Merlin Readathon TBR

July 27th, 2021

Hi Readers!

It has been too long since I took part in the readathon but when I saw there was a readathon based on one of my favourite TV shows Merlin happening I just had to join in! This readathon gives you challenges to chose from abs three possible starting points. The aim is to complete a path.

Because this readathon is two weeks long and you only need to read four books to complete it, I’m going to double the challenge and try and complete two paths.

Firstly I’ll read a scary book to vanquish my fears and banish Uther’s ghost. For this I’ll read Shutter Island which I’ve been wanting to read for ages. After this I think I’ll finally watch the movie!

To find a cure for the plague (quickly) I need to read a short book under 250 pages and I have the perfect book for this. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. It’s a short book set in one day and is her most famous stream of conciousness piece.

Gwen has been kidnapped! To save her I need to pay the ransom and read a book with a gold foil cover. For this I want to reread The Great Gatsby which I have a beautiful edition of with lots of gold foil on the front.

Finally, I need to read a book with a green cover to protect myself from a potent goblin. I am finally, finally going to be reading Anne of Green Gables for this one! I can’t wait!

To complete a second path I need to next read a five star prediction to claim the sword in the stone. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid will work perfectly for this. I have high hopes!

Gawain is in trouble at the tavern… again. But because I’m such a good friend I’m going to help him out and read a book about friendship. What better book could there be for this challenge than My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.

Merlin has been poisoned and needs a cure. For this, we’re going to need to go on a quest, and no quest is complete without a map, and I need to read a book that has one!

Now, I’m not normally one for fighting. But some ass of a prince has challenged me to my first one and to survive it I need to read an authors debut. For this I’ll read the first and only book Zelda Fitzgerald wrote, Save Me the Waltz.

Good luck to everybody who’s participating!

Thanks For Reading, Jess x

Book Review | Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami

July 26th, 2021

| Released: 2002 |
| Publisher: Vintage |
| Genre: Magical Realism |
| Themes: Japanese Lit |
| Length: 467 Pages |
| Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ? |

Synopsis

Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.

As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder.

My Thoughts

When I finished this book a couple of weeks ago I gave it four stars and was full of praise for it. It’s wonder and whimsical tone charmed me as it has for so many others. But as times gone on I’ve become less enamered by it.

I was so excited for my first Murakami book! For so long I’ve heard about his strange but wonderful novels and I’ve wanted to be part of that conversation for the longest time. It didn’t take long for me to get a sense of that Murikami feeling. I think just two chapters in one of the characters started talking to a cat and I knew this would be unlike anything I’ve ever read.

It’s a very complex novel full of intrigue and riddles. I finished it feeling like I hadn’t completely understood all of it but also feeling completely alright with that. I don’t think this is a book you can get the full impact of with just the one read.

This book is two stories that unfold in alternating chapters. I definitely preferred Kafka’s story, which was the lesser magical realism one so perhaps that says something about what I just personally enjoy. Kafka as a character won me over and I think that maybe if this book was just his story, I would be giving it a more confident four stars. But the magical realism and overall questions it left me with has just made my feelings a bit more confused.

So whilst I now see this as more of a three star read now, I don’t like changing initial ratings (and I’d already made the banner…) but I still definitely want to read more by Murakami and may even reread this one day to see if I can catch anything I feel I missed.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Read Around The World Challenge | Olympics TBR

July 21st, 2021

Hi Readers!

The Olympic Games starts this month and I am so excited for them! Whilst sport isn’t the same without big crowds, I can’t wait to cheer on those representing Britain!

Because it’s the Olympics I have a bit more of an exciting TBR planned. In honour of them, I’m going to be focusing on reading books set ‘around the world’. The majority of books I read are set in England or North America and for a while I’ve wanted to change that, so I’ve accumulated some books set in countries all around the world I tend to not read as much of and I’m so excited to expand that horizon!

