really struck a chord with you and why? The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler kind of changed my life. I had already identified hard with George in The Famous Five, but – (without spoiling the ending!) Tyke was a revelation to me. There was also a TV version and it made a nice change from somewhat obsessively reading Roald Dahl books.

Do you have a favourite genre? I read and listen to a lot, so I love loads of different things. Anything gay, queer or trans wins for me, such as Rubyfruit Jungle and Stone Butch Blues. I really love when speculative fiction has something interesting to say; anything by Margaret Atwood or Becky Chambers, plus Nora Roberts’ Chronicle of the One series and Station Eleven. Genre is probably less important to me than relationships, and I love sad books, so anything by Willy Vlautin I can read over and over. I also love series, such as Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway novels (crime), Charlaine Harris’ True Blood (vampires), or Claire McGowan’s series (Irish crime) or a big, fat trilogy, such as The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen or The Folk of the Air by Holly Black.

Is there a fictional character or characters that you can relate to? I really related to Becky Chambers first book The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – not one specific character but the blend – and I’m really moved by the way she explores outsiders, across people from different species. I also really enjoyed Emma Jane Unsworth’s Adults, because it’s funny but also really delves into the nourishment we can gain from social interactions online, which are often dismissed as trivial by people who don’t understand them.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read and why? I strongly remember throwing Stephen King’s It across a room when I’d reached page one-thousand of about twelve-hundred. That’s how frustrated I was, but I did see how it ends across the movie franchises. I have OCD so I very often have to finish books even when I’m really not enjoying them. I took three run-ups to Kate Mosse’s Burning Chambers, but just couldn’t get into it. I did listen to all forty-six hours of the audiobook of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, which I enjoyed at first but went off about halfway through, because I just don’t know why even speculative fiction needs to be about the rape of young girls – can’t we imagine something else please?

What’s your favourite book to screen adaptation and why? I have a few actually, which is nice, because for decades I strongly disliked all adaptations except for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I worked in movies and TV for a long time, so books remain my hobby and my love, while for many years TV and film were ruined for me! But I saw Call Me By Your Name before I read the book and it was an almost transcendental experience – blew my mind, such a perfect reminiscence of young love. Soon after, I saw The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which I’d been hotly anticipating as it is directed by Desiree Akhavan. This time I read the book first, was really impressed by the characterisation and I thought the adaptation was one of the cleverest I’ve ever seen – selective but so evocative. You can watch and read in either order and the book and the film really complement each other.

What was the last book you read? This week I have read Find Me by André Aciman, which is the follow-up to Call Me By Your Name. I didn’t like how it started and I wasn’t convinced by the ending but there is a lovely bit in the middle. I also read the Secret Barrister, which I found to be gendered in a really painful, stereotypical way, The Last Leaves Falling, which I also didn’t enjoy, but then I read Adults which was a blast.

What are you currently reading? At the moment I am finishing Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile, which is one of the saddest, most wonderful books I’ve ever read. I’m listening to Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, which seems excellent so far. I’ve been reading Ducks, Newburyport for a long time, because I’m not afraid of big books, but I am struggling to make time for it – it is an effort. Also, I’m reading Troll Hunting by Ginger Gorman. I read a lot of non-fiction, but it always feels a bit like homework, and novels are my first love.

If you could recommend just one book to everyone you ever met, which book would it be and why? It has to be Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. It is by far the saddest book I’ve ever read and definitely one of the very best. It’s also great for desert islands and global pandemics because it’s huge. I’ve recommended it a lot, with several disclaimers – it’s tough to tell people to read it when I know it will hurt them. Most importantly, I think it describes the most relatable character of all time, someone who is crippled by their childhood and experiences of love and unable to get past that. I hope no one has as hard a time as poor, darling Jude, but I think we all relate to that ache of self-blame or feeling unloved, despite evidence to the contrary.

And finally, if you were to write an autobiography of your own life what would you call it? Transient: Living out of the boot of a VW Golf – this is very clever wordplay because I’m trans and because I’ve never owned a home and worked all over the UK for years, living in cheap digs or sleeping in film unit trucks. At the moment I’m back at my poor mum’s house, although I now have a different VW.

I’d like to thank Jay for taking part, they certainly recommended some books I’m going to stick on my TBR list, if you’d like to be part of the “Meet the Bookworm” feature, please comment below.

Happy reading!

G.
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All Souls Trilogy – Shadow of Night (Book 2) – A Review

This is the second book and the series, and in my opinion, the best one. This book is all about Diana coming to accept that she has magic within her and that she’s actually a weaver, a rare breed of witch. The decision is made that if Diana and Matthew are to have any hope of gaining answers about Ashmole 782 and Diana is to get the guidance she needs to understand her power more, the pair must time walk to 1590’s London.

