Crudo by Olivia Laing: Book review.

crudo olivia laingKathy is a writer. Kathy is getting married. It’s the summer of 2017 and the whole world is falling apart.

Olivia Laing radically rewires the novel in a brilliant, funny and emphatically raw account of love in the apocalypse. A Goodbye to Berlin for the twenty-first century, Crudo charts in real time what it was like to live and love in the horrifying summer of 2017, from the perspective of a commitment-phobic peripatetic artist who may or may not be Kathy Acker.

From a Tuscan hotel for the super-rich to a Brexit-paralysed UK, Kathy spends the first summer of her forties trying to adjust to making a lifelong commitment as Trump is tweeting the world into nuclear war. But it’s not only Kathy who’s changing. Political, social and natural landscapes are all in peril. Fascism is on the rise, truth is dead and the planet is hotting up. Is it really worth learning to love when the end of the world is nigh? And how do you make art, let alone a life, when one rogue tweet could end it all? (Goodreads)

So I read this book with the hopes that it would be a relatable  (somewhat) examination of what it is like living in today’s climate, with the searing anxiety we all feel when we turn the news on, watching as the political world crumbles to shit. While this book did deliver on that, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

For me personally, the book felt like it had no direction. I get that this may have been a way of showing a jumbled up stream of consciousness, or it may represent the madness of the world we live in, but it just made it a less enjoyable read for me. While I did enjoy the writing, I found it flitted from thought to thought so quickly I didn’t really have time to process it.

crudo quote 1

With that being said, I did find that there were some passages that really capture how I feel about the world. These were written beautifully and eloquently in my view, but there were not quite enough of them to really convince me.

I’d recommend this book if you are a fan of the likes of Ali Smith and her writing style, or if you like books which are more about commentary than plot. I don’t think this is a bad book and I did enjoy reading it, it just isn’t the book for me.

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Blog hop: exploring new genres

Hi! Back again.

I’m sorry for the radio silence. I started my masters degree last week and so things have been a bit mad. However, I am so excited to be taking part in something I have never done before as a blogger, and that is a blog hop!

A blog hop?

Yes, a blog hop! The lovely Charlotte, from Wonderfully Bookish (please check out her blog and her socials, she is great) came up with the idea of a group of us trying to broaden our reading tastes by reading and exploring new genres, or genres that we rarely read from.

The idea behind this blog hop is to encourage us as readers to engage in different genres, in the hopes that we will be pleasantly surprised by what we pick up! Also, for me it has already allowed me to discover some new bloggers, whose posts I can’t wait to read too!

So…what genre?

When looking at my bookshelves and my Goodreads shelves, I noticed a distinct lack of urban fantasy novels. I am not a massive fantasy reader, as I find the plots somewhat intimidating. I also tend to stay away from fantasy as I do not often partake in reading series of books, as I am very non committal. However, I have been trying to rectify this recently and have been reading some more fantasy, however none of it has been set in an urban setting.

What is urban fantasy?

Essentially, urban fantasy is fiction which takes place in an urban (or primarily real world) setting. Examples would include Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series and even Harry Potter. Urban fantasy sails the line between contemporary and fantastical fiction. While urban fantasy does not need to exclusively take place in a contemporary, modern or real life world (for example in Harry Potter the wizarding and muggle worlds were quite separate), it is expected to hold some place in the world as we know (or have known) it.

The books I’m reading

So I have decided to try to read two different novels, the reviews for which I will post in the coming weeks. I have chosen these books based on the fact that Goodreads has categorised them as being of the urban fantasy genre.

I have tried to pick a relatively new urban fantasy release, alongside one which I have heard lots about in the past!

1) Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers of London

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic. (Goodreads)

This book has always intrigued me, but when I tried to pick it up a few years ago I couldn’t quite get into it. I’ve heard it be referred to as “Harry Potter for grown ups”, and while I think if you compare anything to Harry Potter it’ll never meet your expectations, and while I also do not see myself as a GROWN UP, I’m really excited to be try this if it will immerse me in a magical world.

2) Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft edited by Tessa Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood

15 tales of women and witchcraft

A young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth.

History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.

Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.

A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.

From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely–has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored. (Goodreads)

I picked this book for a few reasons. Firstly, I do love a bit of witchy fiction (I’ve enjoyed reading historical fiction novels about Salem Witches and such in the last year or so). Secondly, I never read short story collections as I always get too attached to a story and I always want more! However, from reading the synopsis of this book (which came out at the start of this month), it sounds like it has a good mix of fantasy and contemporary themes, which I am excited for. Also, it is geared towards YA readers, and YA is another area of fiction I have been eagerly exploring this year. If I have time, I plan to read this as my second book for the blog hop.

What happens next?