As the Olympics are taking place in Japan I do plan to focus on Japanese Literature.

Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud (Trinidad)
This was such a popular book when it was released last year, I especially heard Savidgereads gushing about it.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (South America)
I read Ann’s latest release ‘The Dutch House’ and ever since have wanted to read more by her. It’s about a hostage situation which was  inspired by Japanese Embassy Hostage Crisis.

Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murikami (Japan)
My first Murikami book! I’ve heard so much about this author and I’m so intrigued by him.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Korea/Japan)
I’ve heard so much praise for this book.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (Japan)
I heard about this book from Emmie on booktube and I love the sound of it. It’s about a woman who works in a convenience store and is happy with her life, but everyone around her has different expectations for her.

Sleeping On Jupiter by Arunhati Roy (India)
I loved her book The God of Small Things a couple of months ago and ever since I’ve wanted to pick up more from her. I saw this one in my library and, whilst I know nothing of what it’s about, I can’t wait!

The Travelling Cat Chronicals by Hiro Arikawa (Japan)
I’ve seen so many people talking about this recently and I’m excited to see what I think of it. I’m not usually a fan of books told from the perspective of animals but I’m willing to give this a try.

Who else is excited for the Olympic games to finally start? It’s going to be so different without crowds but I’m looking forward to pretending I’m an expert in a sport I watch once every four years! 😛

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X




Book Review | Jacobs Room by Virginia Woolf

July 20th, 2021

| Released: October 1922 |
| Publisher: Hogwarth Press |
| Genre: Classic |
| Age: Adult |
| Length: 290 Pages |
| Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Synopsis

Jacob’s Room is Virginia Woolf’s first truly experimental novel. It is a portrait of a young man, who is both representative and victim of the social values which led Edwardian society into war. Jacob’s life is traced from the time he is a small boy playing on the beach, through his years in Cambridge, then in artistic London, and finally making a trip to Greece, but this is no orthodox Bildungsroman. Jacob is presented in glimpses, in fragments, as Woolf
breaks down traditional ways of representing character and experience.

My Thoughts

In Woolf’s third novel, you can tell she’s starting to explore new writing structures and see the beginnings of her famous stream of consciousness style. It’s experimental, unique and is a complete contrast to her first two novels.

It follows it’s title character Jacob mostly through the thoughts and observations of other people around him. We very rarely (if ever) hear from Jacob himself, though he is the main character. I loved this concept and would actually love to read more novels like that, if they exist.

Because of it’s style, the chronology was a little confusing and takes a little while to get used to. But it’s also one of her shortest works so I was able to read it slowly and take my time with it.

Weirdly some synopsis’s for this book spoil the ending and while it definitely didn’t ruin the book knowing what happens, I think it did lessen the impact it had on me. But it did still end up breaking my heart and how it was done really blew me away, and is made even more powerful by what people call the ‘elegiac’ and absent feeling the book has.

My next Woolf is Mrs Dalloway which is probaly her most famous stream of conciousness work, and I can’t wait to pick it up!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Second Hand Books Haul

July 19th, 2021

Hi Readers!

Recently I did a blog post about my trip to Felixstowe where I found the best book shops I’ve ever visited. Here are the books I found plus some more I got from charity shops!

Aspects of A Novel by E.M Forster

I read Howard’s End last year towards the end of Summer and loved it and have basically been waiting since then for Summer to come around again and start his novels from the beginning. This is one of his non-fictions about writing and I can’t wait to get to it!

The Iliad and The Odyssey by Robert Fagles

I do technically already own these, which I started reading not long ago, and whilst I did like it and still want to read it sometime, the translation for me just made a first read of this epic poem a little too hard. I was originally reading the Chapman translation, which is from the 16th century so the language is quite difficult and he used the Roman names for the gods which kept confusing me. So when I saw these editions translated by Fagles, I had to get them and I can’t wait to start reading them soon!

