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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Time’s Convert – A Review

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will know how much I enjoyed the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. Although Time’s Convert isn’t strictly part of the trilogy, it’s part of the series and focuses primarily on Matthew’s son, Marcus and his fiance’s transition into becoming a vampire.

Time's Convert

It was great to read about the familiar characters again, and have a glimpse into what was going on in the lives of Matthew and Diana and their steps into parenthood. BUT as I mentioned above this was focusing mostly on Marcus and Phoebe. 

Once again, Deborah Harkness, did a great job of the flashbacks aspects of the book, when Marcus tells his story of his life before being made a vampire. This part of Marcus’ life was really well written and at times, quite emotive. You really can tell that Deborah has a passion for portraying history and historical events authentically.

We then learn about Marcus’ early days as a vampire and the years following. It was these latter years, after Matthew and Juliette kill off most of Marcus’ children that it started to all get a little too convoluted for me. I had the same issues with the latter part of the last book in the All Souls Trilogy, in the sense that things felt a little rushed and almost too easy.

Whilst aspects of Phoebe’s transition were interesting, I just felt that alot of it was kind of disappointing, and again, the last part of her transition was rushed and easy. What saved this book for me were the parts about Marcus’ past. Which thankfully, there are quite a few chapters of. 

Not a bad read, but not great.

Star Rating out of 5: 3.5

Do you have an opinion completely different to mine? I’d love to hear it. Comment below with  your thoughts.

Happy reading.

G.
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A Room of One’s Own – A Review

Whilst I know it’s not strictly a book, this has to be considered one of the most infamous pieces of Woolf’s work. Based on two lectures Woolf delivered in 1928 it’s often noted as being an important feminist text, so I’ve been super intrigued to read this for a while and as it was free on the Kindle store at the time I figured why not.

A Room of One's Own VW

I read this underneath a palm tree on my holiday, so in a way, I didn’t miss the importance of how far women have come. I mean I doubt in Woolf’s time many women would have had enough money to book a holiday with their own money but I digress. In A Room of One’s Own, Woolf offers up the argument (both literal and figurative) of space for women within the world of literature, which at the time (and perhaps some would argue still is) dominated by men.

Simply put she puts forward the idea that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” she goes on to support this with facts that lead to questions, such as how was a woman supposed to have success when there were so many constraints against her. Not only financially but for lack of education, she even addresses lesbianism and the women who have written about it. You can’t deny that at the time she gave this lecture, the world was a very different place, yet here she was offering up so many relevant issues against women on a social level. 

It was thought provoking, insightful and a book I feel every feminist should read. Whether you agree with her sentiments completely or not, you must agree that she was raising the voice of women everywhere, especially those that didn’t have the privileges she had. I’d say Woolf is just as important to women’s rights as the suffragettes were. It also highlighted, that whilst we’ve come along way since Woolf’s time, there’s still a lot of suppression and decision making made by men about women. Not to mention the fact that there are still countries in the world that don’t allow women to vote and places in the world where female genital mutilation happens regularly. So it’s an important rousing read, even now all these years later.

Definitely an important piece of feminist literature that everyone should read at least once.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

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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The Virgin Suicides – A Review

I’ve never seen the film, whenever this book is mentioned, people always mention the film or assume that as you’ve read the book then you must have seen the film. But I haven’t. 

The Virgin Suicides JE

I read this one on holiday, it’s been sat on my Kindle for some time and I got if for 99p. And I have to say I am thankful that I didn’t spend a lot on it. The book in itself is pretty easy reading, but it just lacked something for me.

I know Jeffrey wrote the story so that the suicides of the Lisbon girls would always remain a mystery and unknown. But it makes the whole read quite convoluted. And it’s a shame because there were character dynamics that could have been discovered more and made the book so much richer. It just left me kind of empty.

Is that what he wanted from us as readers? Did he want us to feel that same sense of emptiness and questions that will never be answered as the male protagonists? Because if he did, he certainly achieved that, so I commend him. But if the whole point was for us, as readers, to create our own ideas, then it completely missed the mark with me personally.

It served it’s purpose as a quick and easy beach read, but it’s not the most mind blowing book I’ve ever read.

Star Rating out of 5: 2.5

Is my opinion completely wrong? Do you love this book? If so, I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts, please comment below.

Happy reading.

G.
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Norwegian Wood – A Review

This book has been sat on my bookshelf for quite a long time. I’m yet to read many books that have been translated from Japanese to English, but if this one was anything to go by I will certainly be reading more.

Norwegian Wood HM

After hearing The Beatles song of the same name,Toru Watanabe is overcome with nostalgia as he remembers his first best friend, his first girlfriend and his life as a student, and his unexpected meeting of another girl named Midori.

It’s hard to talk about the book without giving away too much, but there’s an almost ethereal quality to this, which really adds to the feelings of loss, regret and nostalgia, that I feel Haruki Marukami really wanted to get across. The characters are well written, interesting and all have an air of mystery about them, which means you’re never quite sure what they’re going to do.

I really did enjoy this book, and I’m so glad I gave it a chance. The first Japanese to English book I read was The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide but it didn’t blow me away and made me reluctant to want read anymore Japanese literature. However Haruki Marukami has made that change.

If you’ve read any of his other books and have any recommendations, please feel free to leave them below.

Star Rating out of 5: 4

Happy reading.

G.
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My Name is Why – A Review

Lemn Sissay is without doubt one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet. If you’re not familiar with him, google him, listen to him talk and you will know exactly what I mean. He’s a naturally poet and storey teller and can captivate an audience with his words and voice. 

My Name is Why LS

When Lemn Sissay was just a baby he was given up for temporary adoption by his birth mother and this book is all about his time in the Care system. Through a mix of actual reports and recollections, Lemn pulls together and tells the story of his life. It’s hard to put into words the feeling you get reading this book, because there’s a mixture of them. 

It’s a hard story to read, but not in the sense that it’s badly written, but more in the sense that it’s hard to believe that so many people who were meant to be providing an environment of understanding and nurturing, could be so blind. Some of the reports written about Lemn are quite upsetting, painting him to be problematic and uncooperative when in reality he was just hurting but struggled to vocalise it, be heard, taken seriously or understood.

I really don’t want to give away too much, but this is an important book to read. If you wish to have a better understanding of Lemn’s journey, and the journey of many other children in the care system, then this is an insightful read. But more than that, it’s a testament to strength of character, spirit and the magic of what can happen when someone is finally given a voice.

Definitely worth a read.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

I’d love to know if there’s anyone else out there who have read this and hear your thoughts, please comment below.

Happy reading.

G.
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