Each of the bloggers taking part will have made a post (like this one) today. The next step will be for all of us to read the book(s) that we have chosen and to report back with book reviews at a later date. There is no set time for this, as we all have different schedules, reading speeds and commitments. Personally, I have some other book reviews to post in the coming weeks while I read these books, and so I am hoping to have reviews up by the end of the month. If not, expect them at the beginning of September! In that post I shall link my fellow blogger’s reviews also, in case you would like to follow up on their progress too!

Who else is taking part?

There are 6 of us taking part in this event, and I am extremely excited to read everybody else’s posts. As someone who is new(ish) to book blogging and the community I have not met or made many blogger friends (I would love to start chatting to new people!) and this is such a great way to get to know other people and interact with other bloggers. Yay! Please check out their posts about this blog hop, these are some great bloggers!

Charlotte from Wonderfully Bookish 

Fleur from Fleur’s Makeup Box 

Ellie from Foxy Travels UK 

Jade from Reading With Jade 

Kelly from This Northern Gal 


So! That’s that! I hope you guys will stick around for the eventual book reviews from this blog hop. I am immensely excited and I really hope that I enjoy these books!

Also, please bear with me on the scheduling front. Once I fall into the swing of my masters and my new work pattern I will find a way to fit my posts around. I have so many posts coming!

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Educated by Tara Westover: Book Review.

Tara Westover was seventeen when she first set foot in a classroom. Instead of traditional lessons, she grew up learning how to stew herbs into medicine, scavenging in the family scrap yard and helping her family prepare for the apocalypse. She had no birth certificate and no medical records and had never been enrolled in school.

Westover’s mother proved a marvel at concocting folk remedies for many ailments. As Tara developed her own coping mechanisms, little by little, she started to realize that what her family was offering didn’t have to be her only education. Her first day of university was her first day in school—ever—and she would eventually win an esteemed fellowship from Cambridge and graduate with a PhD in intellectual history and political thought. (Goodreads)

*TRIGGER WARNINGS: THIS BOOK MAKES REFERENCE TO PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL ABUSE, NEGLECT, MENTAL HEALTH, GAS LIGHTING AND SPIRITUAL TOXICITY*

educated tara westover

I picked this book up after hearing a couple of YouTubers mention it and due to an interest in the psychology behind survivalism and the way that this can impact a child. This memoir is a fantastic discussion of not only living in a survivalist household, but living an isolated life with a narrow minded family, the pain and difficulty in separating yourself from your family, challenging the thought processes and beliefs that have been ingrained in you and seeking to better yourself.

This book was such an interesting and beautifully written read. It is essentially loosely split into two parts: the first recounting the bulk of Tara’s childhood and recapping a lot of the moments that Tara remembers as being pivotal in her upbringing, the second recounting Tara’s experience of getting into education and going to college and distancing herself from the life of her childhood.  Tara recounts so many troublesome experiences from her childhood in this book, but during the first half of the book her narration is such that it almost seems that she does not see these experiences for what they were. I found this a really interesting adjustment between the two parts of the book, where in the first half she is almost writing with that same childhood innocence or lack of understanding of situations. Overall, the writing style and narration in this book is eloquent and well constructed and so intriguing.

educated 3

What I really enjoyed about this book was that Tara is writing a memoir while still in the midst of a relative separation from her family, which is a very hard and traumatic thing to go through. While many people choose to write memoirs in later life or years after a pivotal event, Tara is still going through and processing the separation and distance from her family. In addition, as much as some of the experiences Tara has had with her family are despicable and alarming, it is reiterated that Tara does not hate them and that she is very understanding and passive when she considers their way of life. There was no “cutting ties” moment, but the experience has been an ongoing process.

This book has a lot of  important comments to make on family and parental relationships in particular. It really challenges the notion that parents know best and illustrates how parents mould and shape their children. However, in Tara’s case, it also illustrates how there is still hope for people in situations of control to break out and become their own people.

educated 2

I also really appreciated some of Westover’s commentary on feminism, mental health and other topics which everyone can widely relate to. In particular, I absolutely adore her discussion about finding feminism in her time at university and reading John Stuart Mill and finding a quote which brings her enlightenment in regards to women’s rights. Overall, the part of the book where Tara is becoming educated and learning about the world at the college, where she finally begin to understand her talents for academia and finds her home in this world really touched my heart. I can really relate to the passion for learning and social sciences and academia and such, and I loved reading her becoming a part of it.

educated 1

This book is really captivating and different from any memoir I’ve read. The way in which Westover shares her experiences will have you hooked from start to finish and give you hope. Her story goes from being what her family have predetermined to being her own, truly remarkable journey and you really end up routing for her success, while at the same time grieving with her for the loss of her family.

I hope I have maybe convinced you to read this, but if you don’t want to take my word for it, take Barrack Obama’s, who stated:

“Tara Westover’s Educated is a remarkable memoir of a young woman raised in a survivalist family in Idaho who strives for education while still showing great understanding and love for the world she leaves behind.”

And with that, I shall see you next time!


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Short book recommendations: non fiction edition.

