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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All Souls Trilogy – A Discovery of Witches (Book 1) – A Review

I am thankful that the building where I currently live has a communal room. A place with sofa’s, chairs, tables, cushions, a kitchen, a TV, board games and a bookshelf. People can leave books they won’t read again there, or loan a book to read. It was during one of my visits to drop off duplicate books I had, and ones I wouldn’t read again, that I found this.

A Discovery of Witches DH

It piqued my interesting from the moment I read the back cover and I started reading it as soon as I got back to my flat. Usually with a book, I can tell within the first chapter or so if it’s going to pull me in, well with this, I read about 4 Chapters that first night, I was hooked.

The first in a trilogy series it introduces us to Diana Bishop, an Oxford Scholar, who during some research comes across a mysterious text known as Ashmole 782 (The Book of Life) When touching the book, Diana’s powers are awoken (Diana’s a witch but has ignored her power and tries to stay away from that part of her life completely) Pretty soon, she notices that other creatures are interested in the book, and how she came to acquire it, given that it had been missing for 150 years. Matthew Clairmont, a vampire who is over 1000 years old and has been looking for the book for the same amount of time it’s been missing, is introduced at this point. He goes to the Bodleian Library, hoping to find the book but instead meets Diana.

At this point you might be rolling your eyes and thinking it sounds like every other supernatural book involving witches, vampires and daemons. But trust me, this isn’t cheesy predictable trite like Twilight, this is actually really well written, with well researched content and complex characters. Some likeable, others not so much.

Pretty soon, Diana, with the help of Matthew, decides to accept her power a bit more, whilst trying to discover the importance of the Ashmole text to witches, daemons and vampires. Threats are made, Diana and Matthew are both in danger, and the Congregation (a board made up of representatives of vampires, witches and daemons) are now getting involved, particularly with the relationship that seems to be simmering between Diana and Matthew.

The pacing of the book is perfect, with the tension building throughout and the action taking part towards the end, which leaves you wanting more. I adored this book, and consequently started reading the second book as soon as I finished this one.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

I’ll be posting a review about the second book shortly, but I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read the series and hear what your thoughts are, comment below to discuss.

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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