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

This was the book I was so excited to discover in The Little Library I visited in Felixstowe! I’ve wanted to read this for a while and I’m excited to add it to my growing collection of non-fiction.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Another Wordsworth, but this one I bought second hand. I already owned Gatsby, but I wanted a wordsworth copy to match my other Fitzgeralds and when I saw this is second hand for 50p I had to get it! Now all my Fitzgerald’s match and look so pretty together!

The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell

I read the first book ‘My Family and Other Animals’ a couple of years ago and adored it. I’ve wanted to own the book ever since but never got around to buying it, and then I finally found a copy second hand. It’s also a bindup of the entire trilogy and I’m excited to read more of the Durrell’s Corfu adventures!

Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M Forster

I plan on reading his books in publication order and this was his debut! I actually have no idea what it was about but I’m excited to find out.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Theresa Anne Fowler
I’m obsessed with the Fitzgerald’s! I just find the period they lived in so fascinating and I definitely want to read more historical fiction set then.

Poems That Make Grown Men Cry
This is an anthology of poems picked out by famous men that have touched them emotionally in some way. These men include actors like Tom Hiddleston, Colin Firth and some guy named Daniel Radcliffe? I’m excited to see what poetry has impacted them.

The Ropes and Other Plays by Plautus & The Birds and Other Plays by Aristophanes
I don’t really know much about these, but I found them on a stall at a car boot sale and just fell in love with them. The names are familiar and I’ve definitely heard of The Birds before, I just have no idea what it’s about.

Charlotte Bronte: A Life by Claire Harman
Charlotte Bronte is a favourite author and I have a love for biographies about famous authors and I’ve heard so many good things about this one. I squeeled when I saw it on the shelf.

A Passage Through India by E.M. Forster
I fell in love with Forster last Summer and now I can’t wait to read everything he wrote.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Yes, I do already own this. But what I plan to do is rebuy the new editions (second hand if I can) and use these copies to annotate. I’m so excited!!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Blog Tour | You And Me On Vacation by Emily Henry

July 15th, 2021

| Released: July 8th, 2021 |
| Publisher: Penguin |
| Genre: Contemporary |
| Themes: Romance |
| Age: Adult |
| Length: 361 Pages |
| Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Two best friends. Ten summer trips. One last chance to fall in love.

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

My Thoughts

Emily Henry is the author of one of my favourite books of 2020, Beach Read, and I was so excited to see she was coming out with another Summer smash!

Her second novel is kind of a take on the classic Rom-Com When Harry Met Sally and follows the same theme of unlikely friends turned lovers. It has suh a fun and believable romance. I loved the two characters, they had great chemistry and you really rooted for them both indivually and as a couple. They’re also complete opposites, which made their scenes together even more juicy and entertaining.

As with her debut, I just loved Emily Henry’s writing. The more I read from her, the more she becomes a firm favourite. It was sharp and quick-whitted, and there was some seriously laugh out loud banter between the two friends which I always like to see.

You and Me on Vacation has everything I could possibly ask for in a pool side read. It’s addictive, light and fast. And if you’re still hesitant to go travelling anywhere thanks to the virus which shall not be named, then allow Henry to sweep you around the world on these friend’s adventures.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Physical TBR | Historical Fiction

July 13th, 2021

Hi Readers,

I haven’t read a huge amount of historical fiction but it is a genre I definitely want to read more of. Here are some I own, but have not read yet.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I’ve technically tried to read it twice and one time I almost finished it, but I still count it as unread because I just feel like I still haven’t taken it in at all. It’s a very completed novel. Hopefully the next time I pick this up I’ll be able to concentrate on it.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve read by Atwood, but not all. I’m excited to see what I think of this tome. It sounds quite exciting and other than The Handmaids Tale, this is her most praised work having won the Booker prize.

Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Saffron Foyer
I’ll admit, I’ve owned this for so, so long now and I don’t know if I’m ever going to be motivated to read it. If you’ve read this, please tell me why I should pick this up!

