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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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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All Souls Trilogy – The Book of Life (Book 3) – A Review

This is the final book in the trilogy and it was the one I took my time with the most, I’m sure all fellow bookworms out there can relate to the pain we feel when a good book series comes to an end. 

The Book of Life DH

After travelling back from 1590’s London, Diana and Matthew, now married, face bigger challenges than the Congregation and tracking down Ashmole 782, a disavowed son of Matthew’s by the name of Benjamin. A truly hellish creature who uses methods of torture to see if witches are capable of getting pregnant to a vampire. So not only do Diana and Matthew have to battle for their relationship, but their survival too.

As with all the books in the series, there’s a great mixture of the supernatural, science and history in the book. And plenty of drama to keep you interested, however the ONLY thing I felt was a bit of a let down was towards the end and the meeting with Diana and the congregation. In a bid to get inter-species marriage allowed and recognised. I felt that it was resolved far too easily, considering that a large chunk of the battle was to get people out of their antiquated mind set.

That being said, it did tie everything up nicely and I really did love the series. It was the first book in a long time that made me want to know what happened next, and really helped re-ignite my passion for reading.

Star Rating out of 5: 4

What did you think of the last book? Do you agree with my comments? I’d love to hear your thoughts so 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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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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