Book Review | Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

January 23rd, 2021

| Published: 2015 by Spiegel & Grau |
| Genre: Non-Fiction |
| Sub-Genre: Memoir |
| Length: 152 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Hi Readers

This is the first book off the list of other bloggers favourites of 2020 lists I’ve read, and so far I’m thinking book bloggers have great taste.

What Is It About?

This memoir is in letter form and is addressed to Coates’s teenage son. It reveals the hardships he’s faced since childhood and goes into the racial discriminations black American’s face and how they’ve has affected his life and his opportunities.

What Did I Think?

Coates’s share very powerful, raw and honest words in this memoir about being black in America and every challenge he has faced in life just because of the colour of his skin.

It’s a short book, but I didn’t read it quickly like I expected to. I read it incredibly slowly, stopping quite often to note down a quote and interesting fact. It’s one of those memoirs where you have to take in every word and can’t skim over anything. Take every word in, unpack them, and let them make you think.

“The destroyers will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.”

It confronts head on all the harmful cultural faults America has towards black people. For example, 60% of black men who don’t finish high school end up incarcerated and that’s just one of those things that is seen as inevitable. When really, we should all be horrified by that.

The only negative thing I will say is, while I connected to his words, I didn’t connect to his voice. Maybe if I’d listened to the audiobook it would have been a different experience, but I just felt his writing was quite stiff and textbook.

This is a good place to start if you’re new to memoirs about race, white privilege and police brutality. It covers a lot of ground reveals a lot of injustices black Americans face.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

REVIEW: The Art of Being Normal ~ Lisa Williamson

January 22nd, 2021

| Published: January 2015 |
| Genre: Contemporary |
| Length: 353 Pages |
| Age: Young Adult |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Hi Readers!

This was my second time reading The Art of Being Normal and unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it quite as much this time around (it went from a five star to a three star read) I still think it’s well worth you giving it a go though.

What Is It About?

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.

When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long… 

What Did I Think?

This book features two different perspectives that are both realistic and relatable. The two main characters David and Leo have two completely different lives, growing up in different family dynamics and social environments, and yet that doesn’t change the fact that they were both very likeable. I was rooting for them and I really hoped that things worked out in there favour. I ended up feeling quite protective of them because they were just such amazing and distinguished characters. 

The main discussion point of this book is being normal and how there is no such thing as normal. Just because someone is different to you doesn’t mean they deserve to be treated badly. This book sends this message perfectly, it features bullying, loneliness, anxiety and family problems. Something almost all teenagers can relate to. 

This book also handles transsexuality in a wonderful way. This book gave me a deeper understanding of struggles someone discovering their gender identity might face. It’s not an Own Voices book, but I feel the author really did their research and created a informative but also entertaining story.

I would recommend this book to everybody, because when a book has you jumping with joy and gasping in shock and shouting in anger, you know it’s got to be a good one. 

Thanks for reading
Jess X

Reading Bloggers Favourite Books Of 2020 | TBR

January 21st, 2021

Hi Readers!

This is something I started doing a couple of years ago and really look forward to it every year. I love learning what peoples favourite books of the year where, and I love reading some of the books myself to see which bloggers I have a similar reading taste to.

This has been made a little bit more difficult to complete this year as libraries are currently closed in my area due to Covid. But I’ve found a way I can still do it, it will just take me a little longer.

From all the ‘Favourite Books’ posts I’ve read I have chosen 10 books that I will read. But I won’t be reading them all in January.

Five of these books I own so I can read them straight away, no problem. The other five I have reserved from the library and the minute they open (hopefully no later than March, but you never know) I’ll check them out and revisit this later on in the year.

Here are the five books I’ll be reading in January/early February.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern // KBbookreviews

I remember attempting to read this, but I ended up not finishing it as it needed returning to the library (although I did mark it as read on goodreads). Luckily, I got it for Christmas, so I can dedicate time to it now. I somewhat remember the beginning but have no idea what happens after the first quarter. Kat says this book is a hit or miss book and I’m hoping it’s a massive hit for me.