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Saffron Foyer
This one as well.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This will hopefully be read by the end of this Summer.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
If Summer was longer I would also say that this one will be read by the end of Summer. But I already have such a long list. I might save it for next year. I believe this is a WWI novel.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
Another one I’m just so unmotivated to pick up. I’ve just read so much WWII fiction and whilst I do think the stories are important, they’re also just so damn dismal.

Z: A Novel Of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
This is a recent buy and I’m so excited for it! This is a fictionalised telling of Zelda Fitzgerald’s life married to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Review | Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

July 12th, 2021

| Released: 1838 |
| Publisher: Bentley’s Miscelleny |
| Genre: Classic
| Themes: Poverty |
| Age: Adult |
| Length: 608 Pages |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Synopsis

The story of Oliver Twist – orphaned, and set upon by evil and adversity from his first breath – shocked readers when it was published. After running away from the workhouse and pompous beadle Mr Bumble, Oliver finds himself lured into a den of thieves peopled by vivid and memorable characters – the Artful Dodger, vicious burglar Bill Sikes, his dog Bull’s Eye, and prostitute Nancy, all watched over by cunning master-thief Fagin.

My Thoughts

An earlier work of Dickens, yet one of his most famous pieces. Oliver Twist is a the tale of an orphan let down by a system meant to protect him. A story that has been repeated and drawn upon for years to come. He grows up in a dreadful workhouse until one day he breaks free and runs away to London.

Life is cruel to our protagonist Oliver Twist and it’s easy to fall in love with and root for, and seeing the hardship he suffers makes for quite a gripping story. But he’s also a bit overly sweet in an unrealistic way. I find this quite often with Dickens. His characters can be very one sided. They’re either angels or demons and Oliver is unwaveringly angelical.

But something I love most about Dickens is his humour as he can quite often make you laugh at the most inappropriate of times. One page could have me laughing one second then have me in near tears the next. This book really was an emotional rollercoaster.

For me however this isn’t the best plotted story. I think the plot repeats itself quite a bit and it certainly feels like it drags. This could come down to how it was originally published though as in Dickens’s time many of his stories were published as seriels in newspapers and magazines, so they just work less well as novels.

Overall this isn’t my favourite Dickens I’ve read so far but I still enjoyed my time with it.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Releases | August 2021

July 9th, 2021

Hi Readers!

Here are some Summer releases to get excited for…

Adult Contemporary

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
Releases: August 5th Viking
About: The Island of Missing Trees is a rich, magical tale of belonging and identity, love and trauma, nature and renewal.

The Echo Chamber by John Boyne
Releases: August 5th Random House
About: What a thing of wonder a mobile phone is. Six ounces of metal, glass and plastic, fashioned into a sleek, shiny, precious object. At once, a gateway to other worlds – and a treacherous weapon in the hands of the unwary, the unwitting, the inept.

Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron by Julia Quinn
Releases: August 17th William Morrow
About: First introduced in It’s in His Kiss, Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron is a madcap story told in bits and read by the characters within several Julia Quinn novels. Now Julia Quinn gives us Miss Butterworth’s whole story—in a format her devoted fans will want to pick up.

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang
Releases: August 31st Berkley
About: Book three in the Kiss Quotient series

YA Contempotary

Fresh by Margot Wood
Releases: August 3rd Amulet Books
About: A hilarious and vulnerable coming-of-age story about the thrilling new experiences––and missteps––of a girl’s freshman year of college.

In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner
Releases: August 10th Crown Books
About: Life in a small Appalachian town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his best friend, Delaney, is second nature.

As Good As Dead by Holly Black
Releases: August 5th Electric Monkey
About: Third Book In The Good Girls Guide To Murder Series

How We Fell Apart by Katie Zhao
Releases: August 3rd Bloomsbury
About: Students at an elite prep school are forced to confront their secrets when their ex-best friend turns up dead.