I’m a massive fan of short books! I find it a real talent when an author can create a captivating and enjoyable story in a small amount of pages. While I do like longer books from time to time, I  am far more likely to pick up a shorter book with a really captivating synopsis that I can whizz through in a sitting or two.

In particular, I’ve found that short books have come in handy during my attempts to introduce more non fiction into my reading. I realised that shorter non fiction books can be a great way to learn about a wide array of topics. So today I’m going to recommend five different non fiction books under 250 pages, from memoirs/autobiographies, to bedtime stories, to self help, to those about hard hitting social issues. Here we go!

*Disclaimer! As a lot of these books have several editions there are different page amounts for each one, so if it seems I’ve picked books that are over the 250 page mark in some editions, please note that they are under in others!*

1/ When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Length: 229 pages (Hardcover, Random House 2016)

when breath becomes air

This book is written by Paul Kalanithi, who at the age of 36 and on the cusp of completing his training to become a neurosurgeon is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. It is a really heartbreaking but beautifully written commentary on what it is like to be the doctor who stands between a person and death, and becoming the patient who has to come to terms with their illness.

I found this book so beautiful and – while sad – poetically written and extremely powerful. It discusses living, dying, what it means to live a life, love others and more. If you’d like to know my thoughts on this book in more depth I have reviewed it as well.

when breath becomes air 1

2/ Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

Length: 212 pages (Hardcover, Particular Books 2017, first published 2016)

goodnight stories for rebel girls

Guys this is such an inspiring book! Designed as a children’s short story collection, it is actually a collection of mini biographies about some of the most inspiring women in history, from Maya Angelou, to Amelia Earhart, to Frida Kahlo! Each mini story has a beautiful illustration of each woman, created by different artists. It is such a delight to read! It is such a cute way to quickly learn about some feminist icons and I can’t wait to read this to my niece one day to teach her that she can grow up to be a badass rebel girl too.

may these brave

3/ Crossing the Sea: With Syrians on the Exodus to Europe by Wolfgang Bauer (Photography by Stanislav Krupar)

Length: 144 pages (Hardcover, And Other Stories 2016)

crossing the sea

This book is not exactly a fun or enjoyable read, but it is an important one. Journalist Wolfgang Bauer and photographer Stanislav Krupar pose as undercover refugees in order to document the commonly experienced, horrific journeys of Syrian refugees. It is heartbreaking but unbelievably necessary, as it is incredibly important to be aware of the tragedies and hardships being experienced outside of our own individual lives. This book really changed my perspective of the Syrian refugee crisis, and is a really interesting and passionate plea for society to open their minds and hearts and feel some compassion. I wrote a blog post about this book if you are interested in learning more.

crossing the sea

4/ Ice Cream for Breakfast: How Rediscovering Your Inner Child Can Make You Calmer, Happier, and Solve Your Bullsh*t Adult Problems by Laura Jane Williams

Length: 224 pages (Paperback, Hodder Paperbacks 2018, first published 2017)

ice cream for breakfast

This is one of my favourite books of 2018 and I think Laura Jane Williams may be one of my new favourite people. I mean seriously, go follow her on Instagram and Twitter ( Insta: @superlativelylj, Twitter: @superlativelyLJ), she is a hoot.

This book is a collection of lessons and musings that Laura has discovered while working as a nanny of three girls. After spending time with these children and watching how children behave and act in certain situations, Laura applies these attitudes and behaviours to adult life as a solution for dealing with our problems. I really loved this book, I found it so funny, fun and a really worthwhile, optimistic read. I have taken many of the tips in this book to heart and I try to utilise them in my daily life. Laura’s is very much in favour of people living the lives they want to live and the idea of accessing your inner child. This is such a quick and positive read, you’ll feel happier for having read it, I promise!

laura jane williams

5/ Love Letters of Great Men by Ursula Doyle (editor)

Length: 144 (Hardcover, St. Martin’s Press 2008)

Love Letters of Great Men

So I don’t know if any of you are familiar with the first Sex and the City film, but Carrie Bradshaw continually refers throughout the movie to a book of this title, but at the time it was just a plot device…it didn’t exist! However, Ursula Doyle took the idea and ran  with it, compiling the love letters of a number of history’s most prolific men into a lovely little book. This is an absolutely delightful collection, which provides a little historical background and context of each man, alongside the romantically written letters of Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, Beethoven and more. There is something really special about this book and the idea of reading about the more personal (and less professional) side of these men’s lives. I would recommend this if you are a bit of a romantic, and a historian who likes a bit of juicy gossip! Also, considering these are letters written by some of the most intelligent, creative renowned scientists, artists, musicians, authors etc. you can expect some beautifully written professions of love, which 100% top your average text message! I’ve written a review of this book if you’d like a more in depth idea of my thoughts.

love letters of great men 1


So guys, that wraps up my 5 short non fiction recommendations for you. Like I’ve already said, I love short books and I think they are especially fantastic in a non fiction format. So I hope you guys pick up at least one of these books, as there is quite a variety here. If you have any recommendations for me, let me know!