Shadow of Night DH

What I really loved about this novel, were the historical aspects. It’s very clear to see that Deborah Harkness is a historian and a fan of history. Her style of writing actually made me want to go out and learn more about history. Her descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells were almost tangible. It made the experience of reading the book richer, it was so easy for me to get lost in the pages.

The pair search for Ashmole 782 whilst scouring the streets of London for a suitable teacher for Diana. In this book, Diana definitely becomes stronger and more determined, less scared of her power and more willing to control it so that she can use it if necessary. She gets to see part of Matthew and his past which gives her more understanding of him and deepens her love and respect for him. 

There are some great characters introduced, especially Philippe de Clairmont, Matthew’s father, a man, otherwise surrounded in mystery. The moments with Matthew and Philippe were particularly well written and it was hard not to feel a bit emotional, likewise with Diana and her father, who was savagely murdered by other witches, along with her mother, when she was just a child.

There are ups and downs, but this book is one hell of a ride. As I said, personally for me this was the standout book because there were so many elements I loved, especially the historical descriptors.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

Do you agree that this is the strongest book in the series? Or do you disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Comment below.

Happy reading.

G.
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Flowers in the Attic – A Review

I remember when I got this book and mentioned it to a few people, those who had read it said that it was a great read and asked that I not look up anything about the story beforehand. This wasn’t too difficult for me, I like a brief description of book but hate it when you read book blurbs that give away big parts of the story line. And in all honesty, I am so glad I decided not to look into anything.

Flowers in the Attic VA

It follows the story of the Dollaganger family, a seemingly perfect family living an idyllic life, but when the head of the family, Mr Dollaganger, dies in a car accident, his wife realises that they will not be able to continue living their current lifestyle and makes the decision to move back home and live with her parents from whom she has been estranged for many years. In the cover of darkness Mrs Dollaganger makes her way to Foxworth Hall, where the majority of the book takes place, with her children Chris, Cathy, Cory and Carrie.

What happens next? Well I certainly wasn’t expecting it. I’ve never been a believer of literature being banned, however even I found some level of understanding of why this was banned. As time passes, it’s clear that Children are prisoners in a house where the only people who know about that is their mother Corrine and their Grandmother Olivia. Olivia visits daily bringing scraps of food and reminding them of the punishments they will receive if they are caught doing anything “sinful” as time passes, not to mention physically abusing the children. As time passes Corrine visits the children less and less, instead living her life and going on shopping trips and out for fancy meals and parties.

Being the eldest of the children Chris and Cathy adopt pseudo-parental roles to the younger two children, and find ways to keep them entertained and unafraid. Pretty soon the close living quarters and the passing of time, means that Chris and Cathy begin to discover their bodies changing, and the act of living like parents to the two younger children, psychologically makes the act of playing mum and dad less of an act and more of a belief.

I won’t spoil some of the major plot points, but needless to say this book covers some pretty dark subject matters, at times events that took place made my stomach turn. All in all, the characters, though interesting, just left me wanting to know more about what motivated their behaviour and I felt the ending was a little too easy. It was an easy read that builds alot of unease but there were just some things that didn’t sit well with me.

Star Rating out of 5: 3.5

I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, but if you’ve read them all and feel that I will gain anything more from the story, please let me know as I will pick up the next in the series. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the book, or the series so please be sure to comment below.

Happy reading.

G.
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Jaws – A Review

I’ve had this book for a good while, I love the film and have seen it so many times. I wanted to see how different the book would be to the film and was pretty surprised.

Jaws PB

Peter Benchley does a great job of building a sense of tension and urgency, which I feel, is fairly captured in the film. What I really loved, is the real pressures Brody was under from various people, which makes his guilt even easier to understand.

I think the big shocker for me (and feel free to skip ahead to avoid spoilers as this bit isn’t in the film) is when Brody’s wife Ellen embarks on an affair with Hooper. The scene in the restaurant was very well written and definitely oozed sexual tension.  However I’m not sure if the relationship between them felt organic or a little bit forced. It felt as if it was added in to give Ellen more depth as a character, and add in a little bit of sex intrigue.

The ending is also completely different (SPOILERS) with Hooper dying in the shark cage and Quint going out in a similar fashion to that seen in the film. Brody is the only survivor, swimming back to shore. Which, in my opinion, I wouldn’t be doing. I mean okay, I know you’ve just seen the shark die, but how can you really be sure with Jaws? 