One Hundred Years Of Solitude // ChoiceOfMagic

Cristina makes this book sound so magical and I have had it sitting on my shelf for far too long. I haven’t really given the genre of magical realism a try, and this seems like the place to start.

The Martian by Andy Weir // TheUnchartedWorld

I’ve actually put off reading this because I know sci-fi just isn’t a genre I enjoy. But to this day I still hear so much praise for this book, so I think it’s time I give it a go. At least I’ll finally know whether I’m right or not.

The Muse by Jessie Burton // FacingTheStory

This is one I was able to get out of the library before they closed, so when I saw it on Darina’s list, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to read it. I’ve read one of Burton’s books before, The Miniaturist, and I remember being struck by how beautiful the writing was and I’m hoping this will be just as good.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates // NatysBookshelf

Naty put this as one of her favourite memoirs of 2020 and it’s one I’ve been wanting to read for a long time. I believe it’s a letter Coates wrote to his son about the racial issues in America and I’m sure this will be incredible.

Books I’ll have to wait before I get to them…

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo // TheInharmoniousheroine

This is a 2020 release I never got to, which confuses me because Elizabeth Acevedo is one of my favourite authors. I was reminded of it when I saw it on quite a few bloggers ‘favourites of 2020,’ but I first saw it on Liza’s. I know my local library has it on the shelf so the minute they open I’ll go in a grab it.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt // FlowersInTheLibrary

(I do actually own this one, but I wanted to split it evenly into five books each so I’ll just be waiting to get to this one).

The only reason I haven’t read this book yet is because of it’s length and that needs to end this year! Their review of this makes the book sound so compelling, and makes me even more determined to read it.

The Forty Rules Of Love by Elif Shafak // Fazila Reads

After reading it this book made it to Fazila’s favourite books of all time, which makes me want to read it even more. I have read an Elif Shafak book before, but this is the one by her I’ve been particularly excited to read and I’m hoping it’s as magical an experience as Fazila’s was.

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner // MyChestnutReadingTree

I’m really looking forward to reading more books retelling or about the works of Jane Austen this year and this was one that was already on my list, so I was so excited to see Jo enjoyed it so much!

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe // IHaveThoughtsOnBooks

I remember seeing this on a lot of people’s top books of 2019 and it really made me want to read it, but then it slipped my mind. But not this time! This is a memoir about the Irish Troubles.

What books have you read recently because a book blogger talked about it?

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Review | Bridgerton’s Book’s 2-4 by Julia Quinn

January 20th, 2021

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| Published: 2000, 2001 & 2002 by Avon |
| Genre: Historical Fiction |
| Sub-Genre: Romance |
| Age: Adult |
| Length: 350-390 Pages |
| ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Hi Readers!

After reading the Duke and I back in December I was so ready to watch the TV show along with everyone else. But I ended up delaying that so I could read three more of the books as I’d heard they spoil who ‘Lady Whistledown’ is in the show and I wanted to learn who that was from the books…

What Are They About?

The Bridgerton’s are a famous aristocratic family in Georgian society and each book follows a different Bridgerton sibling on their journey to finding love.

What Did I Think?

I’ve slowly become quite obsessed with these books and it was quite hard to stop reading at book four. But if I continued they way I have, I wouldn’t get to read anything else this month!

Starting with book 2, The Viscount Who Loved Me, I wasn’t that big a fan and this is probably my least favourite in the series so far. It basically followed the exact same formula as book one. I mean, they’re all pretty similar, but this and The Duke and I really had very few differences. One scene is almost word for word the same and I was worried the books would carry on in this manor.

But then I read An Offer From A Gentleman and that is where my obsession began. The third book in the Bridgerton series is a Cinderella retelling, with a masquerade. It had secrets, forbidden romance and all of the sexual tension. It was a fun time reading this book.