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Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag: Book Review.

In this masterful novel by the acclaimed Indian writer Vivek Shanbhag, a close-knit family is delivered from near-destitution to sudden wealth after the narrator’s uncle founds a successful spice company. As the narrator – a sensitive young man who is never named – along with his sister, his parents, and his uncle move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger house and encounter newfound wealth, the family dynamics begin to shift. Allegiances and desires realign; marriages are arranged and begin to falter; and conflict brews ominously in the background.

Their world becomes ‘ghachar ghochar’ – a nonsense phrase that, to the narrator, comes to mean something entangled beyond repair. Told in clean, urgent prose, and punctuated by moments of unexpected warmth and humour, Ghachar Ghochar is a quietly enthralling, deeply unsettling novel about the shifting meanings – and consequences – of financial gain in contemporary India. (Goodreads)

Ghachar Ghochar

This is a beautiful little read. At 130 pages (in the Kindle editions), this is a short little story about a family who come into wealth from a life of near poverty. With this transition into wealth comes a lot of changes in behaviour and family dynamic, which Shanbhag recounts from the perspective of the son of the family, who is never named. His character appears to be somewhat uncomfortable about the way in which the family have changed as a result of their new found riches and I really enjoyed watching the conflict he was experiencing, while simultaneously engaging in it.

This book was really lovely to read, as the writing was wonderfully descriptive and emotive. This is one of the reasons that I love the highlight feature on Kindle’s, because I was able to save some of my favourite quotes directly to my Goodreads! I particularly loved the descriptions within the first few pages, where the protagonist is describing a coffee house that he frequents. The description was so atmospheric and so vivid that I could imagine myself sat in the place with a steaming cup of coffee, watching people go by. Ghachar Ghochar 1

While I loved the length of this book (who doesn’t love finishing a book within 2 hours?) I would say the ending was quite abrupt in my opinion. I liked the ending, however I think it would have benefited from even an extra 20 pages to round it off. I felt that because the ending was rushed the point of the book wasn’t quite fulfilled. I also wish there had been a few more scenes of interaction between the main character and Vincent (the waiter at Coffee House who he describes as possessing an air of mystery).

Ghachar Ghochar 2

I would recommend this book if you are interesting in family dynamics and the idea of  how money and items can change a person or a group of people. It’s a delightfully short read with beautiful writing, and I was very pleased to add a translated piece of fiction to my 2018 reads!

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Social Media: A New Age of Conformity?

I hope you guys enjoy this (slightly different) post. I studied sociology and psychology  at university for four years and research is something I adore doing. I wrote this a couple of months back and I thought I would share it here to incorporate some new and random things into my blog! All sources are referenced at the end.


social media

The rise of the internet in the 21st century has made it uncommon to find an individual who does not exist on at least one social media platform. Indeed, in 2017, Facebook surpassed 2.07 billion active users (Facebook: number of monthly active users, 2018), while Twitter averaged at 330 million users monthly (Twitter: number of monthly active users, 2018). These platforms, alongside popular websites such as Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube are large and diverse melting pots, with users of all ethnicities, genders and ages. As a result of the increased popularity and accessibility of social networking websites, the social psychology sphere has been presented with new areas of examination, particularly when considering social influence and conformity in an online age.

Conformity can be defined as a change in behaviour, internal views or attitudes caused by social influence and group pressures (Hogg and Vaughan, 2014). Pressures to conform arise from social norms, which reflect the values or desired circumstances of a wider, social group (Smith, Mackie & Claypool, 2014). To fulfil the social norms of a group individuals can conform in one of two, primary ways: by compliance or internalisation. Compliance is where an individual conforms to a majority despite no internal change in belief, meaning the change is temporary and exists for the benefit of a social group (Hogg and Vaughan, 2014). As a result, when an individual is not being observed or surveyed by the group in question, their behaviours may revert to reflect themselves more accurately. However, internalisation is where an individual conforms to a social norm, but experiences an additional, internal change in their attitudes and actions, meaning the desired behaviour exists regardless of the presence of a majority (Hogg and Vaughan, 2014).

Social media gives people a mechanism to reinterpret their self-images, create and interact within new social circles, and to navigate their social capital (Yoo, Choi, Choi & Rho, 2014). This presents seemingly unlimited opportunities for individuals to grow and develop, while also facilitating the circulation of contrasting social norms and influences which would not be as accessible or influential in an offline world (Kende, Ujhelyi, Joinson & Greitemeyer, 2015). Where traditionally social influence and conformity are a result of physical and immediate social circles present in a person’s life, people now engage with views and movements which are happening across the world, with people they may not have met. This results in an expansion of the potential variables which may cause an individual to conform to certain ideologies or views.