When I was reading the book, I did a little research into Peter Benchley and found that in later in life he really regretted writing such a sensationalist piece like Jaws.He felt he’d contributed to the culling of sharks and became an advocate for marine conservation.What I would say is that less than 20 people are killed by sharks in a year, and in fact humans kill about 20 – 30 million sharks per year through commercial and sport fishing. 

Not a bad read, and if someone were to ask if I prefer the book or the film, I would have to say the film (which is a rarity for me) whether that would have been different had I read the book before seeing the film, I’ll never know.

Star Rating out of 5: 3

Happy reading.

G.
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Quick Review – Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

I remember the day I walked into Waterstones in a particularly spooky mood. I was looking for a good horror book or something that would make me low-key nervous about turning over the page and finding out what would happen to the protagonist next. I came across and the blurb on the back instantly struck a chord with me.

Hex TOH

Based in the fictional town of Black Spring it tells the story of the Black Rock Witch, a 17th Century woman who wanders the town with her eyes and mouth sewn shut, thestory goes, if the stitches come undone, the whole town will die. She is monitored by various cameras around the town and most of the residents tend to forget she is there most of the time. 

But there’s always one bad egg, when a local boy starts attacking the witch, her behaviour turns erratic and she starts acting differently.Pretty soon, the whole mood of the town begins to change with some people, as well as the witch, acting completely out of character.

I won’t go too in depth about what happens, in case you want to read it but I found a gripping read and there were some moments that were slightly uncomfortable to read. It also offered up an interesting look at mob mentality.Saying that, the ending was somewhat anti-climatic, but all in all not a bad little read.

I’d recommend you read this one when the weather starts turning and you’re gearing up for Halloween.

Star Rating out of 5: 3.5

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? I’d love to hear, please comment below.

Happy reading.

G.
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Meet the Bookworm – Brittiny Charee

The third wonderful contributor to my “Meet the Bookworm” feature is Brittiny Charee from Florida, USA. For as long as I’ve known Brittiny she has always been an avid reader and is also a blogger and a writer in her spare time. In fact, we have written some fan fiction together in the past and it was a great honour.  You can check out Brittiny’s blog here. There are some books on here, I’ll be sure to check out, and hopefully you will too.

Brittiny Charee

What age did you get into reading? I’d say 5 or 6.

What’s the first book that really struck a chord with you and why? But No Elephants by Jerry Smath. I think because it was a favourite to read with my grandmother.

Do you have a favourite genre? Not really.

Is there a fictional character or characters that you can relate to? I tend to find one in almost every book I read.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read and why? I can’t recall any off the top of my head. Likely because it was bad I voided it from my memory.

What’s your favourite book to screen adaptation and why? Jaws. They kept a good chunk of the book, and while there was a major character changed, it didn’t take anything from the story. I felt it was really well done.

What was the last book you read? The last book I actually finished was H.I.V.E. (The Higher Institute of Villainous Education)

What are you currently reading? Big Girl, As Old as Time, Girl in Pieces and Ninth Street Women.

If you could recommend just one book to everyone you ever met, which book would it be and why? Wicked. It can touch on so many different issues, and I think we can all relate to Elphaba now and then.

And finally, if you were to write an autobiography of your own life what would you call it? Roller-coaster of Life.

If you would like be a contributor for the “Meet the Bookworm” feature then please get in touch.

Thanks for reading.
G.

Meet the Bookworm – Elika Jacobs

Next up in my ‘Meet the Bookworm’ feature we have Elika Jacobs from Manchester, UK. Elika is a fellow Leo, and for as long as I can remember she’s always been into horror so her answers do not surprise me. There are some books on here, that I’ve never heard of or read, so without further ado, please welcome Elika and her creepy book vibes.

Elika JacobsWhat age did you get into reading? I would say I was around eight years old when I fell in love with reading. I was obsessed with R.L Stine’s Goosebumps books growing up.

What’s the first book that really struck a chord with you and why? I think the first book that struck a chord with me, I was 14 years old (and it’s nothing profound in anyway) but it would have to be when I read the first book of the trilogy ‘The Rats’ by James Herbert. Simply because it freaked me out! My imagination went into overdrive with that book. The part that has always stayed with me was this character was left absolutely terrified in his basement in pitch black listening to these blood thirsty rats the size of small dogs, scratching and getting closer and closer to him, until he can feel them tearing at his skin and he is eaten alive in complete and utter darkness. I read that section of the book in bed turned my light off, got back into bed, I moved my leg and felt something scratch me! I jumped out of bed screaming thinking there was a fucking rat from the book in my bed. Nope just my spring sticking out of my mattress!