Book four, Romancing Mr Bridgerton, again is different but the same. It successfully had me swooning one page in and kept me reading with the mystery of who Lady Whistledown is, which was revealed in this book and means I can finally begin the Netflix adaptation!

The way to approach these books it to just not take them too seriously. I’m not looking for historical accuracy or to have a deeper understanding of 19th century English society. I don’t care that the writing isn’t great or that they’re a little repetitive or that they cover pretty much every trope under the sun. They’re fun and entertaining and I’ll definitely read more probably in the Summer.

Have you read the Bridgerton novels recently? What are your thoughts?

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

52 Books I Can’t Wait To Read In 2021

January 19th, 2021

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Hi Readers!

In 2021 my goal is to read 75 books, so I thought it would be interesting to come up with a list of 52 backlist books I’m most excited to finally get to this year. This is coming out a bit late and I have actually already read a couple of these, but I made this list at the beginning of they year so I’m already going strong.

At the end of the year I plan to revisit this list and see how many I got to so wish me luck!

Fiction

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
Iliad & Odyssey – Homer
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
Milkman – Anna Burns
A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
The Mirror and the Light – Hilary Mantel
The Muse – Jessie Burton
The Spinster Club Series – Holly Bourne
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin
Every Last Word – Tamara Ireland Stone
The Leavers – Lisa Ko
Piecing Me Together – Renee Watson
Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
A Very Large Expanse of Sea – Tahereh Mafi
Prodigal Summer – Barbara Kingsolver
I Wish You All the Best – Mason Deaver
Clap When You Land – Elizabeth Acevedo
The Forty Rules of Love – Elif Shafak
1Q84 – Haruki Murikami
The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy
If We Were Villains – M.L. Rio
Sadie – Courtney Summers
Middlegame – Seanan McGuire
Dune – Frank Herbert
Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys
The House on the Cerulean Sea – T.J. Klune
Mr Loveman – Bernadine Everisto
Shirley – Charlotte Bronte
The Broken Earth Trilogy – N.K. Jemison

Non-Fiction

Story Genius – Lisa Cron
Queens of the Conquest – Alison Weir
Julie and Julia – Julia Powell
Lady In Waiting Anne Glenconner
Hood Feminism – Mikki Kendall
How To Be An Anti-Racist – Ibram X Kendi
All Boys Aren’t Blue – George M. Johnson
So You Want To Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo
Say Nothing – Patrick Radden Keefe
Virginia Woolf Biography – Hermione Lee
In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks -Rebecca Skloot
Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Beings – Yuval Noah Harari
Down and Out In Paris – George Orwell

What backlist book are you looking forward to getting to this year?

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Review | I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

January 18th, 2021

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| Published: August 2017 by Knopf Publishing |
| Genre: Non-Fiction |
| Sub-Genre: Memoir |
| Length: 304 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Hi Readers!

After Hamnet made the top of my Favourites of 2020 list, I wanted to read more by the author. I found this one on the shelf in my local library before it closed and I was quite excited, but I feel quite underwhelmed by it.

What Is It About?

I Am, I Am, I Am, is a memoir about the seventeen near death experiences O’Farrell has had in her life. From the mundane brush of a car as she’s bending over a curb, to being a near murder victim.

What Did I Think?

O’Farrell took an unusual approach to tell her life story by telling it through the moments she brushed hands with death. The moments, whether a small everyday occurrence or a life altering crisis, that she survived and meant her story could carry on.

This book will remind you just how thin the veil between life and death is, and I guess you could learn something from that. Cherish each day, live each moment because you never know when it could be your last, that sort of thing.

But for whatever reason, this just didn’t impact me at all. I just struggled to see the point of some of the stories she told. There was some that were heartbreaking to read about, but other parts felt like overthought ‘what ifs’ that didn’t really warrant the length they were.