While this area lacks research, evidence exists to suggest that the social media use and practices of individuals can be influenced by others. Egebrark and Ekström conducted a field experiment observing the patterns of use of 5, Swedish Facebook users and found that the probability of an individual ‘liking’ a Facebook post increased if 3 unknown users had also ‘liked’ the update (Egebrark and Ekström, 2011). The results also indicated that individuals were more likely to ‘like’ a Facebook post if at least one of their peers had also done so, suggesting that online conformity can be linked to numbers, or the relationships between individuals and other users (Egebrark and Ekström, 2011). Similarly, through analysis of the behaviours of 743 Facebook users it was also found that compliance, conformity and affiliation motivations considerably influenced ‘like’ clicking behaviours (Chin, Lu & Wu, 2015).

While an action as simple as ‘retweeting’ or ‘liking’ a Twitter or Facebook post may seem insignificant or harmless, social media conformity can have both individual and collective consequences. In recent years, social media has transformed political discourse, as well as people’s participation in social movements, raising subsequent concerns that conformity may affect these areas in a way it has not before (Gass and Seiter, 2015). While conformity traditionally arose from the influence of offline interactions with groups such as family members, classmates or colleagues, in an online world opinions and information circulate on a larger scale, arguably increasing the commonality of conformity. Indeed, a number of political outcomes in recent years are thought to be a result of social influence on social media, such as the activism surrounding the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States (Hern, 2017). It is argued that information (as well as misinformation) and easier access to contrasting public opinions online facilitate new forms of compliance, which can lead to the internalisation of new political or social beliefs, altering the way in which people act, causing them to yield to a greater, common view (Yoo et al., 2014).

Despite these concerns, there appears to be a gap in social psychology research where social media’s influence on conformity and social influence is under researched (Kende et al., 2015). A significant amount of research into the effects of social media focus on the impacts on consumerism, economics and politics. However, to fully understand the impacts of social media, traditional theories of conformity must be applied and modernised to fit a contemporary context. With this information, both the benefits and dangers of social media can be effectively established, which may encourage more mindful use of such platforms.

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References:

Chin, C., Lu, H., & Wu, C. (2015). Facebook users’ motivation for clicking the “Like”    button. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal43, 579-592.
DOI: 10.2224/sbp.2015.43.4.579

Egebrark, J. & Ekström, M. (2011). Like What You Like or Like What Others Like? Conformity and Peer Effects on Facebook. (IFN Working Paper No. 886). Stockholm, Sweden: Research Institute of Industrial Economics.

Facebook: number of monthly active users worldwide 2008-2017. (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/

Gass, R. H. & Seiter, J.S. (2015). Persuasion: Social Influence and Compliance Gaining. 5th ed. New York, NY: Routeledge.

Hern, A. (2017, May 22). How social media filter bubbles and algorithms influence the election. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/22/social-media-election-facebook-filter-bubbles

Hogg, M. & Vaughan, G. M. (2014). Social Psychology. 7th ed. Harlow, England: Pearson.

Kende, A., Ujhelyi, A., Joinson, A. & Greitemeyer, T. (2015). Putting the social (psychology) into social media. European Journal of Social Psychology, 45, 277-278. DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.2097

Smith, E.R., Mackie, D.M. & Claypool, H.M. (2014). Social Psychology. 4th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis.

Twitter: number of monthly active users 2010-2017. (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/282087/number-of-monthly-active-twitter-users/

Yoo, J., Choi, S., Choi, M. & Rho, J. (2014). Why people use Twitter: Social conformity and social value perspectives. Online Information Review, 38 (2), 265-283. DOI: 10.1108/OIR-11-2012–0210

 

 

 

The Bedtime Book Tag!

Hey guys!

I saw this book tag (originally created by YouTuber, Kellys Book Spill) and I thought I’d give it a go. I love book tags. I love how quickly you can get several recommendations in one video or post. So I hope you guys enjoy this!

goodnight

1. What book kept you up all night reading?

Most recently I would say the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo kept me up all night. This trilogy consists of Shadow and Bone (#1), Siege and Storm (#2) and Ruin and Rising (#3). This was an amazing YA series and a great fantasy series. For somebody who doesn’t read much fantasy, these books really sucked me in and I read them over the course of one week, and I vividly remember going to work on about 2 hours of sleep after staying up to finish the 3rd one.shadow and bone

These books follow Alina Starkov, a soldier in a Russian-esque world, Ravka. Alina is found to have an extremely rare and strong form of power and is thrown into the world of the Grisha, where she tries to train and hone her power. This series consists of so much action, political intrigue and great characters. It’s so fun!

2. What book made you scared to go to sleep?

I tried really hard to come up with an answer for this one and I couldn’t. I don’t read a ton of scary books and so nothing really comes to mind for this question. What can I say? I’m a wimp!