Do you have a favourite genre? I don’t have a favourite but similar. I love thrillers, horror, true crime etc

Is there a fictional character or characters that you can relate to?  I think I resonate with a few characters from books I have read. However, I could see a little of myself in the sisters from ‘The secret life of Bees’ by Sue Monk Kidd.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read and why? I don’t really remember the book that I would class as the worst one I have read. It came free with a magazine and wasn’t really up my street. I just remember not finishing it.

What’s  your favourite book to screen adaptation and why? That is a hard one as there is so many that you don’t even realise! But I would have to say ‘The secret life of bees’ I have recently re-read it and it is a phenomenal book. The director and cast did a sensational job bringing it to life.

What was the last book you read? The last book I read was a biography of the former slave who became well-known as an abolitionist and advocate of women’s rights called ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’ by Sojourner Truth.

What are you currently reading? The current book I am reading is called ‘Need you dead’ by Peter James.

If you could recommend just one book to everyone you ever met, which book would it be and why? Oh, wow that is a tough one, but I should’ve known it was coming! I think I’m going to give a cop out answer and say ANY of James Herbert’s books. If you’re into your horrors, thrillers, dark fantasy, etc he is the author for you! I’ve spoken about him that much recently that I think I’m going to have to take a trip down memory lane and re-read one of his books.

And finally, if you were to write an autobiography of your own life what would you call it? Lemony Snicket stole my autobiography name (laughs) I think I would call it ‘My life! Fuck it, it is what it is’

If you would like be a contributor for the “Meet the Bookworm” feature then please get in touch.

Thanks for reading.
G.
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Meet the Bookworm – Hannah Simpson

Welcome to a new feature I’m hoping to make a regular thing on my blog, how regular is yet to be seen as it depends on the response of willing contributors and reactions. I’ll be asking fellow bookworms 10 questions about books etc. and including a photo of them. This will hopefully, show the diversity and reach of literature and also give you some book recommendations you may have otherwise ignored.

My first wonderful contributor is Hannah Simpson, from Manchester, UK. She is an avid reader and blogger/writer (you can check out her blog here) What I love about Hannah’s answers is the sheer passion and excitement that comes through. You can really tell how much she loves getting lost in the pages of a book, so without further ado please welcome Hannah Simpson.

Hannah Simpson.jpgWhat age did you get into reading? I’m really privileged that reading has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Both my parents are avid readers and my mum is a school librarian, so I grew up surrounded by books and constantly encouraged to read.  Some of my happiest childhood memories are of being read to by my parents, or exploring our little local library.

What’s the first book that really struck a chord with you and why? My first instinct for this question was either Little Women (which we will come back to!) or Harry Potter, but since the question is the first book, we’re going back even further and I’m going to pick something totally different.  We have a stash of Christmas-specific books that we would break out every year and one that I remember being full-on obsessed with is called ‘A Letter to Father Christmas’ by Rose Impey – it’s a really sweet picture book about a girl called Charlotte who accidentally sends her mum’s shopping list to Father Christmas rather than her own wish list.  I have no idea why this book got me like it did, but it just makes me so happy when I look back on it now.

Do you have a favourite genre? I tend to read contemporary fiction and am mostly drawn towards stuff which is best classified as ‘first world white girl problems’.  Basically anything that’s a bit like Jacqueline Wilson or Judy Blume (the queens!), but for twenty-something women.

Is there a fictional character or characters that you can relate to? Jo March from Little Women was my first feminist icon and a big part of the reason I have always aspired to write for a living.  More recently, Johanna Morrigan from Caitlin Moran’s ‘How To Build A Girl’ and ‘How To Be Famous’ really spoke to me.  She is a character not often represented in (particularly YA) literature – bolshy and outspoken in contrast to the quieter, more reserved female characters who often narrate coming of age stories.  Johanna is a protagonist for the loud girls, the girls who have spent their lives being told to calm down and sit down and stop being quite so ‘much’.

 What’s the worst book you’ve ever read and why? This is a really hard question because I’ve got quite good at picking books that I’m fairly certain I’ll enjoy – my Goodreads account is just a load of four and five star reviews, because I don’t tend to read things that I don’t like.  One book I was really disappointed by was ‘The Virgin Suicides’ by Jeffrey Eugenides, because everyone loves it and so many women hold it up as this incredible piece of work so my expectations were high.  I just didn’t enjoy it that much – I didn’t really care about any of the characters.  Maybe if I read it again now, I’d get more from it?  I probably won’t bother.