I think that just goes to show memoirs probably aren’t for me. Or for me to like them they have to really impact me in some way. When I closed this one, it didn’t linger with me, and I kind of just couldn’t see the point.

It’s not a terribly written book. It just felt kind of average. I do still plan to read more of Maggie’s fiction though!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Reading Challenges Happening In 2021

January 15th, 2021

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Hi Readers!

If you’re looking to expand your reading horizons in 2021 and step out of your comfort zone, read the books you’ve been putting off, or just love to challenge yourself, then taking part in a 2021 reading challenge is the route for you. Here are some unique and amazingly organised ones you could participate in!

Popsugar 2021 Reading Challenge

Image Source: PopSugar

Hosted by: Popsugar
Aim: Complete all 40 prompts + 10 extra hard prompts.

Non-Fiction Reading Challenge

Image Soure: Book’d Out

Hosted By: Book’d Out
Aim: Reading Non-Fiction. There are 12 categories and 3 goals you can choose from.

Beat The Backlist

Image Source: Novel Knight

Hosted by: NovelKnight
Aim: Read books that have been on your TBR for years! It comes with a reading tracker and a bingo card.

Read Harder Challenge

Image Source: Book Riot

Hosted by: Book Riot
Aim: Challenges to make you read outside your comfort zone.

Reading Women Challenge

Image Source: Reading Women

Hosted by: Reading Women Podcast
Aim: Read more books by women with the reading challenges Reading Women have set for 2021.

MMD Reading Challenge

Image Source: Modren Mrs Darcy

Hosted by: Modern Mrs Darcy
Aim: Create your own reading adventure by choosing the prompts you want to complete.

World Reading Challenge

Image Source: Book Girls Guide

Hosted by: Book Girls Guide
Aim: Read A Book Set In Every Continent.

52 Book Club Challenge

Image Source: 52 Book Club

Hosted by: 52 Book Club
Aim: 52 Book Prompts For 52 Weeks.

Read The Alphabet Challenge

Image Source: Do You Dog-Ear?

Hosted by: Do You Dog-Ear?
Aim: Read books that start with the set letters that month.

Back To The Classics

Image Source: Bokos and Chocolate

Hosted by: Books and Chocolate
Aim: Read classic novels. There are twelve prompts to complete and a chance to win $30 to a bookstore of your choice at the end of the year!

Will you be doing any reading challenges this year?

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Review | War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

January 14th, 2021

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| Published: 1867 |
| Genre: Classic |
| Sub-Genre: Historical Fiction |
| Length: 1392 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| ⭐ ⭐ :star |

Hi Readers!

I began this reading journey just under a year ago. Why did it take so long for me to read? Well, I kept on making excuses about why I wanted to put it down. ‘It’s not the right time’, ‘I’m too busy to invest in this story right now’, etc. But it was really because this book just isn’t for me.

What Is It About?

War and Peace is Leo Tolstoy’s detailed analysis of the Napoleonic Wars. Specifically the invasion of Russia and the events leading up to the burning of Moscow. It follows Russian society and describes how the war effected their lives.

What Did I Think?

It feels so weird sharing my opinion on a book as famous and acclaimed as this one. Especially when I won’t be praising it to the high heavens. But this is my space on the internet and I have to be honest to you, I don’t get it?

I was already familiar with the characters in this as I’ve listened to the musical Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 and that definitely helped me keep track of the vast amount of characters we meet in this novel.

But I also feel like it gave me a false sense of what this book is. Or maybe it was stupid of me to not assume the whole book would be about war. It’s a great source if you’re looking to expand your knowledge on the Napoleonic Wars and war strategy, but that’s just not what I look for in a book.

I enjoyed parts. Namely the sections set around the Russian society and their interactions. But I never felt fully invested. The other parts just felt like Tolstoy’s way of showing off all his knowledge on this period of history.