3. What book almost put you to sleep?

Hmm…a tough one. I normally DNF books if I’m finding them boring or snooze worthy. However, one book which I didn’t end up DNF-ing but didn’t particularly enjoy was The Small Hand by Susan Hill. This is a ghost story about an antiquarian bookseller who feels the sensation of a child holding his hand when he noses about a derelict house. I read this while lounging on a deck chair in Tenerife and if it had been any longer than it was (it was 167 pages) I wouldn’t have bothered finishing it. I found my eyes shutting while I was reading because I just was not compelled by the story, I thought it was a very cliche ghost story, and this isn’t my sort of genre anyway. Not a favourite, but what can you do?

the small hand

4. What book had you tossing and turning in anticipation of its release?

Circe by Madeline Miller without a doubt. I read The Song of Achilles and quickly became fascinated by Greek mythology and historical retellings, and with Madeline Miller’s writing style. That’s why when I found out that Miller was coming out with a new retelling (the same month that my 4th year dissertation was due…torture) I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. And it will come as no surprise that I absolutely loved it. I’ve written a review if you’re interested, but seriously, it is lush!

circe by madeline miller

5. What book has your dream girlfriend/ boyfriend?

So I don’t really have an answer for this one either! I don’t get book crushes particularly, it was never really something I experienced. I do ship characters though, and I always get so excited when they end up together, or over certain characters bonding. So I thought I’d share two of my favourite characters to ship instead!

aristotle and dante 1I chose Aristotle and Dante from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. This book is a stunning story of Aristotle and Dante, two lonely teenage boys who develop a strong bond with each other, helping both of them to overcome barriers and obstacles to their own happiness. I was so invested in these guys and I absolutely adored this book. I have written a review of it previously if you are interested..

6. What book world would be your worst nightmare to live in?

While I’m sorely tempted to say any book that is set in contemporary USA (lol) I have to go for The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. In this book, after witnessing a meteor shower virtually everybody wakes up blind, and plants known as Triffids (7 foot tall, walking plants with the ability to kill with their poisonous stingers) seize the upper hand.

the day of the triffidsAny apocalypse/ dystopian style books give me the absolute fear. However, The Day of the Triffids in particular terrified me, as it showed how fragile society is and the anarchic and unruly way that society breaks down when tragedy strikes. This book is such an excellent read though, a true classic of the genre. Read it!

7. What book cover reminds you of nighttime?

This may be taking the question literally, but Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig has a  beautiful cover that captures the night sky. I loved this book so much and I can’t wait to review it. Notes on a Nervous Planet

It is a commentary on living in our nerve and anxiety inducing world, and is a commentary on mental health. It is so beautiful and for fans of Reasons to Stay Alive it is a must read. I have previously written a review of Reasons to Stay Alive and How to Stop Time by Matt Haig if you’d like to read them! He is a fantastic author.

8. What book has a nightmarish cliffhanger?

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. This is the second book in the Outlander series, which I am loving reading at the moment. However I did not appreciate racing through -almost- 1000 pages for a GUT RENCHING CLIFFHANGER. If you know you know, guys.Dragonfly in Amber

9. What book have you actually dreamed about?

I wouldn’t say I’ve specifically dreamt about a book per say, however I can definitely attest to several Harry Potter characters having  guest starred in my dreams. I think when you’ve read the series as many times as I have they are bound to crop up everywhere. I quite enjoy those dreams, they’re pretty magical.Harry Potter

10. What book monster would you not want to find under your bed?

Harping back to the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, I found the idea of the Volcra really bloody creepy.  To quote the definition from a Grishaverse fandom page,

“Volcra have long, dirty claws, leathery wings, and rows of razor-sharp teeth. They are blind from living in the Fold for so long, but are said to be able to smell human blood from miles away.”

Yikes.


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And that’s the tag! I hope you guys enjoyed this. I am definitely going to do more tags every once in a while. If there’s any you’d like to see me do then feel free to comment!

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The Gender Games by Juno Dawson: Book Review.

‘It’s a boy!’ or ‘It’s a girl!’ are the first words almost all of us hear when we enter the world. Before our names, before we have likes and dislikes – before we, or anyone else, has any idea who we are. And two years ago, as Juno Dawson went to tell her mother she was (and actually, always had been) a woman, she started to realise just how wrong we’ve been getting it.

Gender isn’t just screwing over trans people, it’s messing with everyone. From little girls who think they can’t be doctors to teenagers who come to expect street harassment. From exclusionist feminists to ‘alt-right’ young men. From men who can’t cry to the women who think they shouldn’t. As her body gets in line with her mind, Juno tells not only her own story, but the story of everyone who is shaped by society’s expectations of gender – and what we can do about it.

Featuring insights from well-known gender, feminist and trans activists including Rebecca Root, Laura Bates, Gemma Cairney, Anthony Anaxagorou, Hannah Witton, Alaska Thunderfuck and many more, The Gender Games is a frank, witty and powerful manifesto for a world where what’s in your head is more important than what’s between your legs. (Goodreads)

The Gender Games Jundo DawsonI should start this off by saying that I am a cisgender, straight woman, and that this is the first book (outside of university course) that I have read about gender. Specifically, this is the first own voices book I have read about gender, transitioning, sexuality, transphobia etc. Therefore, I do not have any other books to compare this to and so please bare this in mind during my review.