Mystery/Thriller

Velvet Was The Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Releases: August 17th Del Rey
About: Velvet Was the Night is an edgy, simmering historical novel for lovers of smoky noirs and anti-heroes. 

A Narrow Door by Joanna Harris
Releases: August 4th Orion
About: an explosive psychological thriller about one woman who, having carved out her own path to power, is now intent on tearing apart the elite world that tried to hold her back . . . piece by piece.

A Line To Kill by Anthony Horowitz
Releases: August 19th Century
About: Third Hawthorne and Horowitz Mystery

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins
Releases: August 31st Riverhead Books
About: Innocent or guilty, everyone is damaged. Some are damaged enough to kill.

Historical Fiction

The Country of Others by Leila Slimani
Releases: August 10th Penguin
About: A passionate interracial love story between a Moroccan soldier who fought for France in World War II and a French woman whose fierce desire for autonomy parallels colonial Morocco’s fight for independence.

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker
Releases: August 24th Hamish Hamilton
About: Troy has fallen. The Greeks have won their bitter war. They can return home victors, loaded with their spoils: their stolen gold, stolen weapons, stolen women. All they need is a good wind to lift their sails. But the wind does not come. 

Sci/Fi & Fantasy

A Lesson In Vengeance by Victoria Lee
Releases: August 3rd Delacorte Press
About: A dark, twisty, atmospheric thriller about a boarding school haunted by its history of witchcraft and two girls dangerously close to digging up the past.

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould
Releases: August 3rd Wednesday Books
About: The Dark has been waiting for far too long, and it won’t stay hidden any longer.

Childrens/Middle Grade

Poison For Breakfast by Lemony Snicket
Releases: August 31st Liveright
About: This true story—as true as Lemony Snicket himself—begins with a puzzling note under his door: You had poison for breakfast. 

The Raven Heir by Stephanie Burgis
Releases: August 5th, Bloomsbury
About: A set of magical triplets, two warring dynasties, and a broken crown waiting for its rightful owner…

Which of these are you most anticipating? Mine are definitely The Island of Missing Trees and Women of Troy. So excited for both of them!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Review | Night and Day by Virginia Woolf

July 8th, 2021

| Released: October 1919 |
| Publisher: Duckworth |
| Genre: Classic |
| Theme: Marriage |
| Length: 496 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Synopsis

Katharine Hilbery is beautiful and privileged, but uncertain of her future. She must choose between becoming engaged to the oddly prosaic poet William Rodney, and her dangerous attraction to the passionate Ralph Denham.

As she struggles to decide, the lives of two other women – women’s rights activist Mary Datchet and Katharine’s mother, Margaret, struggling to weave together the documents, events and memories of her own father’s life into a biography – impinge on hers with unexpected and intriguing consequences. 

Thoughts

Night and Day is one of Virginia Wool’s lesser known novels. I personally had never heard of her second published novel until I decided to read all of her books this Summer in publication order.

As an earlier novel, this was a much more conventional, straight-forward story compared to what she’s known for later in her writing career. Night and Day follows four main characters as they fall in and out of love with each other. It almost reminded me of Downton Abbey, or Jane Austen for the 20th century.

But there’s still the literary references which makes it so unmistakingly Woolf. That’s definitely one of my favourite things about her books. I just love how Woolf writes about literature. You can tell she had such a passion for it and she gives that passion to her characters, putting a bit of herself into each of her novels.

“There are some books that live,” she mused. “They are young with us, and they grow old with us.”

This book took me a while to complete. It’s a quiet story, and I took it in slowly, breathing in her beautiful way with language. But I did feel the balance for characters page time was off. I just wanted to see more of certain characters. I also found the ending to be very abrupt.

The more I read, the more in love with this author I fall. I can’t wait to read more!

Thanks For Reading
Jess