It has moments of genius, but why this became the acclaimed piece of literature and not Anna Karenina (not that it’s not, but I feel like War and Peace is more so) I don’t know.

At least now I can say I’ve read War and Peace…

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

How I’m Tracking My Reading In 2021

January 12th, 2021

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Hi Readers!

At the end of each year I love looking back and being able to break down what I read that year with charts and statistics. But to get those I have to track what I read. So for the past few years I’ve tried different methods of doing that. This is what I’ll be doing this year…

Goodreads

I’ve always used goodreads because it’s just the easiest way to keep track of what I’ve read. I don’t always review on there but I do like the rating system as it’s just quick and simple. It’s also where I keep track of my TBR.

Book Roast’s Spreadsheet

I’ve been using google spreadsheets to track my reading for four years now and each year they get a little bit more detailed.

Like last year, I’m using The Book Roasts spreadsheet, but the new updated version for 2021 as it just does everything I need it to. I have edited it a little to suit my needs though. For example I have actually edited out the CAWPILE rating system because I just found it took too long coming up with a number for each category when I kind of knew what star rating I wanted to give it anyway.

I use it mainly because it’s a handy tool to get the charts I use for my end of year wrap up and I like having all the numbers in one place. My biggest issue is remembering to fill it out, which is why I use goodreads as well because believe it or not I find it so easy to forget what I’ve read…

If you want to use this particular spreadsheet as well, you can find everything here.

Reading Journal

This is where I keep my opinions and notes for any reviews I want to read. This is probably my favourite way to track my reading because it’s the one I return to the most to remind me what I thought about a particular book I’ve read.

How are you tracking your 2021 reading?

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

Book Review | Longbourn by Jo Baker

January 11th, 2021

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| Published: 2013 by Vintage |
| Genre: Historical Fiction |
| Sub-Genre: Retelling |
| Length: 447 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| ⭐ ⭐ :star ⭐ |

Hi Readers!

The first book of 2021 has set this reading year off to a fantastic start. I don’t know what’s to come, but I already feel like I’ve found a book that will make my top 10 of the year list.

What Is It About?

Think Upstairs, Downstairs, but Pride and Prejudice. This is the classic story we all know, but told from the Longbourn staffs points of view. There’s Mrs Hill, head house keeper who keeps the place running and her frail husband. Polly, the young and less dedicated maid. Sarah, who’s worked at Longbourn most her life, and the newcomer James, who doesn’t start off on the right foot with Sarah.

What Did I Think?

I don’t know about you, but I put a lot of pressure on finding the perfect book to be the first book of the year I read. I normally reread a favourite but this year I decided to read a book that is based on a favourite, Pride and Prejudice.

In Bakers reimagination of the classic romance, while the Bennett sisters find husbands, the servants downstairs are going about their daily tasks whilst finding romance of their own. It’s not a sequel or continuation, but the servants story alongside the arrival of Mr Bingley and Mr Darcey.

It made me look at the characters of Pride and Prejudice in a much less flattering light. Like, you think Elizabeth long walks and disregard to her clothing is charming and quirky? Her servants sure don’t think so! Baker isn’t shy about revealing the truths about society in this period, and that includes going deeper into the ‘trading’ in which Bingley likely got his money. Slavery.

The reason I gave it four and not five stars was because I don’t think the plot is as well structured as Austen’s was. Baker kind of tries to immitate the love triangle we see in Pride and Prejudice with one of the servants and it just doesn’t work as well. Their emotions just don’t show through the page and I felt none of their passion, so it did fall a little flat.

But this gives such an interesting look into the working life of a Georgian servant. It’s incredible the amount of effort it took just to keep these houses running and I feel like I learnt a lot. Baker really did her research and it really makes you sympathise with these previously invisible figures.

I think this is a must read for anyone who likes Historical Fiction. Knowing the plot of Pride and Prejudice isn’t necessary as I think it’s easy to follow whether you know the plot or not.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X