I honestly could not recommend this to you enough. I really wanted to read this because I’ve seen and read so much about Juno Dawson online (and I think she may be one of the coolest people ever) and I have also been really eager to read more on the subject of gender and about the experiences of transgender people, like Juno. This book is part memoir and part commentary and discussion of popular culture, societal norms and how society views  sexuality, sex, gender, women’s rights, transphobia, intersectional feminism and more. It also does a great job of debunking that within our society that people think can’t be changed, such as definitions of gender and sex and how people can define themselves!

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I would recommend this to anyone as a first book to read on these subjects. Juno has such a warm, witty, hilarious and non patronising way of explaining and sharing her story, and this book exudes so much positivity. What I  loved about this book is that Juno reminds us that she is not writing on behalf of ALL transgender people, but she is writing about her own experience and how she fits in to the discourse.

This book was so educational, so funny and so lighthearted, while also addressing  a plethora of different, hard hitting topics. Dawson ranges from discussing her life pre-transition living as a gay man; intersectional feminism and the place of trans women in the feminist movement; body positivity and fat shaming; how we engage with gender vs sex on a daily basis; and her love of the Spice Girls!  I loved how positive this book was, and the way in which Juno discussed these topics gave me hope for the future. This was refreshing as it can be so easy to paint all of society with the same, prejudiced, close minded paintbrush and continue to think that everything is going to shit, when in reality there are people like Juno who are championing for change and making a difference in how we view age old concepts such as gender. Juno tackles these issues head on and is very direct in her writing which I loved.

What I enjoyed about this book was that Juno discussed things which members of society do which they may not have realised are gendering and isolating and what we can do to change this. For instance, Juno talks about how she finds it presumptuous and unnecessary to refer to people as “sir” or “madam” etc. in public places and that instead it would be beneficial to use gender neutral language in these instances. This is something I can honestly say I had never considered, however I was fast to implement. As somebody who works in customer services, I often refer to customers as “sir” or “madam”, and it is one small thing that I had overlooked, however once I was aware of it I realised just how necessary it was to change. For that reason I felt like this book not only was enjoyable and informative, but it gave me (albeit maybe small) ways to become active and to grow.gender games quote 2

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was educational without feeling like I was being educated. It made me snort with laughter at points, made me think about my voice and what I can do with it and gave me insight into issues outside of my personal sphere. Really great read! Go get it!!

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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: Book Review.

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live. Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything. One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life. Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than. . . fine? (Goodreads)eleanor oliphant

This book was a surprise. I knew it was incredibly hyped up and for that reason I had some reservations (snobby, I know). However, it really is not what you expect it to be, it is better.

*TRIGGER WARNINGS: THIS BOOK MAKES REFERENCE TO ALCOHOLISM, EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL ABUSE, SELF HARM AND SEXUAL ASSAULT.*

I found this book so captivating and fresh. I enjoyed reading from Eleanor’s perspective, as her character was brutally honest at times, socially inept, intelligent and somewhat odd. Due to life experiences and people that are alluded to throughout the story, we develop an understanding as to why Eleanor is the way she is, which caused me as a reader to see her as vulnerable and feel sympathy towards her. In addition, what we learn of her life  establishes her as a somewhat unreliable narrator. As such, this book has a really delicate balance of emotion and dark points, combined with snort worthy humour. Eleanor’s observations of the people in the world around her are interesting. While she is the person who is considered by others to be “weird” and “odd”  etc., she casts a light on other ‘typical’  people, making stark and honest observations of things that people do which she sees right through and calling them out on their bullshit. In Eleanor’s mind there is no reason to pretend or engage in certain trends, and her non conformity and obliviousness allows her a more unique perspective of others.

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I also enjoyed the characters of Raymond and Sammy,  who we get to know at the same time that Eleanor does, and who slowly begin to bring Eleanor out of her isolation. What I loved in particular about Raymond, Eleanor’s colleague, is that he is not always the most flawless friend to her. He is fun and friendly and encourages Eleanor to engage in new things and doesn’t give up on her, but he also becomes frustrated by her and is perplexed by her at times. He is unsure how to deal with her in many aspects, and I liked this. It is not always easy to support your friends through troubled times or to be their cheerleaders, but Raymond does his best to do right by Eleanor, and I loved that.

 

Loneliness is an integral theme in this book. I have read in articles that Gail Honeyman really wanted to focus on, not only the idea of loneliness, but loneliness among young people.  Loneliness and the stigma and shame surrounding it is addressed in this novel, from someone who simultaneously is “fine” with her life, while also hurting and knowing it is in part to do with a lack of social interaction. This is a really real issue for many people, and you really feel for Eleanor throughout the story as she navigates this problem. Honeyman did an excellent job of capturing young loneliness, while also showing the positive impacts of social connection and how the right people can both change you for the better and can enrich your life.