What’s your favourite book to screen adaptation and why? I’m bending the rules and doing a top 5 for this (in no particular order) because I absolutely couldn’t narrow it down to just one.  ‘Prisoner of Azkhaban’ is my favourite HP book and the film is absolutely brilliant; the 1994 ‘Little Women’ has an insanely good cast and fills me with so much joy; ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ is one of the only book-to-screen adaptations where I think the film is actually better; the recent Netflix adaptation of Armistead Maupin’s ‘Tales of the City’ series is fantastic, with loads of diversity and LGBT representation within the cast; and the BBC’s ‘Sherlock’ remains some of the best TV I’ve ever seen and I loved all the nods to the books.

 What was the last book you read? The last book I finished was ‘Convenience Store Woman’ by Sayaka Murata, which is a punchy little Japanese novel about a women who has worked in the same convenience store for eighteen years.  It’s a really compelling exploration of the way society tries to force us to conform and what happens to those who don’t.  Very funny, well worth a read.

What are you currently reading? I’ve ended up with two books on the go at the moment, which I don’t normally do.  I started ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ (really fascinating and not something I would typically pick up) and then had a load of books I’d reserved from the library come through, so that’s on hold for now.  ‘Daisy Jones and The Six’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid is the one that stole me away and I can’t put it down – it’s an oral history of a fictional 70s rock band, and I’m absolutely devouring it.

If you could recommend just one book to everyone you ever met, which book would it be and why? Either ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas or ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman.  Such powerful book.  Just read them.  Please.  They should both be on the national curriculum.

And finally, if you were to write an autobiography of your own life what would you call it? I mean, ‘First World White Girl Problems’ pretty much sums it up.

If you would be happy taking part, please comment below or alternatively you can tweet me here or send me a message on Instagram here.

Happy reading!

G.
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The Importance of Reading

I’ve always been a bookworm. For as long as I can remember I have taken solace in the pages of a book to help me through breakups, heartbreak, loss, grief and stress. I also read just for enjoyment and find it really relaxing. But I know many people find it hard, some because they struggle with concentration, some because they suffer from dyslexia and feel intimidated and some people associate it with being forced to read the set curriculum at school. However reading is important and it’s something everyone should do and here’s why.

Reading has been found to enhance the connectivity in the brain and keeping the brain active can slow the progress of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It also requires you to use your memory muscle which can decrease the decline of your memory. Not to mention reading expands your knowledge and vocabulary, but is also improves concentration and increases empathy. In the current climate we’re living in, I think empathy is lacking and the fact that people can gain more empathy from a book and gain more understanding of people and situations that they are likely never to find themselves in, is important. We could all benefit from being a bit more understanding to our fellow man.

Reading is also important as a form of entertainment and relaxation. Where possible, I always try to read the book version of a Film/TV series before I watch it’s translation to film. There have been times where the adaptation has been done pretty decently, but often the image I build up in my head is much more complex and multifaceted than it is on the screen. It’s also incredibly personal; it’s my mind’s interpretation of what I’m reading. Which is one reason I love hearing other people’s opinions of books I’ve read, to hear how they imagined it.

My boyfriend is one of those modest people who believes he’s not very smart, but actually he is. He thinks he doesn’t read a lot, but he’s always reading. Which brings me to my next point. Just because you don’t read books on the regular, it doesn’t mean you’re not a reader. You could be reading articles or forums, but you’re still reading! So don’t let someone shame you for not reading a conventional book. You’re still keeping your brain engaged and learning more so block out the haters.

Bf.jpg

Likewise when you are reading books don’t let someone shame you for the subject matter or genre.  I’ll admit “chick lit” (I hate that term) is not for me but I wouldn’t shame someone for reading it, I really hate this modern mentality of shaming someone’s enjoyment of something. Just because it’s not your cup of tea, doesn’t give you the right to guilt someone else for enjoying it, so enjoy that book about the history of the Regency Revolution, or that tie-in Star Trek book and ignore what anyone else says. Just do you!

But above all my favourite thing about reading is the way it can bring people together, it opens the floor to discussion, it allows you to learn other perspectives and see the world through the eyes of someone else. It is the best way to escape without going anywhere. I don’t think I will ever stop reading and I’m proud to be a bookworm.

Image result for bookworm gif
In fact I would like to hear from you! I am looking for 5 people who would allow me to feature them on my blog, discussing your favourite book(s) and the impact they had on you. If you’re interested and happy to be involved, then please comment below. Until then, happy reading.

G.
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