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This book has some dark themes and some plot twists that I did not expect when I started it. It engages with themes such as alcoholism, abuse, mental illness and more, which can be quite hard to read about. However, these aspects are incredibly touching and I found them especially endearing when they are being touched on from Eleanor’s perspective, as she doesn’t appear to fully understand them herself.  Don’t let the darker aspects of this story put you off though, as the humour and positive plot points balance out and make this easier to read.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a surprisingly refreshing, heartwarming and emotive novel and I would recommend it to anyone!

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Tips for reading longer books.

I don’t know about you…but I am scared of big books. The gargantuan, intimidating tomes  stare at me judgmentally from the bookshelf, as if to say,

“Amy, what are you waiting for, why haven’t you read us yet?”

And I am too much of a wimp to admit that I avoid them, sticking to the 350-500 page books, which feel safe and within my capability.

I love to read. That much is a given. However, for some reason, I usually really struggle to read books that are more than 500 pages. Other than the latter Harry Potter books, I rarely pick up large books, preferring shorter reads. I wondered for a while if this was just coincidence and that the reason I typically read books around the 350 page mark was purely because their plots captivated me more, and for no other reason. However, I quickly realised that when I find a book I’m interested in with a captivating synopsis that draws me in while browsing the library, bookshops or online, once realising it has a high page count I am immediately put off.

For me, I like to consume as many stories as possible, and I love the accomplishment of finishing a book and starting another one, revelling in the fact it is the second (or…on good weeks, even the third) book I’ve read that week. Because I can power through a shorter book far quicker, I find large books really intimidating. I don’t feel like I have the attention span for them, and the longer I spend with one story, the longer it is before I can read another.

This is a stupid rationale. So I’m changing it.

This year I made a pledge to myself to try and read bigger books, and I’ve actually been succeeding in this.  I thought today I’d share a few of my tips for reading larger books and keeping up motivation and interest in longer stories. I hope you enjoy!

1. Small chunks

I find that if I compartmentalise bigger books and break them down into smaller chunks, the length seems far less intimidating. For instance, I am currently working my way through the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon (for those of you who don’t know, these books are THICK), and I managed to read the first book in a week. I found that when I broke the book down and aimed to read maybe a hundred or so pages a day I forgot about the sheer length overall (the first book is 864 pages). I can often read an entire 350 page book in a day if I set my mind to it, so every time I accomplished another 300 or so pages I felt a small victory. I realised that as long as the plot is drawing me in, the length wasn’t so significant, and that if I aimed for between 50-100 pages a day I would be satisfied with my progress.

2. Reading other books at the same time

I normally only read one book at a time. I find it hard to split my focus between two different books, particularly if they are both fiction. I always try and read more than one book at a time but then I always end up picking my favourite of them and powering through it first. However, I find that with bigger books and longer stories it is often nice to take a little break from them and read something in between. In particular, I like to go for something of a vastly different genre. For example, when reading Outlander – which is essentially a historical fiction novel, review coming soon – I simultaneously read Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel and I ended up reading both very easily. Sleeping Giants was a science fiction novel, and because it was something so different from Outlander, I found that whenever I got back to reading each book after having read the other I felt refreshed and motivated. As a result, I read about 1, 200 pages in a week, where I normally would read far less than that.

3. Audiobooks

So this is probably my favourite addition to my reading routine. When I started reading Outlander (I’m using this series as an example because it’s the biggest I’ve read this year), I had some spare Audible credits and I decided to download the audiobook to accompany my reading of the book. Because I had the audiobook, I managed to get in pages when I normally wouldn’t, which meant I finished the book quicker than I ordinarily would. On the week I read Outlander I had my graduation, a day trip planned and a number of other things to do, meaning my reading time was cut. However, because I was chopping and changing between physically reading and listening to my book, I was able to get pages in while I did menial tasks, such as putting my makeup on, cooking, showering, tidying and even while I was falling asleep.  I also found that this stopped me from

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getting in a slump, as listening to somebody else read the story to me kept things exciting and interesting. I also find that listening to audiobooks before bed is a lovely way to fall asleep and wind down, particularly when I am too tired to focus on reading. Win win!

4. Take your time

The main thing I have tried to do while reading bigger books is not put pressure on myself to finish them. While there are hundreds of books out there that I want to read and that I would get to quicker if I had been reading a shorter book, I have been trying to focus less on this on more on the stories I am currently reading and adoring. Also, there is something incredibly satisfying about finishing a book that is the size of a small dog. More pages can often mean a better book, too. More room for character development, world building and all the good stuff. I figure that making myself feel rushed to finish a book is counterproductive to the enjoyment, and so I am endeavouring to take my time!


I hope these tips prove helpful to anyone who – like me – struggles to read larger books. I am hoping that my new motivation to read chunky reads will bring me to some new and amazing reads that I would previously have overlooked

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